Throughout all the changes, Wintour has remained a constant, the embodiment of the company’s enduring authority. She took over Vogue in 1988 and became Conde’s artistic director in 2013 with oversight of all its monthly magazines. This summer, she added global content adviser to her list of titles, cementing her claim as the keeper of the company’s values at a moment when, with the arrival of Lynch, Condé was consolidating its American and international businesses. Which makes sense: Vogue alone brings in 28 percent of Condé’s global revenue. Jonathan Newhouse, Si’s cousin, who is now chairman of Condé Nast’s board, has described Condé’s international operation as “The Vogue Company.”
Many of Wintour’s current and former colleagues consider her indispensable, someone whose eventual departure — she turns 70 next month — will spell the company’s doom. Others have watched Condé’s decline since she took over as artistic director and wonder how she’s still in charge. Wintour didn’t have a ready answer when I asked if she recognized any missteps in her tenure — “I’ve made so many mistakes” — nor when I asked about particular successes, other than to say she’s proud of the people she has hired. “So much of it has to do with the talent around you and having talent that’s right for the moment,” she said. That made her think of a recent performance she had seen of The Wrong Man, an Off Broadway musical about someone framed for a murder they didn’t commit. At the show, Wintour sat next to a man whose son was going to the same school the man had attended 30 years earlier. “He was so amazed that the boy had the same school-bus driver,” she said. “I’m sure he’s a wonderful bus driver, but you don’t always want the same driver from 30 years ago.” I gingerly pointed out to Wintour that she had been editing Vogue for longer than that. Wintour laughed, looked back out the window of One World Trade, and said, “I’m a really good bus driver.”
There is certainly redundancy, at every step. But could we enjoy the revelations, the series of discoveries through which Edmond Dantès reveals himself to his enemies (and we tremble every time, even though we already know everything), were it not for the intervention, precisely as a literary artifice, of the redundancy and the spasmodic delay that precedes the dramatic turn of events?
She had accepted her fate. She got her own drug addiction in check, took some two dozen classes and eventually earned a place in the so-called “faith and honor” pink-walled dorm.
As she adjusted to the rhythms of life inside Tutwiler, a new normalcy took hold.
She crocheted and watched the news. And the women around her — many of whom had been convicted of violent crimes, including the rape, torture and murder of a teenage girl — eventually became her friends, people with whom she watched “The Young and the Restless.”
Outside the prison’s walls, an evolution in the criminal justice system was taking shape. Activists had gained momentum across the country as they argued that life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug-related charges was unjust.
Although the novel’s structure sounds daunting, “Girl, Woman, Other” is choreographed with such fluid artistry that it never feels labored. The story begins just hours before the debut of a play at the National Theatre in London, and it ends 450 pages later as the audience spills into the lobby. But during that brief window of time, Evaristo spins out a whole world. Novella-length chapters draw us deep into the lives of 12 women of various backgrounds and experiences. There’s nothing forced about the virtual exclusion of white characters from this novel; they have simply been shifted to the periphery, relegated to the blurry sidelines where black characters reside in so much literary fiction written by white authors.
Many of the best stories are toward the back of the collection. I found myself wanting to rearrange their order so that the final story, “Grand Union,” was the first. In that story, the narrator is so upset, she seeks out the ghost of her dead mother, and they hang out together on a sidewalk outside of a Chinese restaurant. Likewise, in the superb “For the King,” a group of friends meet for dinner in Paris. Along the way one encounters a man with Tourette’s syndrome on the train, who is loud but tolerated because “each passenger . . . reached for their earbuds, and thus entered a private world . . . there was a palpable sense of collective gratitude to technology.” This is Smith at her best, integrating a compelling story line with perceptiveness and social commentary.
It's a subtle piece of business. You usually don't even notice, unless you look too quickly at a blinking light and feel for a moment that one of those blinks is taking awfully long. If you ever looked quickly at a flashing alarm clock as a child and felt like you could momentarily control time, that's why.
Saccadic masking is also more or less the experience of reading Mira Ptacin's The In-Betweens, a deft account that begins as a social history of Spiritualism and moves into memoir so quickly it can take a second to realize you've backfilled something that wasn't quite there.