Whither the Short Story?

Lydia Jenkins has declared that the literary magazine is dead. Likewise, Jean Thompson recently opined that, due to the considerable commentary resulting from Stephen King’s distress call that the short story cannot be dead. Ms. Jenkins suggests that we do not need any more literary magazines, because they are condemned to endless in-jokes and other conceits, but this characterization only serves to cloud her perception. (For example, can a quality magazine like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction really fall inside this rubric?) Likewise, what Ms. Thompson fails to realize is that a vociferous array of comments are, by no means, reflective of the situation as King described it — namely, literary magazines arranged in bookstores “along the lowest shelf,” where either literary die-hards or self-immolating hunchbacks collecting disability are inclined to stoop.

Neither Jenkins nor Thompson address the real problem. Short stories are simply no longer part of the general population’s reading diet — at least not in magazine form. Gone are the days where people read magazines to become lost in stories. (And pardon the longass digression, but I also believe that this has something to do with the regrettable paucity of exciting radio dramas along the lines of Quiet, Please. As far as I am concerned, there is something extremely sad about the United States failing to subsidize or encourage radio drama, while the form continues to flourish with public and private monies in Canada and the United Kingdom. I have made more feverish quests than I can count, but unless someone can direct me to a podcast that is on the level of a Mutual or NBC Blue radio drama and that is not merely a recording of an author reading their work, along the lines of Escape Pod or an audio book, not even the great podcasting revolution has offered anything worthwhile. As for audio books, having revisited the form recently out of personal and professional interests, I can likewise assure you that the majority of readers hired for these safe ‘n’ sane outings have been trained to read work without zest or dramatic gusto. The Take No Chances motto, which one expects from the latest family film released by Disney, holds true for this quite promising medium. Rather criminally, the audio books industry made $871 million in 2005 on this soporific racket.)

Michael Chabon made two efforts to revisit this golden era with his two guest-edited McSweeney’s volumes. And while these were certainly fun and welcome diversions, the grand revelation was that the majority of writers, by way of not having reading the magazines of the 1930s and the 1940s, are simply not trained to entertain in the manner that those who wrote for Collier’s and Esquire back in those days did.

Magazines now serve to promulgate news, celebrity gossip, and those Cosmopolitan questionnaires in which I always seem to end up “prepared to entice your man in bed.” (On the latter point, don’t ask me why this ends up happening to me. I merely fill in the bubbles.)

I am not trying to sound elitist here. Nor am I suggesting that any of these developments are bad or represent the end of civilization. Reading, contra the alarmism raised a few years ago by the NEA, is far from dead. Any casual glance inside a subway will reveal no shortage of people who are reading. But if they are reading fiction, they are reading books, not magazines.

So where does this leave the short story (or, for that matter, the radio drama)? Well, I think recent steps taken by Esquire fiction editor Tom Chiarella, in which twice as many short stories are being published this year compared to last year, are a start. If the short story is to survive among the general publication, and this may very well be the key to the ongoing health of literary journals and short stories, it is now up to the general interest magazine to save it by including exemplars of the form within its pages. For that is where the magazines are likely to be stocked in bookstores. Or perhaps the time has come to offer more short story collections in the form of books. (Interestingly, the Chabon-edited McSweeney’s collections were marketed this way. I’d be extremely curious about their Bookscan figures. The fact that a third volume did not arrive may attest to poor sales.)

But practically speaking, if you want to save the short story as a whole and if you want it to be more than merely the niche markets it currently serves, you’re going to have to get the general population reading short fiction. And this means creating magazines, exclusively devoted to fiction that entertains as well as enlightens, that the public will buy. Even if this means a profusion of penny dreadfuls. Is such a thing possible? I think so. But only if markets can be successfully created and only if the writers writing today understand that narrative is just as important as MFA haberdashery.

What we need to do is train a generation of readers and possibly a generation of listeners. That 25% of the general population listens to audio books is an encouraging sign. But what if the audio books became more dramatic, along the lines of a radio drama? And what if these radio dramas (or podcasts) were tied, as the great drama X Minus 1 was, to a major magazine? (X Minus 1 had a close association with the late Galaxy Magazine. People listening to the program could then go to the magazine where they might find similar stories that would excite them. I have no firm figures on the effect the radio program may have had on sales. Perhaps one of Horace Gold’s descendants might wish to weigh in.)

If the short story were truly important in the United States, then someone would step in and find a way in which to reach the great American public. What we have instead are a bunch of embittered MFAs and people who have become tired of reading McSweeney’s, when it’s really King who’s on the money here. While I’ll always enjoy and appreciate short stories, I simply won’t be convinced that they matter to the populace at large until I see subway commuters replacing their mass market paperbacks with fiction magazines, or until I don’t have to stoop down in the bookstore to get the latest issue of ZYZZYVA.

Brigid Strikes Back

The first issue of A Public Space, a new quarterly edited by yearlong Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes, is out, and the contents look quite appetizing. Rick Moody, fiction from Charles D’Ambrosio and Kelly Link, poetry, Haruki Murakami on grapefruit, an essay from Marilynne Robinson. Return of the Reluctant, which can not say no to such a motely crew, plans to get its hands on this and report back our findings.

Richard Powers on Mozart’s Skull

As regular readers may or may not know, we are mad about Richard Powers. I mean, we’re talking mad to the level of reading all of his books (two of them twice) and having a very special Richard Powers section on our stacks. So it was with considerable embarassment that one Tayari Jones snickered at us (wholly deserved!) for missing this New York Times article that the Goldbug Man wrote on Mozart’s skull a few weeks ago. We pledge to keep more vigilant on the Powers front.

Incidentally, Powers has a new book coming out in October called The Echo Maker. When we aren’t trying to produce five podcasts for the LBC (along with several others), we will begin thorough investigation to atone for our sins.

In the meantime, Radioactive Banana is on the case.

[UPDATE: Kirstin writes in to let me know that Richard Powers is contributing editor to A Public Space, a new magazine of “fiction that matters” put together by former Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes. There doesn’t appear to be a table of contents for Issue No. 1, but Kelly Link has a story and this definitely looks promising!]

Wholphin, Eggers and Why I Can’t Believe

I picked up the January 2005 issue of The Believer, partly with the intention of seeing if the magazine was showing any signs of shedding its feel-good trappings (short answer: not really but not entirely worthless either) and partly because it included the first issue of Wholphin, a new quarterly “DVD Magazine of Unseen Things.” I like the idea behind Wholphin, which involves collecting a good deal of film shorts and assorted narratives that don’t really have a place outside of their initial small venues. But unfortunately, like almost anything that comes from the McSweeney’s Empire, the DVD carries the uncomfortable stamp of films that are just too safe to be innovative. In watching the material, I got the sense of holding an interesting object, but with the edges and the unique texture sanded down for non-offensive mass consumption. And in transposing the McSweeney’s watered down Barthelme voice to the film world, Wholphin offers a number of revelations which recall what Curtis White has identified as the Middle Mind. It is my sad duty to report that Wholphin is wholly disingenuous about its intent. It is neither explicitly intellectual nor explicitly for the masses. Sure, it’s a beautiful looking dinghy sailing with a directionless rudder. But unless it shakes off the Eggers yoke, it will be just another indistinct echo in the wind. A good idea that didn’t have to die.

Perhaps the problem with Wholphin (as with many McSweeney’s products) is its distressing inability to trust its readership. Indeed, the separation between the art offered and the marketing copy which accompanies it is entirely incongruous. It takes a hell of a conceit to tell an audience precisely how it should feel about something. And yet within Wholphin‘s accompanying booklet, this is exactly what goes down. “The House in the Middle” is described, “Your horror, shock, and rage at the country’s inability to help tax-paying citizens prepare for natural or man-made disaster will not be calmed by this film. But it is funny.” Note that it automatically assumes that its audience is composed entirely of good liberal thinkers who will automatically recontextualize the film within the framework of the Katrina fuckup. Note also the sanction to laugh, but whether the humor is directed at the film’s horrible depiction of how people should maintain their homes or presumably the now patented tone of the 1950s government-sponsored film, who can say? (And more anon on this tone when I get to the Spike Jonze film.)

Indeed, the interviews in the accompanying booklet make the reasons for spawning the art suspect. Scott Prendergast reveals that he made “The Delicious” because he wanted to “dress up in crazy costumes and act like a weirdo.” And indeed his film is nothing more than that: a paper-thin premise unfolding at a snail’s pace in which Prendergast, whose bemused expressions and wiry physicality aren’t entirely unlaudable, quickly wears out his welcome.

When you put the DVD into your player, you get a menu of the choices. One of three different films (two apparently by Jeroen Offerman) plays. And if, like me, you’re the kind of person who likes getting the DVD set up for viewing (due in large part to those irritating trailers you can’t skip through anymore that are put on most DVDs) while you go into the other room and grab a glass of wine (or two), you’re probably going to be as irritated as I was that a film starts playing if you’re not exactly trigger-happy with the remote. Meaning that instead of getting to experience a short film in its entirety, you walk in to your surprise and find that you’re midway through a guy singing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. This forces you to hit the stop button and try to access the aforementioned film (“Stairway at Saint Paul”), only to find that there’s no option to go directly to the film (whose bright idea was that?) and that if you’re interested in the film, you will be subject to one of the three random films, who knows which one, playing from the beginning. If the idea here is that Wholphin is meant to be experienced without interruption, I have news for editor Brent Hoff. Understand that some of us out here don’ t need to be barraged by data at every minute and, in fact, we want to experience the art in toto.

The first offering is Miguel Arteta’s “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?,” a collaboration with filmmaker/Believer contributor Miranda July. (This is one of many suspicious Eggers connections that accompany the disc. It’s not so much celebrating innovation, but also keeping promoting the efforts of those “in the family.”) A man who looks suspiciously like Friend of Eggers Stephen Elliott can be seen in three quarters profile, until he turns around and we realize that it’s actually John C. Reilly. Whether this was intentional (and it’s certainly a thesis for an Auctorial Doppelganger that will likely never happen) or not remains a mystery. But the material itself, despite the presence of the always good Reilly, comes across as a tossed off and entirely insubstantial home movie. The titular question could have been used as a way to expose how shallow the process of introspection can be (apposite rhetoric for the 826 Valencia crowd, I think), but it becomes instead the basis for a vanity project that isn’t particularly penetrating. Heads talking insubstantially about insubstantial topics. The gimmick of Reilly with a clipboard. Ha ha. Perhaps the question was intended to be presented to the viewer with unintentional irony. Why else would it have been placed first on the menu? We’re all friends here, right? You’ll enjoy us without question, yes? Because we here are your favorite people in the world!

Lisa Chang and Newton Thomas Sigel’s “The Big Empty” shows more promise, both as an interesting way of producing filmed versions of McSweeney’s stories (it comes from Alison Smith’s “The Specialist,” which originally appeared in McSweeney’s #11) and as a way of profiling unusual material. Sadly, this too comes across as a vanity project, despite the fact that Selma Blair is utterly right for the part of a woman who has an arctic wasteland inside her that can only be accessed through her vagina. And if that premise sounds edgy or dangerous, let me assure you that it’s not. Or at least it doesn’t come across that way when it should. The film in general is seriously undermined by its Wes Anderson-style obsession with ostentatious perfection (books lined up meticulously in square piles with the camera dollying across as if the atmosphere is more important than the human moment), along with the distracting presence of Haskell Wexler as a bookstore customer and the uncomfortably carnal quid-pro-quo credit of “Executive Producers: George Clooney Steven Soderbergh.” This is clearly a film that values style over substance, a catastrophic emphasis given its high-concept premise. It has all the tricks that money will buy, but it is soulless even in its one modest moment of earnestness (a dorky guy asking Blair how she feels).

Another case of style killing pith is Brian Dewan‘s “The Death of the Hen,” which contextualizes a tale in the form of a filmstrip (complete with the beeps preceding the switch of the slide). Again, the stylistic idea here, presumably intended for those who remain mired by elementary school nostalgia from the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, is an interesting one. But the tale’s details are so digressive that it once again becomes difficult to get attuned to the story. At one point, a fox asks to hop into a carriage pulled by six mice. Agreement is made. And then without warning or explanation, the carriage is filled up with all manner of animals. Are we supposed to laugh at the fact that such a digressive detail is thrown into the mix? Yes, it fits into some of the inexplicable narratives featured in filmstrips. But wouldn’t it have been more interesting, indeed more audacious, if Dewan actually accepted the medium of the filmstrip on its own terms? What of a filmstrip that used the cheery tone and the formality to tell a bleak tale inside a crackhouse, an ironic metaphor on the failed drug wars of the time? Now that would be innovative!

One of the most problematic inclusions here is an episode of Talti Hayat, billed here as “the Turkish Jeffersons,” which is a specious comparison at best. For one thing, the couple of this series is not radically different in ethnicity, but are essentially an upper-class couple living “the sweet life,” surrounded by amicable maids and the goofy guy in a red sweater next door. In other words, what we’re dealing with here is a very banal and pretty run-of-the-mill sitcom, not terribly interesting, unless of course you’re one of those base humans who believes that all Asian women are bad rivers and thinks that listening to a Turkish sentence that you don’t understand is the most hilarious thing you’ve heard since the dead parrot sketch (or, failing that, a Jerky Boys routine).

What makes this exercise tasteless is the fact that the McSweeney’s people have hired various writers to provide alternative subtitle tracks. This might have been a good idea, but none of the translations hold a candle to MST3K and they are all designed to mock material which is simply too insubstantial to skewer. And even though the liner notes say, “No offense whatsoever is intended by the writers towards the actors, the Turkish people, Germans, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, fans of Gilmore Girls, or any other group,” the statement is suspect when the alternative subtitle tracks contain such racist lines as “Menskshe! Where did you hide my water pipe? I left it there on the dresser” (as penned by A.G. Pasquella), essentially implying that all Turks are bonged out scatterbrains. I suspect that this represents the dark underbelly of the so-called McSweeney’s feel-good beat. On one hand, don’t offer anything with edge. But when immersed within the exercise of groping for free associative humor, you can hide behind that comfy mask of irony, claiming that a particularly uncreative and racist line isn’t really racist. and that it was all in good fun.

The two strongest segments on Wholphin are, interestingly enough, the ones by major filmmakers. David O. Russell (a Friend of Spike, who is a Friend of Eggers) offers excerpts from his documentary Soldier’s Pay. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the film in its entirety and can recommend it. While the excerpts here to some degree reflects the “good thoughtful liberal” audience impression frequently assumed by the McSweeney’s editorship, it’s still a welcome inclusion.

But Spike Jonze’s documentary on Al Gore demonstrates not only Wholphin‘s potential but its failings. The story was this: In 2000, Spike Jonze, hot off the success of Being John Malkovich, was commissioned by the Gore for President campaign to make a documentary to be shown at the National Democratic Convention, presumably because this would help Gore’s “stiff” image problem and get him down with the kids. Jonze, relatively stunned by all this (one gets the sense that he was a bit clueless actually), decided to simply drive up to the Gore family house with his tiny video camera and shoot whatever struck his fancy.

The result is a fascinating little film. One sees Gore remaining guarded even during private family moments. The film can be viewed as a stunning revelation (in hindsight, at least) about how a politician, constantly concerned with his image even while letting his guard down bodysurfing and selecting a VHS tape for family movie night, could never really loosen up. But it’s clear from the tape that he wants to loosen up. But he can’t. It’s impossible in the age of soundbytes. And because there are invisible antennae protruding from just behind Gore’s head, always cognizant of a camera or journalist in the room or from sixty miles away, Jonez’s film, perhaps unintentionally, is the study of what life must be like to have absolutely no privacy, to kiss your wife when you know there is somebody watching. I suppose in this sense, Gore’s stiffness actually made him more real than the competition. For how can any of us really remain true and spontaneous if there will be constant cameras and stenographers recording our every move?

Wholphin, however, catastrophically ignores this salient revelation (and perhaps this revelation is what kept the film from speculation; nobody wants a candidate that appears even remotely nervous) in favor of the following text in its booklet:

This film might have wiped away, in twenty-two minutes*, Gore’s reputation as a robot. If nothing else, it might have at least calmed a few jumpy liberals into reconsidering their protest vote. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the film was shelved. (Dramatic pause.) Until now. It may seem like a sweet, simple study of a loving American family, but in our opinion, Jonze’s short film could have changed the world.

* — Nevermind that the film clocked in at sixteen minutes on my DVD player.

We’re now five years away from the damn Supreme Court decision and we’re still basking in this baffling, back-slapping “what the would could have been” liberal bullshit, in the same flag-wrapping manner that conservatives evoke September 11 to justify their latest fascist legislation. It is embarassing that such a jejune conclusion would accompany so fascinating a film. It is adolescent that such revolutionary claptrap would be uttered instead of sucking it up and facing the cold hard honesty: Al Gore wasn’t the one. So who might be the candidate for 2008? And what can we do to make the current situation better? (Not so subtle hint to those liberals clutching their blankets like Linus right now: Midterm elections are happening this year.)

Understand that for all of my criticisms of Eggers, McSweeney’s, The Believer and now Wholphin (and, for that matter, the n + 1 crowd), in my heart of hearts, I really want them to succeed. But if one wishes to remain truly independent, truly underground, and truly shake the foundations of intellectual thought, making assumptions about your audience, telling them exactly how they should think and exactly how they should feel and insisting that revolutionary zeal might have been in the air when the circumstances really can’t be proved is the kind of mentality I expect from a starry-eyed undergrad student clinging to his idealism, not the finest writers and editors of our time. It involves saying no to such bullshit as Snarkwatch, which places such restrictions on how one can think and how one should kvetch without considering that a little rant here and there isn’t entirely unhealthy. It involves actually listening to the “crazed maniacs” who denounce you and who disagree with you rather than keeping a Nixon-style Enemies List (various rumors have reported that Eggers keeps a list along these lines, but there is apparently nothing to corroborate this). And it involves considering dangerous topics, even pissing off a friend who disagrees with you on something. It involves considering all sides of the perspective, however difficult and painful. Nobody said thinking was easy.

Ask yourself this: wouldn’t the Believer, McSweeney’s and Wholphin be fantastic if they weren’t so afraid to walk on the wild side? If they took the 0bvious enthusiasm that’s there within its staffers and combined it with even the tinge of outrage?

So I publicly ask Heidi Julavits, Ed Park, Vendela Vida, Dave Eggers and Brent Hoff (and, for that matter, Ben Marcus) the following question: Why do you continue to commit hari-kari? Why can’t you be honest? Why must you steer the whims of your audience? Are you that insecure about the work in question? Why are you so terrified to express a few negative emotions from time to time? Were you all walked over as kids or something? Come on, you and I know that you’re better than these shaky presumptions and insular claptrap!

In short, why can’t I believe? Because I’d really like to.

But He Doesn’t Look Anything Like Campbell Scott

Harper’s has named a new editor. His name is Roger D. Hodge. He is 38 and was once turned down as an intern, only to be called back later, eventually becoming a deputy editor. What’s particularly amusing about the Times article is that Jack Shafer, perhaps the silliest man ever employed by Slate, seems slightly miffed at being passed over, noting, “Who wouldn’t want to edit a magazine that had a seemingly bottomless philanthropic fund to finance it? If they called me and asked me to take the job, I’d pack my bags tomorrow.”

Hodge himself, however, states, “There is a global war on terror, a war in Iraq and we have a presidential administration that is collapsing. And we don’t seem to have any politicians that know what to do about it. It is a very interesting time for Harper’s.” Much as I might enjoy Harper’s, I’m wondering whether such knee-jerk reactions, which have apparently resulted in increased sales, are the stuff of intellectual debate which cuts across multiple perspectives. Since Harper’s, as Shafer has noted, has colossal funding, would it not make sense to challenge all political perspectives? A preprogrammed anti-Bush rant might win you instant applause from a liberal crowd, but I’d hate to see the MacArthur Foundation’s resources wasted on conveying preprogrammed platitudes to a bunch of hoary-haired lefties who need to feel reaffirmed.

Of course, there’s one easy solution: Hire Vollmann to contribute journalism on a regular basis.

Lapham Retires from Harper’s

The Times reports that Lewis Lapham is retiring as editor of Harper’s. He’ll be retiring in the spring. Lapham’s been mum on naming a successor, but these are going to be some hard shoes to fill, since under Lapham’s tenure, Harper’s has had a really great run.

Part of me, however, wonders if Lapham’s involvement in the recent Roman Polanski lawsuit (which Polanski won) might have factored into Lapham’s decision. Polanski’s win meant not just a $90,000 verdict, but an estimated $2.6 million legal bill for Conde Nast (which published the Vanity Fair piece penned by Lapham). Lapham was the source for the 1969 article written by A.E. Hotchner.

One unfortunate thing: Lapham’s “Notebook” column, which, with rare exception, is pretty much the same anti-Bush rhetoric every month, will continue. Although perhaps with Lapham concentrating on a bio of William Taft, Lapham will mix his subject matter up a little more.

Interestingly enough, Lapham also has a book out from Melville House about the two weeks he spent with the Beatles.

Men Who Read Magazines: Easily Bored or More Complicated?

BusinessWeek reports that men aren’t reading magazines the way they used to. I’m going to suggest something radical: Could it be that men are more complicated than the current lad magazine world gives them credit for?

Of course, with this decline comes one thankful development: “Maxim and the laddie titles it spawned are hardly in danger of disappearing, but their newsstand sales are far off their previous peaks. Meanwhile, ad categories that gravitate toward men’s titles, such as domestic automotive and technology, are down this year.”

Harper’s and the Realities of the Internet

We’ve only just been released from the hospital and we’re spending a good deal of time adjusting to our unexpected euphoria. We have some things to say about Ben Marcus’s Harper’s essay on Jonathan Franzen and experimental novelists (which we read ourselves the other day) that we hope we’ll find time to get to, although, at the present juncture, it looks unlikely. We’re as surprised as anyone that, save Reader of Depressing Books, the litblog scene has been so silent on it. (You lapped up Dale Peck. You lapped up Heidi Julavits’ antisnark manifesto. And you mean to tell me that yet another polemical essay calling for a reevaluation of how we interpret the novel has evaded your attention? Fer shame!)

Perhaps the silence has much to do with the fact that Harper’s, like many other misguided American periodicals, has not produced the essay in question (with the exception of this excerpt) online. Which is a damn silly thing to do at this particular moment in the 21st century and a damn silly thing to publish today, at the end of the month of all things, when I myself just received the next issue of Harper’s in the mailbox.

So what is this, Lapham? A last-minute take to get nimble-minded literary enthusiasts and grad students to set down the baroque threads of their lives and race to their newsstands and bookstores and librarires before it is sold out or replaced by the next issue? All for you? All because the essay failed to strike the appropriate chord online because, after all, you failed to produce a substantial chunk of it online until the very last possible minute (“published Thursday, September 29, 2005”)?

Is it possible that even Harper’s still operates as if it’s 1995?

It don’t work that way, my ornery friend. If you want a public debate these days (and just to be clear on this, we’re talking the Year of Our Lust 2005, Anno Domini, Glorious Year of Tom DeLay Being Indicted, Britney Spears With Child and the Hopeful Declivity Ensnaring the Republican Menace), you do what the New Yorker, the New York Times, and any other functional magazine does (even The Believer does this to some degree!). You provide it for us online. And if you still insist on an excerpt to ward off the freeloaders, you provide a substantial chunk for all of us to peruse and respond to. That essay is long, man!

Anne Tyler: Unwavering Instigator of Irritation

Michiko on Joe Ezterhas: “As for the rest of this ridiculously padded, absurdly self-indulgent book, the reader can only cry: T.M.I.! Too Much Information! And: Get an editor A.S.A.P.!” What the F.U.C.K. is up with the A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S.?

A new book will explain the seven most important unsolved math problems. One of them involves working out the probability ratio for the Democrats in November.

How the hell did the Washington Times snag a review copy of the $3,000 Ali book? Did the reviewer have to fill out a loan application and submit a credit report?

The new issue of the resurrected Argosy is out. It’s the first issue since 1943, with work by Jeffrey Ford, Michael Moorcock, Ann Cummins and Benjamin Rosenbaum. Each issue will be packaged in two volumes: one the main magazine, the other a novella. The magazine is printed bimonthly and has an affordable subsciption rate. The Moorcock story is the return of metatemporal detective Sir Seaton Begg.

The Age weighs in on the legacy of long novels, but cites Tolkien and Patrick O’Brian instead of David Foster Wallace and Rising Up and Rising Down.

Bookslut has posted the standard response the Times is issuing.

Christopher Paolini: the next J.W. Rowling?

A.S. Byatt weighs in on the Grossman translation.

The Globe and Mail reports that Tyler “hasn’t a boring or irritating word in her vocabulary.” Of course. You can find the boredom and the irritation in the Caucasian malaise and the treacle.

And Radosh and Slate are looking into the reliability of that Times sex slave story.

The Twin East Coast Monthly

For all of The Atlantic‘s candor, it still doesn’t explain why the current double issue would include not one, but two takes on high-profile translations (the former a swell introspective look on Don Quixote, the latter another smug collection of Christopher Hitchens intonations), while saving the remaining lengthy slot for Dr. Laura’s new book. While influential polemicists certainly do warrant a serious look, we can’t help but wonder if The Atlantic is preaching to the converted or contemplate why The Atlantic would dwell upon a polemicist that has, it would seem to us, had her day. Despite the long, long, long (did we mention long?), blustery essays on Iraq, one involving hawkish apologia, both of which hurt our heads to varying degrees, we believe The Atlantic‘s readers are not likely to find solace in a hateful crank. Nor do we believe that hi/lo dichotomies are necessarily the order of the day. The current object, it would seem to us, is guided more by mitosis. To the point where it has us now using that dreaded first person plural, which use we reserve only when drunk, half-awake, or otherwise devoid of our ten senses.