• There are many batty angles contained within this New York Times Style piece: the notion that someone could earn a living as a “professional book-group facilitator,” the idea that a book could be discriminated against because it has book group questions in the back (when such questions can be easily ignored or torn out), or the suggested trauma that comes from the burden of selecting a title. But I will say this. Back in San Francisco, I had to try out five book clubs before I was forced to establish a book club of my own. I wanted to ensure that good books were read. I wanted to ensure that everyone had a say during the discussion. Admittedly, my standards were high. But finding a good book club is like finding a good mechanic or a good therapist. You have to dabble with a considerable number before you find the right one. At least with the book clubs, you’re not dealing with the intricate machinery of an automobile or the complex feelings of a baroque personality. (And you’re certainly not dealing with exorbitant bills.) If you can’t find the ideal book club, maybe you should test the waters and start your own. (There was also a fringe benefit I didn’t anticipate: book clubs, for whatever reason, got me dates.) In my case, it worked out well for about a year and a half before I had to give it up for other commitments (and not necessarily the kind you’re thinking, you dirty dirty reader!).
  • Thank you, David Barber, for what is quite possibly the worst lede in the Atlantic‘s history. Let us put this into perspective. David Barber is the poetry editor — a man who would, by way of his title, have some grasp of language. And this nonsense is the best he can come up with? I’ve seen better first sentences in high school essays. Hell, I’ve heard better first lines from desperate middle-aged men trying to hope to hook up with slinky women in bars. Good Christ, what has happened to the Atlantic? Britney Spears on the cover, dull writing, idiotic subjects. I check in every so often with an open mind, hoping that the Atlantic will return to what it once was when I was a subscriber. This is especially troubling, because I once referred to Harper’s, The New Yorker, and the Atlantic as the Holy Trinity. Well, now the Atlantic is firmly off the list. And I need a third magazine to complete the trinity. Any suggestions from readers? What is your Holy Trinity of Magazines? Hell, the Atlantic is so bad these days that I’d rather read an issue of Wrestling USA.
  • In fact, it’s so bad that Atlantic staffers are being commissioned for epic fail think pieces. Ben Schwarz has now teaming up with Caitlin Flanagan for this callow New York Times op-ed piece laden with generalizations. I hope that Mr. Schwarz had a cold shower just after turning in this piece. My, how the once mighty have fallen! (via LA Observed)
  • “When the Plaza Hotel reopened in March 2008 after three years and $400 million in renovations, the 805-room grande dame of the NYC hotel scene was as unrecognizable as an aging matron who Botoxed her way back to the tautness of a 25-year-old.” Not necessarily the best simile, but considering that this is the New York Post, this is an unwonted sentence that is to be commended.
  • To Adam Sternbergh: If you haven’t bothered to watch Mad Men, then why did you bother to write 1,100 words about why you don’t watch it? If you are being paid $1/word, why would you be such a lazy and worthless intellectual coprophilie and not investigate the show that you’re writing about? Why would you not go to the trouble of having your perceptions challenged? Or of offering an informed contrarian take to counter all the Mad Men mania? It’s only a few hours of your time to watch a few episodes. This is what makes good cultural journalism. No, instead, you’ve been paid $1,000 to tell us why you enjoy expressing your arrogant and uninformed idiocy. Why aren’t you out on the street holding a tin can begging for spare change and not getting a single dime? Why aren’t homeless people kicking you in the shins? Why isn’t a dependable team of mercenaries nailing hard pikes into your sorry excuse for a noggin while you’re trying to recover from a Sunday morning hangover? Why is this kind of insipid flummery being run in magazines when there are real journalists who are now out of work? Is that enough passionate advocacy for you? (To offer some perspective, 30,000 media jobs have been lost in 2008. But Adam Sternbergh inexplicably survives. Small wonder that Andrew Sullivan has concluded that it’s the end for newspapers.)


  1. Perhaps The Economist could fill out the triumvirate. It’s certainly not a venue for long-form narrative journalism like the New Yorker or Harper’s–in fact it insists it’s a newspaper, not a magazine–but line by line, the writing is as good as any publication’s.

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