Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I love Esquire magazine. No, that’s not accurate. I am in awe of Esquire magazine, which is full of clothes and men’s jewelry I neither want nor can afford, and unavailable plasticky women barely out of their teens. I am in awe of the fact that Esquire has been peddling The Great American Fantasy for 78 years and is still successfully doing so with a publication that is two-thirds ads and one-third cotton candy.

TGAF is alive and well and, I suspect, hasn’t changed that much since 1932, when Esquire first was published. There are other mags, of course, which pander to the American Fantasy. Playboy did, for decades, and when the going got more graphic and liberated, so did Penthouse and Hustler.

For the more constructive among us, The Fantasy might be a backyard gazebo or a motorized bicycle. I remember once subscribing to Popular Mechanics only because it promised an article on building your own sport car from junkyard parts. I don’t know if anyone actually built one of these hot-rods, but my friend Kevin and I did spring $20 for detailed blueprints of a one-man hydroplane. We built it. We ran it. We totaled it when the throttle got stuck and it hit a tree. Really. I had to bail out of the boat (we’d named it, appropriately, Insh’ Allah) and lost my glasses which made the 90-mile drive back from the Chesapeake Bay almost as hazardous as the boat ride.

And then of course there are the car mags with the million dollar Bugattis; the hunting and fishing mags with thirty-pound muskies and 20-point bucks shot with home-made blowguns; the home decorating mags with professionally shot photos that will never approximate a reader’s home; the health mags with buff and oiled bodies; the travel mags; the impossibly-rich-people mags…

And then there’s The New Yorker, in a class of its own. I give The New Yorker subscriptions to a very select few folks whom I care for deeply.

Most magazines have a voice to promote the fantasy.
·        Home and travel magazines gush. You are there with them, amazed at the sights before you, be it a top-of-the-line Bertozzoni convection oven or the coast of Northern Greece.
·        Do-it-yourself mags have a homey quality. We’re all guys figuring out how to put together the new barbecue range while having a few beers.
·        Esquire is smart-alecky, read-this-and-you-too-might-verge-on-cool.
·        The New Yorker promises a different fantasy: erudition. Read these articles and you will not only be Gotham cool (which is way better than Esquire cool) and in the know, you’ll be privy to information seldom disseminated. The cartoons are for urbane folks who get it, whatever the it may be.  The teeny tiny print of the Events columns reinforces our belief that we’re being invited to a very special soirée, an event restricted to important people, readers like us.

 If I had unlimited time and money, I would subscribe to hundreds of magazines. I would learn to keep bees and turn a lathe. I would get welding tips, build specialized bat-houses, sail wooden boats, and search for sunken treasure. I might—and this bears further thought—want to work for a magazine about magazines.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever heard of Utne Reader Magazine? A magazine about other magazines: http://www.utne.com/daily.aspx