I first became interested in Vanity Fair because of Ned Zeman’s entertaining and creative profile of himself, The Rules of the Tunnel. Zeman is a contributing editor to VF, and his portrayal of characters like Graydon Carter and Sebastian Junger–both bigshots at the magazine–were high points of the memoir.
Then I saw that this month‘s cover featured Johnny Depp, with a special story from Michael Lewis, and I was sold. Who can resist those guys?
The profile of Johnny, done by a self-confessed long-time friend, was a little distracting. Depp comes across as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, workaholic gambler. Not that that’s a bad thing, and maybe it’s an accurate depiction, but to me it looks like smoke and mirrors–a clever propagation of Depp’s myth as a badass and a genius that doesn’t really get to the heart of anything.
Plus, the pictures of him look like they were taken 20 years ago. Really, no wrinkles at all? And what’s up with those terrible tattoos? Please.
Speaking of celebrities in search of the fountain of youth, Courtney Love seems as deranged as ever. The profile of her reminded me of her unusual cameo in Neil Strauss’s The Game, which thankfully distracted me from the disturbing particulars of Ms. Love’s latest obsessions.
All that aside, VF excels in the serious longform journalism tucked between glossy photo shoots of stars.
Simon Johnson and James Kwak’s “Mad Hatter History” was a fascinating and informative history of tax rebellions that was somehow a pleasure to read. The article places the current agendas of the Tea Party in the context of the policies enacted by the founding fathers they admire so much to interesting effect.
James Wolcott’s memoir excerpt about arriving in New York City armed with a letter from Norman Mailer and dreams of working at the Village Voice was an interesting, if a little self-congratulatory, look at another world. He’s a good writer, though–obviously–and I’m curious to read the book.
Graydon Carter’s history of Anderson & Sheppard suits was a little too exhaustive for me, but reading the first few pages made me want to write a short story about tailors, which I think is a good thing.
It was Michael Lewis for the win, though, in his special report “Will California Sink the U.S.?” He writes about how the debt crisis has settled heavily upon the shoulders of municipal governments. His interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger is unique and fast-paced, but I enjoyed the interviews with mayors and fire chiefs–the little guys–much more. I admit it, I’m a Lewis convert.
In all, I was impressed by the level of writing I found in Vanity Fair–not that I was surprised–and I enjoyed the mix of politics and pop culture. I’ll definitely buy another issue, but I’ll opt for a print version for sure. The perfume wafting from the glossy pages reminded me that this is a magazine.
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