American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview

this index an invaluable tool for social historians as well as for scholars in literature, the arts, and popular culture. The magazine's text is indexed by broad subjects as well as by author, by cartoonist, by photographer, and so on. Book reviews are also indexed.

In the February 1936 issue of Vanity Fair, its publisher Conde Nast announced that, beginning with the March issue, the magazine would be combined with its sister periodical, Vogue,* under whose name it would thenceforth appear. This decision, which was made because a lack of advertising support for magazines of the arts like Vanity Fair made them "unremunerative," spelled the end of Vanity Fair even though readers were assured that the editors of Vogue would try to "absorb certain of Vanity Fair's editorial features" (February 1936, p. 11). But unlike Vanity Fair, which sought to balance the world of fashion with the world of literature and the arts, the editorial thrust of its successor was remorselessly on fashion.

In March 1983, Conde Nast Publications resurrected the defunct title and something denominated volume 46, number 1 of Vanity Fair was turned loose on the mass market. While the numbering is no doubt designed to suggest continuity between this publication and its predecessor, its similarity is titular only. No statement of purpose accompanies this premiere issue, and so the mission of its editors can be deduced only by its contents, which seem to reflect the breadth but not necessarily the depth or unified vision of its predecessor. Prominent people--politicians; dancers; actors and actresses, particularly those in movies; socialites, largely from the East Coast; novelists; members of royalty--have emerged as the focus of the magazine. For example, the cover stories of the first six issues for 1987 featured Mikhail Baryshnikov, Debra Winger, Diane Keaton, Dennis Hopper, the Calvin Kleins, and Liza Minnelli. In this new Vanity Fair, the focus on people appears at best to serve as a sometimes explicit, but more often implicit, reflection of current trends in the arts, society, and politics. Often, however, the focus of these portraits is diffuse, giving them the aura of "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous" gossip.

Like its putative predecessor, the new Vanity Fair features articles and reviews by prominent authors of the time. Calvin Trillin, Susan Sontag, Gail Sheehy, Michael Billington, Jan Morris, Nora Ephron, Stephen Jay Gould, Gore Vidal, V. S. Naipaul, Walker Percy, and Diana Trilling are among the literary stars whose work graces these pages. Occasionally excerpts from the works of contemporary novelists like Gabriel García Márquez and John Updike are included.

As in its predecessor, advertising figures prominently in this resurrected title. In fact, the advertising is so predominant that it tends to overshadow the photographs accompanying the text--photographs by contemporary artists like Lord Snowdon, Annie Liebowitz, Mick Haggerty, and Richard Avedon.


Information Sources

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fairlie, Henry. "The Vanity of Vanity Fair." New Republic, 21 March 1983, pp. 25- 30.

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