A few years ago when reviewing Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality, Taste & Style I said "The crisp suit is there, but the real man is missing". It almost feels like someone listened, because Gunn's Golden Rules ($14.39 on Amazon) definitely fills up many of the gaps and allows us a more intimate look at one of the most interesting and deserving TV personalities of the last decade.
It's a little irritating that once again the publisher is trying to package Tim Gunn's message as a guide or a book of rules, and that the book has a co-author (this time Ada Calhoun). I'm somewhat of a groupie and would have preferred to get Mr. Gunn's story unfiltered and in a pure autobiography format. Don't be misleaded by the "Rules" thing- this is a very personal book of stories and anecdotes about the author's life, family and career. Tim Gunn shares with us his philosophy, spirituality, encounters with luminaries such as André Leon Talley and views on human sexuality. He's a big advocate of etiquette and kindness but doesn't confuse manners with owning fish forks (he doesn't). He talks about his own gaffs (regifting!) with the same humor he uses when telling a hilarious story about Diane von Furstenberg and a hotdog.
It's interesting to note how even when telling gossipy stories, Mr. Gunn doesn't crosses the lines into malice territory. That includes the now infamous Anna Wintour anecdote (she was carried by her her bodyguards down five flights of stairs and tried to get Tim Gunn to retract the story until other witnesses came forth), or when criticizing the people who make the wardrobe choices for Suri Cruise. There are some fun Project Runway behind-the-scenes stories (he disliked Kenley just as much as we all did), but it's far less about the dirt and more about the lessons one can learn from it.
The best parts, though, are the more personal tales from Tim's childhood, painful adolescence and career as a teacher. It's fascinating to read about the evolution of the shy and stuttering boy from Washington DC into a worldly fashion authority. The book, like its author, is inspiring in a feel-good way. It's a little flawed (a couple of typos and maybe not enough Project Runway stories) but very human. Fans of Tim Gunn will find it quite satisfying, at least until he takes the next step and releases a real memoir.
Photo of Tim Gunn signing his own bobbleheads by Gothamist LLC, 2006.