Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Conversation at the offices of Esquire magazine

Editor: We need to stir the pot a little, and nothing stirs the pot like criticizing something that everybody else seems to like without even trying to understand why people might like it in the first place. Let's's summertime...people go to the beach...people read on the beach...hey, let's do a hatchet job article on books people might read at the beach!

Writer: Great idea. There are already several books that I have to hold my nose at just to be in the same room with.

Editor: Terrific. Now, not only do you have to hate these books, but you also have to mock people who might like them. Make it clear you abhor literary commercialism. We're a serious magazine, and by taking a stance against these stupid books it will increase our street cred in the literary community. Don't make it too long, though, we need to save room for A.J. Jacobs's article about the time he wore a bunny outfit for a month straight.

Writer: This is perfect. I'll make sure our readers know how much we look down on commercialism. These books might look pretty and have millions of readers, but there's nothing of substance underneath. This is ripe for the picking!

Editor: Perfect, you have your assignment. Oh, and don't worry about reading the books. You can cherry pick a few lines or even words to make your case.

Writer: Good. I wasn't planning to.

Editor: Well this was a productive meeting, and I think your article will go a long way in showing the high regard with which we consider our culture. No schlocky books, nothing superficial in our magazines. We're all class, all the way. Oh, did you see our most recent magazine?

Writer: No, sorry, I've been re-reading the last fifty years worth of New Yorker issues in reverse chronological order.

Editor: Ooh, that sounds like fun. Will you be at the beach?

Writer: Nah, people who go to the beach are crass and stupid. And who needs the agita of putting on lotion? Personally, I like to read in the elevator of my apartment building. Makes the setting more intimate.

Editor: Totally. Anyway, check out last month's issue of our magazine.

Writer: Ooh, hot, isn't that the chick from Transformers? Megan Fox?

Editor: Yeah, totally. She's like half naked and everything. And check out our exclusive sexy Megan Fox video!

Writer: Is that her bra? Homina homina homina.

Editor: Tell me about it. Oh, and here's the most recent issue.

Writer: Oh good that...

Editor: Damn right, Bar Refaeli, this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model.

Writer: Awesome! And she's, like, totally naked! Wait...are those words painted on her naked, glistening body?

Editor: Yeah. I totally got to do that myself.

Writer: I'm so jealous.

Editor: So listen, get cracking on that article. Commercial literature is just crass and people who read it should feel ashamed of themselves. I'm glad you and I are here to make sure our magazine only covers issues of real substance.

Writer: Speaking of substance, I can see Megan Fox's boobies!

Editor: Totally! I love boobies! High five!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

one can enjoy both boobies and good books. the two are not mutually exclusive.

10:36 AM  
Blogger dave said...


10:52 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Nabokov, Cheever, Roth, Updike and Bellow were all published in Playboy. Not sure what you're driving at.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

My problem here is that the writer went in to this piece with a clear agenda ("popular but insipid fiction"..."so you don't have to"...), essentially thumbing his nose at the entire enterprise of commercial fiction. He did not write actual reviews, nor did he try to understand why people might actually enjoy these books (that many do is not up for debate).

So for Esquire to print a piece essentially declaring commercial literature dumb and crass--while fawning over superficial eye candy like Megan Fox and Bar Refaeli--is just hypocritical and transparent. The article was written to elicit the same king of visceral, superficial reaction one gets when ogling a picture of Ms. Fox in her underwear. (The fact that I HATE these kind of fawning celebrity profiles is beside the point. The writers basically drool over some hot babe or trendy actor while pretending they're these fascinating creatures with something truly insightful to say who don't basically just play dress up for a living)

And you don't sense the irony in mocking Dean Koontz for unbelievable plotting, while getting all hot and bothered over a girl who is famous for nothing more than wearing Daisy Dukes in a movie about giant fighting robots?

Writers want to bash popular fiction, so be it. They have that right. But doing so while promoting the same kind of superficiaity and crassness they criticize others for is simply hypocritical. Esquire is a commercial magazine, as is Playboy. Yet at least Playboy doesn't pretend to be above the very boobs it shoves in your face.

10:22 AM  
Blogger laurie said...

this was very funny. well done.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Rob Flumignan said...

I'm with you on this one, Mr. P. That "review" was worthless to everyone except its self-indulgent and pretentious writer.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"The writers basically drool over some hot babe or trendy actor while pretending they're these fascinating creatures "

The New Yorker has in my lifetime presented think pieces about Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.

I rest my case.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

5:33 PM  
Blogger Bethany C Morrow said...

Huh. And I thought your point was obvious and cleverly made. Oh well.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Sophie Littlefield said...

this made me laugh my ass off and i'm forwarding it to everyone i know. i used to *subscribe* to that damn magazine *because I liked the fiction* but one day I had simply had enough - trying to raise a teenage girl here and can do without that kind of fawning adolescent objectifying of women by supposedly grown men - gahhhh - thanks for this one!

oh, but they did publish daniel woodrell last summer. smoke is coming out of my ears.

11:16 AM  

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