Lefty is No Fun Today
I believe that it is time to give up my subscription to Vanity Fair. The once-beloved, 400 lb. magazine, fondly called "upscale People" by no greater authority than Peter O'Toole, still delivers the scandals of society people with comforting regularity, and I look forward to wondering how Dominick Dunne continues to insist that he's straight, but I find myself leafing through more and more of the periodical each month, skipping all of the hysterical political columns about how red states are actually more morally bankrupt than blue states, how the president is personally slaughtering mustangs in Montana, and (my personal favorite) how anti-semitism actually helps Israel.
Six years ago, upon the election of our most recent president, I read an article that explained how, after eight years of relative calm, art would now gain relevance and passion, since we'd elected someone who fit the profile of a guy most artists hate.
This has come true, in spades. In fact, where I live there is no art that isn't about how badly the present administration has screwed up, and how dumb the Chief Executive is, how evil his minions, and how the whole thing has put our country in a worse spot than anytime in recent (or otherwise) memory. No more boy-meets-girl, or even boy-meets-boy. That's for lightweights ... like me.
And that's fine. I like a little dissent. But at this point, six years in, the consistency, the negativity, the overall loudness of the message has gotten, well, a little boring and shrill. Call me shallow -- what else would you call a guy who obsesses about carbonated beverages and gum -- but I wouldn't mind mixing in a little non-political art here and there.
Back to Vanity Fair. Graydon Carter, editor of the overwhelmingly slick magazine, was one of the founders of Spy, the greatest magazine of all time. Like Al Franken, he used to be funny. And clever. Unfortunately, he has become the Lenny Bruce of magazine editors, spending his efforts -- and our reading time -- making sure we know what he thinks of the state of politics and politicians in America. Being upscale People is no longer good enough for Graydon, he of the stylishly beat-up jeans and dark sportcoat. Now he wants to be editor of Harpers.
And frankly, if I want to read Harpers, I'll pick up a copy somewhere; but only if they're out of ESPN: The Magazine.
So good-bye to VF. I've been a reader since I got comfortable with the idea that I was an avid reader of what was essentially 600 monthly pages of advertisements for a life I'll never lead. I never really minded that, though. I do mind one-trick ponies, though.
Look; I live in San Francisco. I have to search long and hard to find the few books in our public libraries that AREN'T about how evil and moronic the President is. Whether or not I agree is not important; what is important is that we get access to lots of ideas, so we can be a little well-rounded. I speak not of my deteriorating physical condition here, but of the seemingly long-lost art of public debate.
When everyone's a pundit with the same opinion, is anyone a pundit anymore? If you present a fake name to the barista at Starbucks and then drop your drink, does it make a splash?
I didn't hate politics until I moved back to San Francisco and they elected a guy who would have been a fine commissioner of baseball to the highest office in the land. Now I'll cross a street, portage a large craft from one body of water to the other, wear a disguise, whatever I have to do to avoid talking about politics. And please note that I've been very careful to make no statements of political opinion here.
But really, more important to me is the fact that I'm going to stop reading Vanity Fair. That'll give me more time to catch up on those pesky New Yorkers. And before you jump on me and say, "Wait a minute -- he's sick of Graydon Carter's politics but he reads the New Yorker? What a hypocrite!" remember that I didn't say I won't read magazines that contain politics. I said I didn't want to read about politics in Vanity Fair.
Unless they come from Christopher Hitchens and he's drunk.