Get­ting Dressed: Alexan­dra Pringle Brigid Keenan

Blooms­bury edi­tor Alexan­dra ‘Blin­gle’ Pringle loves life – and fash­ion

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - brigid keenan

This time last year the Man Booker Prize went to Lin­coln in the Bardo by the Amer­i­can au­thor Ge­orge Saun­ders.

In his ac­cep­tance speech, Saun­ders thanked his UK pub­lisher, Blooms­bury, and its edi­tor-in-chief, ‘the mirac­u­lous Alexan­dra Pringle’ – at which point, unusu­ally, the au­di­ence burst into spon­ta­neous ap­plause.

‘One could feel the love in the room’, Saun­ders tells me. ‘And it’s no sur­prise – she has a truly in­fec­tious zest for life… truly a one-of-a-kind per­son.’

She is my edi­tor too, and a friend. All Pringle’s au­thors be­come her de­voted friends be­cause she is sup­port­ive and loyal to the point of self-sac­ri­fice; al­ways avail­able, al­ways.

She is elfin (she weighs eight stone) and beau­ti­ful. She’s now mar­ried to Rick Stroud (writer and film-maker), with a close fam­ily (son, two step­daugh­ters, grand­chil­dren) and a list of best­selling au­thors. At 65, Pringle ap­pears to have it all – but she got off to a slow start:

‘I think there are peo­ple that are tor­toises and peo­ple that are hares; I was def­i­nitely a tor­toise. I was an aca­demic fail­ure. I spent my whole time read­ing nov­els when I was pre­tend­ing to work. My par­ents didn’t re­ally know what do to with me.’

In­stead of uni­ver­sity, Pringle went to Italy to teach English (she has sub­se­quently been awarded two hon­orary uni­ver­sity de­grees).

‘The great gift I re­ceived from the Ital­ians was the im­por­tance of the bella figura. At that time, the 1970s, there was some­thing very anti-beauty about the Bri­tish (it was deemed shal­low, not to say com­mon, to wear make-up and heels), whereas the Ital­ian ethos was: it is your God-given duty to make your­self as at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble.’ Apart from Italy, Pringle says that two things changed her life: Twiggy and Biba. ‘At school, I was so skinny I was teased by all the busty, curvy, swishy girls. Then Twiggy hap­pened and, in one bound, I was free. Biba was the most won­der­ful shop that ever ex­isted – it was as if ev­ery­thing was made for me.’ Back in Lon­don, she worked on Art Monthly and taught English in her spare time. A perk of the mag­a­zine job was at­tend­ing gallery open­ings – Pringle is a real party girl (though, since a heart at­tack two years ago, she has had to take life a lit­tle more qui­etly). She mar­ried an artist. ‘Then I had to earn some money be­cause he cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to.’ She found a job with the new pub­lish­ing house Vi­rago. Her boss was Car­men Callil, who ap­par­ently con­ducted a reign of ter­ror: ‘As the of­fice slave, I was fright­ened quite a lot of the time and cried in the lava­tory, but I learnt ev­ery­thing I needed to know about pub­lish­ing. I worked at Vi­rago for most of my thir­ties and, frankly, women in the fem­i­nist move­ment did not much dress to my taste. I wil­fully wore tight skirts, lash­ings of mas­cara, fish­net stock­ings and high heels. I guess it was fem­i­nism my way. I think women in busi­ness should dress to ex­press them­selves.’ Pringle has as­ton­ish­ing en­ergy – in­her­ited from her mother, a Jewish Ber­ber from Morocco (her grand­fa­ther was a trader in in­digo and cot­ton, who never left Morocco). Pringle’s fa­ther was Scot­tish, and both par­ents

were teach­ers and Labour ac­tivists; the fam­ily lived in Chelsea where she bought most of her clothes in the jum­ble sales they or­gan­ised.

‘My mother was mas­sively in­flu­en­tial in what I wore. We both wear black and have a weak­ness for jew­ellery. Even though she is deep in de­men­tia, she al­ways com­ments on what I wear.’

Pringle has a pas­sion for jew­ellery. On her first visit to the Jaipur Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val, she vis­ited the Gem Palace with au­thors Donna Tartt and Kamila Sham­sie. En­thu­si­as­tic as a child, she draped her­self in neck­laces of pre­cious stones – the au­thors im­me­di­ately re­named her Alexan­dra Blin­gle.

Nei­ther can Pringle re­sist a bar­gain (‘I am both Jewish and Scot­tish af­ter all!’) and, hav­ing lit­tle time to shop, mostly buys on­line at The Out­net (www.the­out­, the sale site for Net-a-porter.

Her style has be­come more an­droge­nous as she has got older. Her long hair is now as short as a boy’s, cut by Pierre at Steven Carey. Re­gret­fully, she no longer wears high heels. ‘I would dance in heels, run for the bus in heels, prac­ti­cally sleep in heels...’ Now she buys bal­let pumps (in sil­ver or gold) from French Sole. Her favourite night cream is ar­gan oil – ‘It’s the Moroc­can in me.’

To­day: clothes by The Out­net and shoes by French Sole

Pringle with her son, Daniel, in 1992

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