Monday, March 14, 2016

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair

I recently acquired a copy of Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair, edited by Graydon Carter. What a stylish treasure chest.

First published by Penguin Press in 2014, this outstanding anthology gathers pieces from the golden age of the famous periodical--the predecessor to the magazine we find on newsstands today. (The American edition of Vanity Fair was launched by publisher Condé Nast in 1913. Under the stewardship of editor Frank Crowninshield, who assigned most of the pieces in this volume, the magazine was a literary and visual treasure of the Jazz Age and featured an incomparable slate of writers through 1936, when it was folded into Vogue as a casualty of the Great Depression. Vanity Fair was revived in 1983.)

Though there is no Louise Brooks material collected here (she was featured in the magazine back in the 1920's), there is much to recommend for anyone interested in the Roaring Twenties.

From the publisher: "In honor of the 100th anniversary of Vanity Fair magazine, Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells celebrates the publication’s astonishing early catalogue of writers, with works by Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, P. G. Wodehouse, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sherwood Anderson, Robert Benchley, Langston Hughes—and many others. Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter introduces these fabulous pieces written between 1913 and 1936, when the magazine published a murderers’ row of the world’s leading literary lights.

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells features great writers on great topics, including F. Scott Fitzgerald on what a magazine should be, Clarence Darrow on equality, D. H. Lawrence on women, e.e. cummings on Calvin Coolidge, John Maynard Keynes on the collapse in money value, Thomas Mann on how films move the human heart, Alexander Woollcott on Harpo Marx, Carl Sandburg on Charlie Chaplin, Djuna Barnes on James Joyce, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., on Joan Crawford, and Dorothy Parker on a host of topics ranging from why she hates actresses to why she hasn’t married.

These essays reflect the rich period of their creation while simultaneously addressing topics that would be recognizable in the magazine today, such as how women should navigate work and home life; our destructive fascination with the entertainment industry and with professional sports; the collapse of public faith in the financial industry; and, as Aldous Huxley asks herein, “What, Exactly, Is Modern?”

Offering readers an inebriating swig from that great cocktail shaker of the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, the age of Gatsby, Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells showcases unforgettable writers in search of how to live well in a changing era."

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