Ten Minutes With Jay Fielden
Meet the editor of Town & Country
Jay Fielden is editor-in-chief of Town & Country. He got his start as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, was later hired as arts editor at Vogue, and then served as editor of Men’s Vogue until it shut down in 2008. He joined Town & Country in 2011, and reflects upon his journey, his vision for the magazine, and why he and his wife decided to settle in Wilton.
You grew up in San Antonio. Yes, and I couldn’t wait to bolt at 18. As a boy, I didn’t have other places to compare it to, but I now realize living there shaped my imagination and taught me a lot about the world. San Antonio has a great personality. I love its conquistador history, strong Mexican influence, mighty good food, fiestas, swimming-pool culture, tropical heat, and the slow-drip of time there.
What sparked your interest in publishing? An older girlfriend gave me The Catcher in the Rye. I was floored by it. It was as if I had walked through a door; there was a ‘me’ outside of it and a ‘me’ on the inside, and the two were not the same. I was determined to find a job in the world of words.
How did you get started? In 1994, I got a job as fiction assistant at The New Yorker. I had a feeling of pure joy I had never experienced before. The Rolodex near my desk had the addresses of J.D. Salinger, Nabokov, Cheever, Mary McCarthy, and Edmund Wilson. Remember, I was just a kid from a taco town.
Who has inspired you? I had amazing mentors. Tina Brown promoted me to write all the display copy for The New Yorker. It was a genuine nightmare, but it taught me how to think under bullet fire. I would submit my work, and a scrawl would come back: “Boring!” “Awful!” “No!” Anna Wintour has been another great influence. Her literary standards are impeccable.
You’ve had some setbacks? Men’s Vogue closed in 2008, and then six months later our house burned down. I still have a lot of soot on my wings, but these experiences have made me less fearful. I’ve always believed in taking risks, but now I have the courage to act on that.
Your vision for Town & Country? It has been around since 1846. It survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, Jimmy Carter, and the end of the Mayan calendar. I see myself as a steward of this great title. So many hot topics—the one percent, taste and behavior, class warfare—hit T&C’s bullseye.
Can you share something about yourself? I was a lazy student, and didn’t become a good reader until I was older. Growing up, I liked playing the video game Asteroids—you’re a space ship in the middle of the screen trying to explode massive rocks converging on you from every angle. That pretty much sums up my day at the office.
Why did you move to Wilton? When our first child was born in 2003, we decided to flee New York for Connecticut. We wanted a modernist house, and found what we wanted in Wilton. I love that Wilton is an unpretentious town. Along with my darling wife, it keeps me from ever mistaking myself as the Sun King.