The Intellectual Situation
Complacencies of a Beach Towel
So what’s an old magazine to do? Should it be like the New Yorker and just . . . it’s hard to say what exactly the New Yorker does on the internet. They do not post their best pieces, except when they do. They do not have their best writers blogging, except when they do. Really, what the New Yorker has done online is remain totally unembarrassed by everything they have done online. Did they spend one zillion dollars on a “digital reader” for subscribers that must have looked great at the pitch meeting but shrinks the 10.5 Caslon type just past the point of readability? Yes, they did. Did they hold a pet photo contest on Halloween? Yes, they did. But do they care? No, they don’t. This may be a model for others, or it may just be something this one magazine can get away with. Hard to tell.
Anyway, we were very upset, and to add insult to injury our dog lost the Halloween contest to two little gerbils reading tiny dictionaries, but then we realized we could just take a Xanax and read the Paris Review. We love the new Paris Review, partly because it always makes us forget what year it is, but never in a depressing way, like Harper’s. We opened a recent issue and found all our favorite hits from the archives: poems from an ancient civilization, an experimental short story by a woman, some brightly colored art that must have been very expensive to print, and obscene fiction by a Jewish person. But what satisfied us most was the feeling that we were enjoying a product with a past, and with the distinction of an earlier age. Where did that feeling come from? Was it the Xanax (or maybe it was Valium) that made us suspect that if the issue had been released in 1959, no one would have noticed that it came from the future?
We were so absorbed in the Paris Review that we almost forgot about the internet, where, as it happens, the magazine maintains a very attractive website. We have so much fun looking at the Paris Review blog, with its pictures of bookshelves and book covers and many items about children’s books, for some reason. Our favorite part of the website, though, is the online store, where the magazine has recently branched out into adult apparel, infant apparel, intern apparel. They’ve done seasonal coffee mugs, notepads, fountain pens. The Paris Review beach towel never fails to send us into an admiring trance, with its line drawing of two Bolaño characters (or are they Paris Review readers?) lounging on what must also be in their universe a Paris Review beach towel.