We’re loving the lockdown content from Air Mail, the razor-sharp and witty newsletter from ex-Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Weekly emails include editorial from both British and American journalists along with clever design that gives it the feel of a glossy magazine. Here we meet co-editor Alessandra Stanley:
What did you do before Air Mail?
I worked at the New York Times, first as a foreign correspondent and later, chief television critic – a job that, as it turns out, is great training for staying home in a pandemic lockdown.
Air Mail launched last summer. What was the idea behind it and how has the experience been thus far?
Graydon Carter had just left Vanity Fair and was in Provence, having promised his literary agent a book. Instead, as he read the local and British newspapers, he came up with the idea of a digital weekly – or, as he calls it, the weekend section of an international newspaper that doesn’t exist.
He showed me a prototype, I loved it, and off we went and here we are.
Does Air Mail usually have an office and if so could you describe it? What’s it like versus producing in lockdown?
We have a charming space in the village that looks like a Parisian garçonnière – fireplace, mouldings, high ceilings, small terrace, book cases. I miss being there with the Air Mail gang, but so far we’ve done everything remotely, and with nary a glitch.
What do you miss most about the heyday of print?
To be honest, I miss the days when the newspaper I worked for was the most prestigious in the world and everyone wanted to work there, but that’s a bit like saying I miss living in a monarchy.
What do you see as the main perks of digital?
This. Being able to work anywhere and be read everywhere. Unless of course, the electricity goes out worldwide.
Air Mail seems to have a lot of fun with witty graphics and editorials. Which feature or issue has been your personal highlight?
I love clever writing but what I admire most about Air Mail is its design – elegant and debonair – and that’s entirely the work of Graydon and his brilliant art director Angela Panichi and photo editor Ann Schneider.
To current times…in London we clap on Thursday evenings, children stick rainbows in front windows and of course we have our hero Captain Tom. How is Manhattan keeping its spirits up?
Well, with spirits, of course, vodka, but sometimes gin. But every day at the stroke of seven pm everyone in the city goes to their windows to clap, whistle and bang pots to support the health workers who are fighting the virus on our behalf. It’s uplifting and makes New York feel like Naples.
How about you personally?
We can’t go out….so let’s revisit the iconic scenes in London and New York: If you could go back in time to any moment in time in New York what would it be and why?
The Gilded Age, because I love Edith Wharton but always wondered what they did about the horse manure.
And how about for London?
1950s after the Suez Crisis. It may be a bit morbid, but there is something so fascinating about Britain having won the war and then being rewarded not with spoils, but decline. And there may be lessons in that era for the United States right now.
Iconic New York couple?
Nick and Nora (Charles), and also Nick (Pileggi) and Nora (Ephron). Nick is still alive, well and writing, so that’s a blessing.
Iconic London couple?
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie on the TV parody show, The Windsors.
Favourite New York on screen?
My Man Godfrey (1930s, set in the Depression. Again, apt.)
Favourite London on screen?
Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright. (In it, I discovered Michael Wilding and the ploughman’s lunch.)
What are the essential markers of a New Yorker?
Black clothes everywhere except a funeral.
Essential markers of a Londoner?
Fearless about wearing beige and silly hats.
Which restaurant or bar will you go to first, once lockdown lifts?
The Waverly Inn, and that was a favourite even before I started working with Graydon.
What’s your goal for Air Mail? Success.
Who in the world would you most like to read it? Ex-boyfriends.
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