The news that Newsweek Magazine went on the sale block made a splash amongst journalists this week but hardly registered as news with the general public. They already believe the drumbeat that print is so 20th Century now that the industry’s business model—classified ads—is history.
Some astute media observers, like the Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows, however, believe that print’s fall is close to hitting bottom and will soon start an upward climb. They say there’s a lot of money to be made with new models such as micro-payments, smarter managers not wed to stale thinking, a new generation and a media colossus named Google which seems bullish on print.
In the past 60 days, I’ve discovered three new magazines, published by editors in their 20s and 30s who kept their faith in print’s potential. One is a magazine of social and political commentary out of Chicago that features sharp (i.e. non-academic prose) writing and seems a 21st Century journal like The New York Review of Books.
Another arrival is a visually-striking New York magazine featuring writing and visual contributions by men and women who work as gallery guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The last new entrant is from Louisville, Kentucky and features a funky mix of poetry and letterpress art.
All three newbies are full of high expectations and seem to share a conviction that a large audience remains for hand-size publications that trump today’s communication trend of two thumbs (sometimes unattached to brains) reading and writing on tiny screens. In the creative arts at least, print remains king!
THE POINT —The title refers to a landmark in Chicago’s Hyde Park community as well as the purpose of any good writing. It is edited by a trio of University of Chicago graduate students-Jon Baskin, Jonny Thakkar and Etay Zwick . Yet to refer to it as a student journal is to belittle its quality and aspiration.
Their intent is to publish semi-annually; the second issue appeared this February. In a manifesto accompanying the first issue, the editors said they shared a perception of the irrelevance of much academic thought to real life yet believed “that the best life requires an engagement with the best ideas.”
Some titles in the most recent issue provide a clue as to the span of that engagement: “Love in the Age of the Pickup Artist”, “Wall Street’s Warrior Class”, “Modern Art in the Modern Wing”, Granta’s Chicago Issue, A symposium on the topic “What is Film For?” and philosopher Martha Nussbaum on “The Examined Life”.
If you’d like to get engaged and have a swell time reading provocative essays, pick up a copy. The magazine is available in Chicago at Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 57th Street Books, Quimby’s and the newsstand at Chicago-Main in Evanston. It is also for sale at $12 in New York at St. Mark’s Books, Three Lives and Co. and Book Culture, and in Princeton, Berkeley, San Francisco, Toronto, London and Berlin or for $10 online from www.thepointmag.com. Subscriptions are $18 annually.
SWIPE—To paraphrase poet Phyllis McGinley, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Well, a group of men and women who are known primarily for doing just that—museum guards—have decided to demonstrate that their talents encompass so much more.
In 2009, Jason Eskenazi and a cohort of four other editors had the idea to publish a magazine showcasing the work of their fellow guards at not just any museum but rather New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many were writers and artists in their off-hours. The idea took hold and, in four months time, they had assembled enough quality work to publish the handsome, 110-page premiere issue of Swipe, last November in a print-on-demand edition. The response was so positive that a first printing of 500 copies on glossy stock appeared this March.
Roughly three-fourths of the magazine consists of guards’ artwork, which is not surprising. The cover, by Jack Laughner, depicts a guard, at the foot of the Grand Staircase, arms on hips, surveying visitors scurrying through the lobby. The magazine’s cover tagline is the double-meaning, “Guards’ Matter”.
Eskenazi reports that he and the other editors haven’t received any official acknowledgement or congratulatory message but that the museum’s Watson Art Library has purchased two copies and The Met has reinstated the employees’ art show which had been inactive since 2006. One contributor, Mike Varley, has had a solo gallery show since his appearance in Swipe.
Swipe is available for purchase at $19.95 from the magazine website at www.swipemagazine.com.
THE LUMBERYARD—Out of Louisville, land of the Kentucky Derby and mint juleps, comes a new, collaborative project that combines quality poetry and short fiction with old-fashioned letterpress art so that, as its founders state, “each issue of the magazine is a work of art from cover to cover.”
The Lumberyard has already drawn impressive critical acclaim. Dwight Garner, a New York Times book reviewer, has called it “the most physically beautiful new journal I’ve seen this year…The Lumberyard looks like a magazine to watch.”
I’ve seen issues 4 and 5 and share much of Garner’s enthusiasm. It’s beautiful in a raw, funky not glossy, perfect Vanity Fair-way. But I found the covers visually appealing and I turned each page with a feeling of anticipation as to what surprise was waiting for me.
Each issue has a unifying theme: Issue 4 was “Hollywood Western Disco” and issue 5’s was “Poems for Truckin’”. The editors want their magazine to “break traditional perceptions about poetry and literature.” Lumberyard’s distinctive design and printing is by Firecracker Press in St. Louis.
The journal, like The Point and Swipe, publishes twice a year. The upcoming Summer issue will be dedicated entirely to a single writer who wins the magazine’s current poetry contest. Issues are available for sale at www.lumberyardmagazine.com for $11 + $2 shipping and subscriptions are $20 + $2 shipping.
What I admire about these three editorially-varied yet exciting new publications is the courage of their creators in a time full of forecasted doom for print and serious readers. An adventure awaits you in any of these journals. Better yet, support all three!