Reading, Writing, and Publishing

N1BReading

N1BReading

What n+1 editors and contributors are reading this month.

David Owen’s The Man Who Invented Saturday Morning: And Other Adventures in American Enterprise should be way, way more famous than it is. Somebody reissue it. The collection of essays— published in Harper’s and the Atlantic in the 1980s— is about advertising, market research, how to get people to do what you want them to do. Owen goes to Liverpool with a bunch of Beatles fanatics, attends a convention for convention planners, close-reads trade magazines, explains how divorce rates influence the toy industry. The conceit, in retrospect, is a little flimsy, but it doesn’t matter: his essays are among the least tortured journalism I’ve ever read, and his choice of subject matter—novel, seemingly slight—epitomizes the kind of obsolete intellectual audacity that, for whatever reason, you only ever really come across in out of print books.

Mission Fatigue

Mission Fatigue

“So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one.”

Ever since the publication of The Kite Runner in 2003, the Afghan-born American novelist Khaled Hosseini has been the foremost practitioner of what we might call humanitarian fiction—work designed to jar privileged readers out of their complacency by reminding them of the extreme hardships and injustices suffered by people in other parts of the world.

Train in Vain

Train in Vain

The chance meeting of two well-worn objects of middle-class fetishism — trains and writing, writing and trains — accounts for the unexpected seductiveness of the proposed Amtrak Residency. What could warm the cockles of the broken bourgeois-bohemian heart more than the idea of writing a novel or a poem or a literary essay on a train?

The Everything Warehouse

The Everything Warehouse

“It’s harder to be kind than clever.”

When Bezos pushed the company into toy distribution before it was ready, a pallet of Pokémon Jigglypuffs was lost in an overwhelmed warehouse. When they found the toys, the employees formed a conga line to celebrate. Sometimes, Bezos’s transformation of Amazon and its warehouse system reads like a triumph of calculating reason and force of will. At other times, it reads like the dream of a man who is still a boy.