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July172007

The People's Handsome Prince? More Tina Brown Topics

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From an interview with Tina Brown, today in the Independent:
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I was a newspaper and magazine junkie from the year dot. My father was a film producer and I have always loved the narrative drive of the great non-fiction stories. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made me see what a great literary journalist could do with the facts.

How do you feel you influence the media?

At The New Yorker and Vanity Fair we constantly set the agenda for TV discussion and editorials. It was great to see how you could help to move the media in a new direction. At Vanity Fair I was proud of publishing William Styron’s piece about his manic depression. He turned it into a bestseller with the same title as the piece, Darkness Visible.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

Waking up the sleeping beauty of The New Yorker magazine. It was a very difficult challenge to modernise the grand old lady of American letters.

What are your weekend papers? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I read all the weekend papers when I come here. My favourite magazines are still The New Yorker and The Spectator, which I subscribe to in the US. I still enjoy Vanity Fair, love Foreign Affairs in the US and The Week in both places.
I love that expression “the year dot.” We should really reintroduce it over here.

Comments

I would not have thought The New Yorker was gendered feminine … it’s an intriguing suggestion.

And that the sleeping beauty one wakes is not a virginal young princess, but a grand old lady is also quite a thought.

I just watched The Queen last night, so it’s hard for me to see “modernise the grand old lady” as anything but a casual, unintentional reference to that. Tina as Tony Blair wouldn’t surprise me, so to speak …

Spoken metaphors have a way of running away with us that I like (written metaphors that run away with us are a different matter). So, the email interview is just not the same thing as a spoken one, I get a real sense this was spoken, which is nice.

You’re right, that is intriguing! Especially since there’s only been one woman editor (and she’s the one calling the magazine a lady). That doesn’t stop people from calling the Times the Old Grey Lady, of course. I think most people compelled to give The New Yorker a face characterize it or its components as Tilleyesque, as when KT Meaney asks, “Like Eustace Tilley, the New Yorker design is an anachronism. If this butterfly-lover were alive today, wouldn’t he be sporting a pair of glasses instead of a defunct monocle?” Of course, Tilley was the height of Irvinesque ironic anachronism in 1925. The dandy’s funny, quizzical uprightness was totally deliberate, so saying he’s old-fashioned doesn’t quite work.

Since I have a website entirely (well, 99 44/100 percent) devoted to the magazine, this is as good a place as any to remark that I never canceled my subscription during the Brown years. What a foolish thing that would have been to do! For one thing, Brown continued to publish pieces, poems, covers, &c. left over from Gottlieb’s editorship, though I’d have to consult Ben Yagoda to find out how many were killed. (Thomas Kunkel’s The Years With Ross has a plausible theory about why the magazine always buys more than it can use: In the early days they never had enough, so Ross had a tendency never to go hungry again.)

And for another thing, what, you’re going to stop getting The New Yorker, to which the thinking person should have a lifetime commitment, just because someone new (even someone whose taste you question) is editing it? I’m not talking about those personally cast out in the changeover or intimately involved with the politics, who might have felt pain upon the magazine’s arrival for a time; I mean readers like us. That said, if a handful of journalists I could name were ever to take over for some apocalyptic reason, I would certainly be awful mad and probably do something rash. But cancel my subscription? Never! I plan to continue subscribing after my death. When that time comes, circ. dept., change the mailing label to the old burial ground.

I think it’s unfortunate that Jamaica Kincaid
severed her relationship with the magazine
because of Tina Brown. I would love to
see her back writing about her garden. I really
miss her work.

I’ve heard that Tina Brown was a great big cartoon-buyer. Cartoonists certainly had no complaints about her, and she often published some really crazy, risky ones!

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