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’.