Last year, Longreads published a list with behind-the-scenes stories about magazines. Last week, Anne Helen Petersen published an article about the state of Tiger Beat for BuzzFeed News. Inspired, I decided to create an addendum to Making the Magazine. This reading list includes bigger names, like an archived examination of Ms. and Petersen’s update regarding Tiger Beat; a feminist-food magazine; a defunct magazine for sex workers and their supporters; and a lesbian/queer magazine for denizens of D.C. and beyond. Read more…
Subject matter can be almost self-consciously esoteric. The latest issue of Ernest includes a piece by Queen guitarist Brian May on diableries (19th-century stereoscopic photographs of clay model demons). Cereal has 10 pages on Anglepoise lamps; Avaunt has a feature headlined “Politics of map projections”.
The new magazines also move away from the traditional “colonial” model of travel journalism, where a writer is sent overseas to experience a trip as a holiday-maker would, then report back. Instead, many of the new titles commission pieces from writers with existing connections to a destination (a model that happily saves on travel costs, too). Boat magazine, an early independent which first published in 2010, produces an entire issue focused on a single destination, and moves its editorial team there for several weeks to seek out stories. Many of the new editors are scathing about conventional titles’ focus on hotels and restaurants, and their extensive use of lists. The independents see themselves as being about places, rather than holidays.
—Tom Robbins writing in the Financial Times (registration required) about the new breed of print travel magazines that have emerged as commercial travel magazines suffer diminishing circulation.
Below is a guest reading list from Daniel A. Gross, a journalist and public radio producer who lives in Boston.
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Fifty years ago, a champion boxer picked up his son from school, a literary critic was tackled by NFL players, and a famed NASCAR racer tended to his chicken farm. Such was the sidelong view of sports presented by Gay Talese, George Plimpton, and Tom Wolfe. Sports in the 1960s proved a rich arena for writers looking to flex their literary muscle, and Talese and Wolfe tried out unconventional sports writing while still kicking off their careers. You won’t find much reference here to the sweeping political developments that tend to dominate our narratives of 1964. Instead, you’ll get some sense for the texture of the time. Read more…
It’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way ‘up close and personal’ profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life – outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very small.
-From David Foster Wallace’s “The String Theory,” published in Esquire in July 1996.
Photo: jpellgen, Flickr
Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and the New York Review of Books, plus now-defunct publications like Might, George, Sassy and Wigwag. Share your favorite behind-the-magazine stories with us on Twitter or Facebook: #longreads. Read more…
We like to occasionally ask some of our favorite writers to give us the backstory on a story they loved. Here’s veteran journalist Mike Sager telling us about his story “Ugly,” which ran in the May 2012 issue of Esquire.
When you get a phone call from your editor telling you he wants an in-depth profile of an ugly guy, you panic a little. You imagine yourself having to walk up to some stranger. “Hey, you’re friggin’ ugly. Wanna be in a story in Esquire magazine?”
Then you think of a really good friend of yours. Great guy. Not a pretty sight.
You try to imagine how the call will go.
You even make the call.
Then you chicken out.
And you start panicking again, just a little bit, remembering how long it took to find the right Beautiful Woman for the piece I think of as this story’s reciprocal. (“The Secret Life of a Beautiful Woman,” Esquire April, 1999, collected in Revenge of the Donut Boys). With Hollywood and environs as my hunting grounds, it had taken nearly three months to find a beautiful woman to profile. In the beginning the magazine wanted a blonde. I kept remembering this five by seven model card, this brunette with baby bear brown eyes. She’d haunted me through the entire search, through dozens of interviews with other women who weren’t quite right for one reason or another. As it was I insisted on picking the dark-haired woman. Her name was Brooke Burke. I guess you could say my story was her break, though she’d been working her butt off for years to get where she was. Read more…
Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
“It’s probably worth saying that there are editors at all sorts of magazines (myself included) who know they should never assign a story on a certain kind of subject—a Phish tour, say, or Mitt Romney, or what’s up with Cuba?—and yet they do so despite their better judgment. A writer tells you he or she is interested, you convince yourself that it’s all going to work out despite the pre-digested conclusions or the limited access or the fact that what you’re talking about is a generality rather than a specific idea. And it never, ever does, unless something remarkable and unexpected happens in the reporting or the writer brings some stunning originality to it. And these things work in a kind of horrible tandem—the lack of interesting subject matter inspiring the writer to scat out thicker and thicker layers of word jazz—resulting in so many bad magazine stories.”
–Joel Lovell (formerly GQ, now The New York Times Magazine), in conversation with John Jeremiah Sullivan on how they worked together—specifically on this story. Read more from GQ in the Longreads Archive.
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“To suffer from gender dysphoria (G.D.), as Michelle Kosilek does, is to exist in a real state for which our only frame of reference may be science fiction. You inhabit a body that other people may regard as perfectly normal, even attractive. But it is not yours. That fact has always been utterly and unmistakably clear to you, just as the fact that she has put on someone else’s coat by accident is clear to a third-grader. This body has hair where it shouldn’t, or doesn’t where it should. Its hands and feet are not the right sizes, its hips and buttocks and neck are not the right shapes. Its odors are nauseating. To describe the anguish a G.D. patient suffers, psychiatrists will allude to Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: For Michelle Kosilek, the gulf between human being and insect is precisely as wide as that between woman and man.”
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