Bright Young People: the lost generation of London's Jazz Age is a terrific survey of the people and places and events of the time between the wars. It is hard not to read this and think of today's celebrities. London during in the 20's was filled with young people bent on breaking out from the stodgy Victorian and Edwardian eras of their parents.
The young people were minor aristocrats or had rich parents and they did anything to get their names in the papers with outlandish behavior and outrageous parties. They liked to pretend that they didn't care about royalty and class. They invited black performers to their parties and prostitutes and other working class types to help them feel that they were tearing down walls.
However, who they married said much more about what they really felt about the other classes. Everyone in the upper class married another in the upper class. The mixing of classes was all meant for show and shock value.
Most of the people mentioned became famous for being outrageous. Elizabeth Ponsonby and Brenda Dean Paul were the Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan of their era. Elizabeth Ponsonby had no discernible talent and Brenda Dean Paul struggled with alcoholism and other drugs.
The reality show equivalent of the time was a newspaper column. You would either be asked, or you would solicit for, a newspaper column in which you could write about yourself and all of your outrageous friends. All of the newspapers had such columns and there were always people wanting to create them.
Certain writers such as Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford began their writing careers writing thinly veiled books about these people. While they were participants, they were also able to see the flimsiness and hypocrisy of this group of people who were their friends and peers.
This book does not go in-depth but rather gives you the feel for the times. Although I found the celebrity for celebrity-sake era very identiable to our own, how it will end in today's world is less certain. For the bright young people, the outrageous partying came to an end in the Depression of the thirties and the march into another world war. What will it take today?