Feature

Author of the week: Gloria Vanderbilt

The 85-year-old heiress and onetime jeans-hawker has just published <em>Obsession,</em> a 143-page erotic novel whose character, Bee, is a stand-in for Vanderbilt herself.

Gloria Vanderbilt seems to be beyond embarrassment, said Andrea Peyser in the New York Post. At 85, the New York heiress and onetime jeans-hawker has just published a 143-page erotic novel that might as well be shelved under Unadulterated Smut. “Packed with four-letter words,” Obsession is the story of a widow who discovers a stack of letters revealing that her late husband’s secret sex life featured orgies, sadomasochistic rituals, and “innovative” uses of hairbrushes and vegetables. All this may be a bit embarrassing to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the most famous of Vanderbilt’s three sons. Four years ago, he admitted it was “shocking” when his mother got a tad graphic in her memoir about her affairs with various famous men. Now, “Mommy has graduated to the full monty.”

Vanderbilt is even happy to divulge that the author of the steamy letters, a character named Bee, is an authorial stand-in, said Charles McGrath in The New York Times. “Bee is me—absolutely,” she says, and the novel couldn’t have been done “any other way” than with graphic sex scenes. The key to understanding Bee, she adds, is knowing that, like her ­creator, she lost both her parents at a young age. “If you’ve never had a mother or a father, you grow up seeking something you’re never going to find, ever. You seek it in love and in people and in beauty.” Vanderbilt’s still seeking. “I’m always in love,” she says. “That’s one of my secrets.”

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