I suggest all you Harper’s/New Yorker haters get on Lewis Lapham’s Quaterly boat. Personally, I can’t believe I’ve been out to sea so long since parting ways with The Believer, although I do still find myself running fuzzy fingers sidelong across her stilted bow anytime I see one in port.
Anyway, so umm… O yeah click of his graph for Vonnegut’s writing lesson, in which he compares the plight & plot of protagonists in popular books, film & teevee, to that of Cinderella, Gregor Samsa & the kingshit himself, Hamlet.
Harper’s is my favorite magazine, primarily because of their ‘index,’ ‘findings,’ and ‘readings’ sections. The editing is rather conceptual — in the way ‘objective’ journalistic facts are asserted rhetorically (even humorously) through their juxtaposition. It’s a weird mash of heady inquiry and stuffy sarcasm, and I often find myself laughing out loud.
In ‘findings,’ always the last page, new discoveries are presented and written with an aesthetic glint for the absurd evocative of the best surrealism. For example:
A Viennese chemist concluded that bellybutton fluff is a combination of clothing fibers, sweat, dust, and fat wicked into the navel by body hairs […]; Placentas were appearing in the sewers of Illinois […]; In Hawaii, a woman found a $5 bill inside a coconut […]; Americans were losing their religion.
I kind of screwed that up by picking out my favorite lines — which inadvertently implicates my point that the editing is awesome. If non-fiction is the launching pad for fiction, this is where it’s at.