Friday, February 05, 2010
Not being a terribly close follower of diplomatic maneuvers, I was unaware of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s famous use of pins to telegraph her thoughts and intentions to world leaders and the press. But lots of other people were aware of it, and now Albright has written a book about it, to accompany an exhibit of her pins organized by the Museum of Art and Design in New York. It’s a good book to curl up with on an afternoon. It only takes about an hour to read through the text and look at the abundance of photographs of her pins, some quite valuable, but most costume jewelry, the kind we can all find in department stores and at thrift shops and garage sales.
Some examples of Ms. Albright’s pin-based messages include wearing turtle pins to signify that negotiations were progressing too slowly, and a famous incident where she wore a snake pin to confront Saddam Hussein. These events and others are related in breezy prose; Albright knows we are probably not reading this book to find out any deep secrets of international affairs. Instead we are treated to a mostly chronological account of the origins and history of her love affair with pins, including a story about wearing her future husband’s fraternity pin in college. I was charmed by Albright’s (brief) stories from her youth and her days as a young mother. I think I had just assumed that she sprang, like Athena, fully grown and ready for battle, from the forehead of Zeus.
(Book 5, 2010)