Being fair to “Vanity”

Tom Stoppard comments in Vanity Fair on his latest hit play Rock ‘n’ Roll, inspired by Syd Barrett:

The realization that this was Syd’s play, too, is not as bizarre as it might seem. The lineaments of the unwritten play included a Czech rock fan and an outlaw band, the Plastic People of the Universe, so rock and roll was already part of it. As for the English Communist professor, Cambridge would do nicely for him. Syd’s last gig, in 1972 at the local Corn Exchange, was reviewed by Melody Maker: “A girl gets up on stage and dances; he sees her, and looks faintly startled.” So let’s give the professor a daughter who was that very girl, and let’s see why Syd looked faintly startled. Willis’s short, exemplary book recounts, too, how the student daughter of Syd’s first real girlfriend was walking to lectures one day, wearing one of her mother’s Barbara Hulanicki coatdresses from 30 years before, when “this bald man on a bike pulled up to the kerb.” The man said, “Hello, little Lib.” “Hello,” said the girl and moved on. It was a few seconds before she realized that the man had called her by her mother’s name, and when she turned round, he’d gone. So while Czechoslovakia is going from Prague Spring to Velvet Revolution, let the Cambridge professor’s flower-child daughter have a daughter who grows up and …

Agree with Grumpy Old Bookman — I’m starting to take Vanity Fair seriously as a current affairs publication.

It all started when I was asked to look for a feature by William Langewiesche on how a criminal gang systematically disrupted crucial infrastructure and brought Sao Paulo to a standstill (Also see John “Brave New War” Robb’s blog entry), and pausing in my note-taking when I heard the source. Vanity Fair?

Incidentally, I never managed to find a copy of the May 2007 issue and the feature — “City of Fear” — according to the Table of Contents isn’t online. If you have one could you please send it to me?

Now I just have to find the time to read it. I thought I might try an issue of Monocle: Tyler Brûlé’s experiment in design-infused current affairs journals. It’s visually very nice but the articles are a bit too niche for me.


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