Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s star has been rising for what seems like an eternity. His fame rests largely upon a number of almost absurdly heroic acts, which have varied from harrowing to Hollywood-esque: saving a resident from a burning building, cradling a twelve-year-old dying from gunshot wounds, hunger-striking for better police protection in the projects, sleeping in a trailer for five months to halt open-air drug markets. Along with Booker’s media-friendly persona, these superhero moves have ensured a steady stream of adulation.
The decorative arts have always been art history's attractive orphans. While many people have a great affection for certain textiles or ceramics, the scholarly world embraces such objects only fitfully, as if they were really somebody else's responsibility. And much of the attention that is given to the decorative arts—in the shelter magazines, in the auction catalogues, and in specialized studies of rococo hardware or medieval ceramic tiles—has an edge about it, a feverishness that can suggest overcompensation and even overkill.
Once upon a time—between September 1913 and February 1936—there was Vanity Fair. A quarter of a century after it folded, Cleveland Amory called it “America’s most memorable magazine,” and only a curmudgeon would quarrel with that accolade. It inspired an unusual fondness in both its contributors and its readers when it was alive, and amazingly its reputation still inspires much the same fondness in those who have never turned its pages. It is understandable that Condé Nast Publications Inc., the firm descended from the original publisher, should have been tempted to revive it.