Saturday, March 17, 2007

Esq Train, Third Gutter on the Left

I was thinking of taking out a subscription to the New Yorker shortly, and I think I bored the heck out of most of the people at the grogblog last night by talking about obscure publications. So why don't I do some more of it now?*
It's probably not the smartest time for me to be thinking about this, what with my rent not being paid and me being dissatisfied with my job at the moment, but what the heck - I figure if I lose my job and get tossed out on the street, I can at least be the most educated bum in the gutter. The post man can just knock on the newspapers that I use as a bed and ask if I'm at home.

I could always resubscribe to The Spectator, which I received for a year while living in Newcastle. It was ludicrous, really - there I was receiving a Centrelink pension, going along to the occasional meeting with a welfare worker and talking about how hard, really, I was trying to find a job - and then I'd disappear back into my falling down house and read this high-Tory magazine from Britain from cover to cover. I loved it, but I think I took to it rather too enthusiastically - by the end of the year, I could hardly pick up the magazine, because I knew when I did, I'd have to read four or five articles in a sitting. It was just too much of a commitment - I had to give it up! I treated the slightly-boring-but-worthy Quadrant with similar enthusiasm when I subscribed to that.

For a while, perhaps with starry-eyed dreams of becoming a celebrity science-fiction writer, I contemplated subscribing to Andromeda Spaceways, a neat little Aussie production specialising in comedy-themed science fiction writing. But despite my love of the genre, I don't actually read much sci-fi nowadays - perhaps a short novel every two months. I've also thought about signing up to Viz, not because I'm a cartoon devotee, but because I love some of their artists (John Fardell is close to a genius), their humour, and their ability to find satire in the most unlikely of forms - newspaper advertisements, board games, and crosswords, for instance.

If I were a better person, perhaps I'd subscribe to a magazine that challenged me politically and morally. Harpers is a very good left-wing American publication, although Lewis Lapham's editorials seem to get more and more embittered as time goes on. And come to think of it, the one time I bought a copy of The Weekly Standard, a right-wing American publication, I was just as challenged. And I'm steering clear of crap ideology-masking-itself-as-journalism, like The Green Left Weekly and The New Statesman.

But it's not the politics that is the most important thing, anyway. What I love about The New Yorker is that you can still open it and find pieces by Woody Allen and Steve Martin. It's the wit and the eloquence that I enjoy - I don't care much what a writer believes in, so long as they are able to talk about it easily, with intelligence and honesty.

But then again, subscribing to the New Yorker might be just another way of finding out more about a fascinating city on the other side of the world, a city that I visited for just enough time to find out that I didn't visit it for anywhere near enough time to find out everything I wanted to find out about it.

*Blogging is the perfect medium for rhetorical questions, don't you think? Yes, you do.


GoAwayPlease said...

I am sorry I missed the 'obscure magazines forum' last night.

The spectator is a GREAT READ, but I am amazed they get it out at all, since Boris Johnson is infamously adulterous, his main writer Rod Liddle was infamously adulterous on his honeymoon, and their publisher (forget name) was adulterous most infamously with David Blunkett. However did that magazine get to the readers!

My favourite magazine is the US edition of Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair. Their March issue has a most revealing investigation of Guantanamo with navy lawyers saying they cannot bring the detainees to trial because they must not embarrass the POTUS. They were instructed from the start that "if there was never any trial, it would be a good thing".
Our PM should subscribe to VF perhaps?
(yes, rhetorical)

TimT said...

Hi Brownie! Bonkin' Boris Johnson doesn't work for the Speccie now, anyway, though that must have been good for getting the readers in.

I got my NYer today and a copy of Viz. Never been one for much of the Vanity Fairs and whatnot, I tend to steer towards the book-review sections, one reason I read the Spectator; it's so steeped in British literary culture.

Steve said...

Yes, the New Yorker is a fine magazine for exactly the reasons you explain. Are you too young to be a fan of movie critic Pauline Kael? I don't think there is any match for her still, although Anthony Lane in the New Yorker is capable of very funny stuff.

My guilty pleasure of a magazine is Fortean Times. I have had to give it a break because I never finish it completely, but that is just my life at the moment.

TimT said...

Nope, never read Pauline Kael, though I do love a good acerbic review. On a cursory glance, David Sedaris seems the best writer they have at the moment.

Oh, and what's all this about guilty pleasures? Be proud about reading the Fortean Times! Occasionally I am fond of reading through the 'Weekly World News', though they don't really have any good taste - all that's important with them is the shock factor. Conspiracy magazines can be quite fun, though - even Barry Williams of Australian Skeptics reads Nexus for laffs...

Caz said...

Um, not sure what to think.

You do realise that all of the publications mentioned are not in the least bit obscure, other than, perhaps, Andromeda Spaceways?

For the rest, they quite well known, to such an extent that you'll find even people in Tasmania subscribe to some of them.

And articles taken from each of them appear frequently in our own local rags.

TimT said...

Well, that's true. Minotaur Books in the middle of the city will stock Andromeda Spaceways, but hardly anyone else in Melbourne. When I went on the look out for the New Yorker, however, hardly one newsagent stocked it!

But when does a publication go from being 'obscure' to being 'well known'? Most people at my workplace (and it's their job to know about and monitor the media) will know about, say, The Melbourne Age and probably even The Newcastle Herald, but may start scratching their heads when talk comes to prestigious publications like The New Yorker or The Spectator. Is this an effect of media being a local or national phenomenon, a sign of an ongoing cultural cringe, or are The New Yorker and The Spectator still, in some ways, 'obscure'?

Caz said...

Wow - don't know what to tell you Tim (see, I should have gone to the blog-piss-up, that'll teach me!).

The New Yorker and The Spectator are two of the best know "prestige" publications in the world.

Your work mates would be on the young and ignorant side of things?

Sorry, not being horrible, but can't think of how else to explain their void of knowledge about publications that are widely quoted, whose writers are esteemed, and that have been published for decades.

Surprised you had trouble finding New Yorker, but maybe most people in this part of the world who read it go to the trouble of subscribing. I thought it was a little more widely available though.

McGills would stock a lot of these, surely?

I know there's another newsagent in the city that has international journals and good stuff, but have only read about it ... never been there. :-D

TimT said...

I think people hear about these things largely through word-of-mouth - either that, or it is something their fathers brothers friend subscribes to. I discovered the Spectator, bizarrely, through a reference to it in an 18th century essay or poem, but I'd known about the New Yorker for ages, possibly through early exposure to a book of Thurber essays.

You're probably right about the people I work with, though I haven't done a survey on them or anything like that. One of the effects of the decline of newspapers and journals, perhaps, is the loss of knowledge about the 'prestige' journals.

If we're talking really obscure, I guess I could mention a few. The 'Correspondence Chess League of Australia quarterly', for instance. Or even the good old Sydney Uni UR (nowhere near as well known as the paper, Honi Soit)

Email: timhtrain - at -

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