Currently reading

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

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair - Vanity Fair editors, Graydon Carter, David Friend I really enjoyed this collection of essays, short stories, and poems, etc, from Vanity Fair from about 1913 to 1937 or so. Some of them really spoke of the time. Some of them could have been written at many points in our history, including now. Together they make a convincing portrait of America, or at least New York or American intellectuals, during that time.

There were two essays that were standouts for me, hilarious and poignant, and applicable as much today as in the 1910s. The amazing first essay in the collection by P.G Wodehouse laments how people who do exercise and diet each day become bores, entirely too energetic and forever wanting us to participate in the miracle of whatever they've found. I laughed out loud, and that one essay is worth the price of the whole book, I think. But Stephen Leacock's "Are the Rich Happy?" essay had all the entertainment of Wodehouse's with the added element of serious social commentary. His conclusion was that it was difficult to determine the answer to this question since he couldn't find anyone who said they were rich. Everyone knows of someone else who is rich, but no matter how much money anyone has, they find it difficult to keep up with the rich. This one might be even more applicable today than it was then. Very well-written and insightful.

Throughout the 3 decades included, there seemed to be a great deal of energy expended in figuring out what women are. Are they odd? Do they earn money and do they need to vote? What does being a modern woman mean? Should they have to defend not being married? Are liberated women ruining everything, starting with old-fashioned barber shops? (Imagine a woman wanting her hair cut!) And above all, we learn that Dorothy Rothschild (Parker) hates everyone and everything.

The essays, especially from the 1920s, examine America's developing culture, for the first time being compared to Europe's and found to be ahead in some ways. The historical perspective is intriguing. There are, of course, several essays on economics included from the 1930s, which I personally found a bit of a yawn, except that they did in some ways echo a lot of the economic punditry that has gone on in our times since 2008.

All around a really good read and excellent collection.

I got a copy of this ebbok from the First to Read program.