the mutt

Where’s my New Yorker?

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on December 4, 2008

In 1993, before I was old enough to sink my teeth into it, The Illustrated Weekly was gone. I’ve heard its readers reminisce about it with the fondness and nostalgia reserved for say, a Pataudi. It was an intellectual magazine, I’m told. Apparently, it also had pictures of semi-nude women. The contrast is amusing and not necessarily dichotomous.

But I’ve never read The Weekly.  
But I’ve read The New Yorker.

Now, that is a fascinating magazine. I miss an Indian equivalent of TNY. The Mumbaiker or The Kolkattan doesn’t quite have the same ring, but that is a secondary issue. The primary issue is that there are very few (if any) magazines that can pass of as intellectual. And fewer still equip you with an opinion that is not pedestrian. The Frontline, of course, stands out for its sheer depth. The writing can be staid (it is after all from the stable of The Hindu) and that, in a strange way, actually lends the magazine a certain authority. Like the staff at Abercrombie & Fitch whose demeanour invests them with a sense of having the last word and can make even a seasoned suit-shopper nervous.  

For all its virtues, Frontline is a heavy read from cover to cover. The topics are diverse and deep, the books they review are not the usual bestsellers or newsmakers, and even the ‘lighter’ pieces are carefully chosen to leave you with more than a chuckle. True, the layout of the magazine is not a visual treat, but apart from its centrespread (which carries some fantastic pictures), The Frontline doesn’t have any pretensions of being a designer’s delight.

Yet, it is not a magazine I would subscribe to or pick up every month. It still doesn’t have the flair, variety or the charm of The New Yorker. It’s not a magazine that I would like to take with me wherever I go. It is informative, not entertaining.

I love magazines and the concept of a magazine. Every time I pass a magazine stall I spend a long time simply looking at the different titles, looking for new ones, and hopefully one that will give me what I’m looking for. And I always leave empty handed and disappointed.

I want some smart writing about politics and social issues – not a current affairs magazine.

I want a section for the arts that doesn’t talk down to me or leave me in a labyrinth of references ir dish out a review of the latest chick-litt sensation. Why, I would even like some work of fiction thrown in. But most of all, I want writing that is witty, doesn’t talk down to me (or up, for that matter), is challenging and most of all would make me wish I could write like that.

Speaking of, the vitality and energy of the writing in GQ (the international version) is amazing and some of the pieces actually inspire in me an urge to imitate. Case in point, read this.

To be fair, there are magazines in India that have some very good writing. And that’s exactly the problem. All the well-written those pieces are not in one magazine. One can’t really subscribe to over a dozen magazines to whet one’s appetite for a good read, right?

One magazine, there’s got to be one magazine that rounds up the political scene with incisive analysis, flaunts sharp writing, covers diverse topics and has the New Yorker’s ‘carry-value’.


4 Responses

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  1. shami said, on December 5, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Amen for the Illustrated weekly and the new yorker. I had the misfortune of actually making a habit of reading the weekly at the neighbourhood “magazine/newspaper” club in bhopal in much younger days. Awesome stuff. I don’t agree at all about the Frontline. Its an out and out Communist mouthpiece with absolutely no intellectual depth. Of course a different matter if you’re a communist. Heh

    • the mutt said, on December 8, 2008 at 11:46 am

      Hi Shami,
      Communist mouthpiece? Frontline makes you see ‘red’ huh?

  2. tushar said, on December 7, 2008 at 11:11 am

    sad but true, frontline makes for a very informative yet profoundly boring read. Its almost as if they would never stop taking themselves so seriously.

    • the mutt said, on December 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

      Hi Tushar,
      Although I’m glad, there’s one magazine that takes itself and its contents seriously, you’re right, they do take themselves perhaps, a bit too seriously. If only they could loosen their tie and roll up their sleeves … a bit. Thanks for stopping by.

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