Search Results for: Vanity-Fair

Radhika Jones, Meet Condescending and Nasty

Incoming Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones at the 2016 gala for Time Magazine's Most Influential People In The World. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Time)

Did you know that generations of writers at other publishers have referred to Conde Nast as “Condescending and Nasty”?

I learned of this in the wake of Women’s Wear Daily publishing what appeared to be a gossip item gleaned through eavesdropping, about Condé Nast fashion editors being catty about incoming editor-in-chief Radhika Jones. According to WWD, “one of the company’s fashion editors in candid conversation with industry peers” said some pretty predictable and mean things about the outfit Jones wore to her first meeting.

Let me pause here to acknowledge a few things. First, my love of Vanity Fair is well-documented in the hallowed pages of this website that you are reading. It is a magazine for rich people, which is a thing I will never be, and yet they cannot stop me reading it! Even though he never responds to my emails, I am Graydon Carter’s biggest fan, and not just because he made my ex-boyfriend cry. I love Vanity Fair and I am so excited Radhika Jones is going to lead it.

Everyone is excited about Jones. I mean, I guess besides this one Condescending and Nasty fashion person. Even the tone of the WWD gossip item was Team Radhika. WWD, arguably a women’s fashion publication (it’s in the name, please don’t actually argue with me), thought it was eye-roll-inducing for this fashion person to be mean at the water cooler about Jones’ cartoon-fox-printed tights and “navy shiftdress strewn with zippers.”

I’m sure many of you disagree. I have had way more conversations than I anticipated about this piece this morning already and lots of people are mad at WWD for publishing the piece at all, and for not calling out the cattiness more overtly. Jones’ New York Times colleague Jodi Kantor tweeted, “So this is the way our brilliant colleague who just shot the moon gets written about.”

I understand that. It’s frustrating. I anticipate being called whatever the media equivalent of a Nazi apologist is for this, but: the WWD is actually a pretty mild introduction to what Jones will receive going forward, particularly as the first female (and non-white) Graydon Carter, and it’s not much different than what you could find in the pages of Vanity Fair for years. If Jones changes that, great. If not, the WWD is a relatively light taste of what she’ll be approving in that magazine going forward.

Why do I dare call it mild? Because the WWD piece is on her side. It is very, very obviously Team Radhika. Lots of people have told me they think it should be more overt, less subtle. I have a strong, steadfast love for subtlety. When I wrote recently about my time at DNAinfo, I told you all that one of the things we believed was that you didn’t have to talk down to readers, you could give them the facts, and some good quotes, and they didn’t need to be explicitly told something, or someone was bad. You could show, instead of tell, that the Manhattan Community Board 2 liquor license committee frequently operated in a way that was arbitrary and capricious, for example.

I undersold the fact that there’s a little bit of an art to that, to how the facts and the quotes are laid out. So let’s look at the WWD piece.

I would argue that even the headline’s specifying “personal” style is already a point for Jones, signaling that the critics to come are picking at something that has nothing to do with Jones’ new job. The sub-headline is solely about Jones’ “extensive literary and editorial experience.”

The second paragraph immediately lays out Jones’ credentials — and does so in a way that signals great disdain for what the Condescending and Nasties chose to pay attention to:

But while Jones may have been editorial director of the books department at The New York Times, an alum of Time magazine and The Paris Review, a graduate of Harvard and holds a doctorate in English and comparative literature from Columbia — none of this impressed Condé Nast-ers. They, instead, were aghast over her sense of style.

The next paragraph reinforces that, noting that Jones’ critic was “remarking not on the context of Jones’ first visit, but rather the outfit she wore.” PRIORITIES, WWD is silently screaming here.

And the next one employs em-dashes to emphasize that point:

According to the fashion editor — who omitted Jones’ admirable literary accomplishments from conversation — the incoming editor wore a navy shiftdress strewn with zippers, a garment deemed as “iffy” at best.

The closing paragraph, to me, is the prizewinner:

The fashion editor did not remark on Carter’s outfit for the occasion. After 25 years at Vanity Fair’s helm, he walks away from the job with a vibrant legacy that is noted, not for his signature wonk hairstyle, but rather his wrangling of A-list celebrities and publishing of writers including Christopher Hitchens and Dominick Dunne.

A friend of mine said that while she is Team Radhika, it might be fair for the Condé Nasties to judge Jones’ outfit, since the magazine is very much part of the “high fashion” world. I understand this point, but would note that Vanity Fair‘s pages have long been filled with ball gowns, and to my (expert) knowledge, Graydon Carter never wore one to a meeting. We can trust that Jones, with her years of editorial experience and impressive education, knows her strengths and less-strengths. Ideally, somewhere in the dark, catty world of fashion, she will be able to find someone to lead that part of the magazine who has savvy, creativity and heart.

In the meantime: Radhika, please email me and tell me where you got the dress and tights WWD described because I desperately want them.

‘The Grexit Is Upon Us’: Graydon Carter Departs Vanity Fair

Graydon Carter. (John Shearer/Getty Images)

Graydon Carter is ending his quarter-century-long turn at the helm of Vanity Fair, leaving large shoes (or, more precisely, a large, probably smoky, corner office) for whomever inherits the post to fill.

Michael Grynbaum at the New York Times broke the story of Carter’s departure, recounting a conversation held over Carter’s West Village kitchen table, in a room that is, of course, “adorned with a stuffed perch fish from the 19th century (an idea Mr. Carter said he borrowed from the Earl of Snowdon, ex-husband of Princess Margaret), a ‘Resist’ poster and a “Dump Trump” illustration by their 8-year-old daughter.”

I spent a recent weekend at my grandparents’ house on Long Island with my friend Alexis, who noticed a basket in their living room holding decades of back issues of food magazines, as well as a well-curated archive of Vanity Fair issues dating back to the mid ’90s. My grandmother had kept every issue featuring British royals (particularly Princess Diana, whose death marked the only time I’ve ever seen my grandmother — who lost her own mother very young — cry) or Kennedys (American royals) on the cover. The only outlier was a “Game of Thrones” cover (also royalty, technically). We spent the weekend poring over all of them, gleefully reading aloud to one other from regular features like Dominick Dunne’s Diary (my favorite included a defense of Martha Stewart, at the time both a felon and a friend, and an excoriation of a Kennedy who had spoken ill of Dunne on television) and noticing a delightful formula that seemed to serve as the architecture of each issue: a luxurious profile of some obscure royalty or old money scion; a less flattering look at some arriviste nouveau riche; a true crime story, ideally committed by someone wealthy or pretending to be wealthy; a glowing writeup of a new Hollywood darling; a reverent paean to a worthy Old Hollywood icon. These tropes were the bones of each issue and they held up well, decades later. Read more…

Making the Magazine: A Reading List

Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and the New York Review of Books, plus now-defunct publications like Might, George, Sassy and Wigwag. Share your favorite behind-the-magazine stories with us on Twitter or Facebook: #longreads. Read more…

Monica Lewinsky's Vanity Fair Essay, Now Online

Yes, we’re all connected now. We can tweet a revolution in the streets or chronicle achievements large and small. But we’re also caught in a feedback loop of defame and shame, one in which we have become both perps and victims. We may not have become a crueler society—although it sure feels as if we have—but the Internet has seismically shifted the tone of our interactions. The ease, the speed, and the distance that our electronic devices afford us can also make us colder, more glib, and less concerned about the consequences of our pranks and prejudice. Having lived humiliation in the most intimate possible way, I marvel at how willingly we have all signed on to this new way of being.

In my own case, each easy click of that YouTube link reinforces the archetype, despite my efforts to parry it away: Me, America’s B.J. Queen. That Intern. That Vixen. Or, in the inescapable phrase of our 42nd president, “That Woman.”

It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually a person.

-Vanity Fair has posted its Monica Lewinsky essay, “Shame and Survival.”

Read the story

More from Vanity Fair in the Longreads Archive

The Vanity Fair Gossip Column That Wasn't

“Senior editor Walter Clemons recruited Truman Capote to write a gossip column for the magazine, which created more turbulence at 350 Madison Avenue—Condé Nast headquarters at the time—and more fodder for the press. ‘Capote finally consented and wrote one,’ Lawson recalls. ‘And at one of the meetings everybody except me said, “Oh, we can’t publish this. It’s just not up to Truman’s quality!” I said, “I think it’s much better than the other stuff that’s coming in.” But it was definitely voted down. He was asked to rewrite a portion of it, which he did. It was still turned down. And then he went right down the street and sold it to Esquire. It’s always been a regret of mine that we did not publish that thing, because we would have had the last significant published report by him.’

“In a Washington Post article timed to coincide with Vanity Fair’s maiden issue, the publicity-mad Capote gleefully laid out his side of the story: ‘I didn’t hear from Mr. Locke for weeks, and then one day this messenger boy shows up at my apartment with my copy, and there are red pencil marks everywhere! You can’t rewrite a stylist. So I just sent it over to Esquire. They don’t touch my copy there. I hope nobody ever attributes Vanity Fair to anybody but Thackeray.’”

From the history of the revived Vanity Fair, which had originally stopped publication in 1936. Read more from Vanity Fair in the Longreads Archive.


Photo: Jack Mitchell, Wikimedia Commons

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Writer Emily Gould: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Emily Gould is the author of And The Heart Says Whatever and the co-owner of Emily Books, and also she can’t stop blogging for some reason.


1. “Letter from Astana,” by Keith Gessen (New Yorker, sub. required)

The New Yorker‘s “Letter From” essays, though they’re always entertaining and executed with finesse, can leave the reader with an impression that’s basically: “Kazakhstan (or wherever), how wacky.” Keith showed exactly how and why Kazakhstan’s history and political situation have created a unique way of life, and also those crazy skyscrapers in the middle of the steppe that make Williamsburg’s waterfront look tasteful. And he ate horse ham.  

2. “Dangerous Worlds: Teaching Film In Prison,” by Ann Snitow (Dissent Magazine)

Feminist critic and longtime New School professor Ann Snitow “leapt to join” a program that brings New School teachers to a correctional facility upstate out of “boredom”—she craved a challenge less played-out than trying to get college students to care about feminism, which she says is “everywhere and nowhere” in their lives. The result is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read. Snitow confronts her own preconceived notions and white liberal guilt head-on, but also gives herself credit for being a good teacher. She evokes her students’ complexity by describing their surprising, varied responses to the movies she assigns. At one point she gives them a speech: “I know in all your classes and workshops you’re being taught to take responsibility for what you’ve done, and I’m not saying no to that. But responsibility is different from shame. Best to see the endless tale of one’s badness as an inadequate story, meant to make you feel like a worm. OK, take responsibility, but also move on. Everyone is dependent; total independence is a myth. Inside or out, dependency is the human condition.” “This hectoring lecture hasn’t convinced anyone,” she writes, but I think she underestimates herself. 

3. “The Smelliest Block In New York,” by Molly Young (New York Magazine, not single-page)

I’m obsessed with smells and with New York, which contains maybe the world’s best and worst smells, often in the same two-block radius.  Molly Young’s descriptions of smells are a joy.  Her descriptions in general are a joy. She’s just getting better and better and I can’t wait to see what she does next. (My fantasy would be a regular column about smells, but that’s probably unrealistic.)

4. “Willis and Happiness,” by Rich Beck (n+1)

Here, Rich Beck breaks down and rearticulates one of groundbreaking radical feminist and pop culture critic Ellen Willis’s most powerful—and most confusing—arguments.  This is a must, must, must, must read for anyone interested in the past, present and future of the fight for equality.  

5. “The Aquarium,” by Aleksandar Hemon (The New Yorker, sub. required)

This and #2, I would recommend if it’s been a while since you last wept uncontrollably. There’s really not a lot else to say about this. It’s an unsentimental examination of a cosmically unfair event, the the kind of thing no one wants to acknowledge is possible, but which happens regularly. I have no idea how the author could stand to write it, unless he also couldn’t stand not to write it. The parts about his daughter’s imaginary friend are also very funny, incredibly. 

Bonus! (Kindle Single edition)

• “How A Book Is Born,” by Keith Gessen ($1.99)

I didn’t want to be disgusting and pick 5 things by my boyfriend but I wish I could assign anyone who thinks he or she might someday publish a book to read this long examination of how publishing works. The combination of virtue and talent coinciding with luck—the endless variables that combine to make a “literary” bestseller—just boggles the mind. This is stuff that many people who work in publishing or who work in novel-writing either don’t know or don’t allow themselves to consciously know. Buy this as a gift for your friend the corporate lawyer who keeps saying he’s going to take a sabbatical year to “write his novel.” 

• “American Juggalo,” by Kent Russell ($1.99)

Psychic forecast: the year-end Longreads best-of list next year will be everything people are saying right now about John Jeremiah Sullivan, but for the words “John Jeremiah Sullivan” substitute “Kent Russell.”

(photo credit: Stephen Deshler)

Remembering “Rapper’s Delight” producer Sylvia Robinson, who died yesterday.

“He would say something every now and then, like ‘Throw your hands in the air,’ and they’d do it. If he’d said, ‘Jump in the river,’ they’d have done it.” Inspiration struck. “A spirit said to me, ‘Put a concept like that on a record and it will be the biggest thing you ever had.’”

“Hip-Hop Happens.” — Steven Daly, Vanity Fair, 2005

See more #longreads from Vanity Fair

A Declaration of Cyber-War

A Declaration of Cyber-War

The Rude Warrior

The Rude Warrior

Bohemian Cove: Inside Malibu's Hottest Trailer Park

Bohemian Cove: Inside Malibu’s Hottest Trailer Park