Essays: Vicki Woods |
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Vicki Woods

As journalists, Rebecca West had the critical scope, Penelope Gilliatt had the implacable satire and Katherine Whitehorn had the radar for social detail, but you would have had to put all three of them together in the same room to come up with the journalism of Vicki Woods. After the same sort of upbringing as Ian McEwan – like his, her father moved from one military base to another – she got her start as a sub-editor on the glossy magazine Harpers & Queen. She never lost her taste for editorship and eventually, in the 1990s, she became editor of the same magazine she had started out in, whereupon her own appearances as a writer grew less frequent, to the great regret of many of her admirers, of whom I was one. But until that happened, she set standards as a feature writer that had only rarely been equalled before and have not often been equalled since. It wasn’t just the thoroughness with which she covered the subject, it was her flight of linguistic invention, which took off from solid observation and kept on climbing. Her best pieces can still astonish for their rich exuberance of fanciful detail, and I reproduce some of them here in full confidence that they will set the reader to learning lines and reciting them to other people, just as if the paragraphs were poems. An extra kick is provided by the fact that the theme is often dark, yet somehow she makes it sparkle. Mike Tyson, for example, was never normally a source of mirth, until he ran into the lightning right hand of Vicki Woods. He didn’t even see it coming.