Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vanity Fair takes creative nonfiction to a whole new level

I picked up the November issue of Vanity Fair a few weeks ago, and the content reflects why this is one of my favorite magazines. The cover shot of the late president John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie stopped me in my tracks in the bookstore. It’s a remarkable photograph by Richard Avedon, perfectly capturing the crinkles around Kennedy’s eyes when he smiled, and evoking instant recall of Camelot, something we Americans aren’t likely to experience again anytime soon.

The cover feature includes excerpts from the journals of the late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. We get a fly-on-the-wall view of the president’s inner circle and the president’s state of mind. One entry dated January 10, 1963, recounts Kennedy’s comments about the “candor of wives.” The president noted that if a wife said something in Washington, D. C., everyone assumed she was saying what her husband really thought. “Last night,” Kennedy said, “I suddenly heard Jackie telling [Andre] Malraux that she thought [German chancellor Konrad] Adenauer was ‘un peu gaga.’ I am sure this has already been reported to Paris as my opinion.”

The VF content is drawn from exclusive images by Avedon and text by Shannon Thomas Perich, part of the new book The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family. Images in the VF feature are mesmerizing. I think only the late president Ronald Reagan came anywhere close to evoking the spell JFK could cast, and no one has really topped him.

There’s a bonus in the magazine, in the form of an article about Lou Pearlman who fled his Orlando mansion in January, accused of embezzling more than $300 million. “Pearlman’s passion for boy bands was also a passion for boys,” writes Bryan Burrough.Pearlman founded the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync, among other bands. Burrough’s article reads like a mini-novel, keeping the reader flipping the page and regretting there has to be an end. Fascinating piece by a very talented writer. (Sidenote: why does stuff like this always happen in Florida?)

There’s so much good work published now. Vanity Fair, despite annoying me with political posturing at times, never fails to impress me with the quality of their content. I might add that most publications in the marketplace often annoy me with political posturing, and the worst of those is Time.


Anonymous said...

I have a MAJOR problem Vanity Fair's publishing of the article about Lou Pearlman and of all the subsequent comments from the press and blogswhich occurred subsequent to it. Not ONCE has anyone seemed to realize the complete violation of victims' rights that have been perpetrated by the article. If it is true that Mr. Carter was mentioned by the article without HIS specific permission, then Mr. Carter ought to get a lawyer. I suspect that if the alleged victim of Mr. Pearlman's pedophilia had been a Joe Nobody getting on with his life the best way he knows how, and his name was brought up by a jeolous ex classmate or his estranged family, then the writer of the article and Vanity Fair would have kept his anonymity, respecting his own timing or need to be involved in the exposure of the pedophile. But Mr. Carter is a celebrity and as such, they have given him NO such respect or privacy. Shame on Vanity Fair!!!

Kay Day said...

Anonymous, thanks for weighing in. I think VF had to mention names, but then I don't like unnamed sources in investigative work.

You mention this:

Mr. Carter is a celebrity and as such, they have given him NO such respect or privacy.

Celebs just aren't going to have the level of privacy other professionals enjoy--that's why they're celebs.

And note that you can't sue someone for writing the truth, especially if it's documented by witnesses or other means.

That said, I sympathize with those victimized.

best, Kay