In this age of Facebook, Twitter, websites and mobile apps, there’s still few things better than finding magazines in the mailbox. I get a lot of magazines. This is partly because I am dedicated to subscribing to some of them — New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, The Atlantic — and partly because my wife does a lot of online surveys and earns points toward magazine subscriptions. She builds points, and we get to subscribe to lots of different magazines. This is how I get New York, Fast Company, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and others. She gets some too that I generally don’t read.
Today the mailbox disgorged a pile of magazines. Four, to be precise: Sports Illustrated, Fast Company, New York and Harper’s. Here’s a rundown on what’s in them and what I think of them.
• Sports Illustrated: This magazine is not as vital as it once was. I don’t know if it’s the ubiquitous nature of ESPN television or what, but I don’t find SI to offer a whole lot of must-read material anymore. The Sept. 20 issue has Tom Brady on the cover. I already know the Patriots started the season looking better than many expected. The full-page photos in the front of the magazine are consistently amazing, proving every week that still photography still has value. I don’t generally read the Dan Patrick interviews with big-time sports figures. I like Patrick but don’t much care what these kinds of people think. The writing remains very good. Here’s the lead to S.L. Price’s story on the U.S. Open:
“Talent dazzles. It’s the rare gift, the thing parents pray for, scouts seek and agents sign, but the mean fact about top-level tennis is that every player is fast and hyper-coordinated. Talent comes cheap. Those who know the unique quiet that fills the dying days of a Grand Slam tournament locker room never talk about Rafael Nadal’s speed or strokes, not at first anyway. They talk about his willingness to change, to put in the hours. They always begin with the work.”
And here is Tim Layden’s lead about University of Oregon track and field phenom Andrew Wheating:
“Most gifted young runners are not just participants in their sport; they are fully absorbed in its culture. They begin running early and soon learn the obsessively numerical language of the game — splits, miles per week, national rankings — and they become connected across time zones in an Internet-based community. They are passionate about racing against the clock, but not always about racing against other runners. Then there is Andrew Wheating. He didn’t run a track race until the winter of his senior year at a tiny prep school in New Hampshire 4 1/2 years ago.”
There’s also a piece about car racer Kurt Busch. He’s from Las Vegas, but I’m just not interested in racing.
• New York: This is a good weekly magazine, especially for people who live in New York, which I don’t. The extensive listings don’t mean much to me, and neither do most of the ads. But almost every week, there are two or three great pieces in here. The Sept. 20 issue has Jon Stewart on the cover. I stop first on a one-page article about Vince Neil, the Motley Crue singer. I’m interested because a) Neil now lives in Las Vegas and b) he has a new memoir out that was written with Mike Sager, a prominent magazine writer I was lucky enough to meet and spend a little time with recently. Jessica Pressler’s take on the book: “Tattoos & Tequila the book (there’s an album of the same name) is compelling, not only because it contains many disgustingly fascinating details of how teenage boys behave when they become rock stars, but also because of its subject’s willingness to appear, well, the way he is.” The Jon Stewart piece looks like a must-read, which means I’ll tear it out of the magazine and save it for later. There’s a positive review of Ben Affleck’s new movie, The Town, which I want to see.
• Fast Company: I actually really like this magazine. It’s easily the most liberal business magazine in print. It’s focused mostly on digital media and green business, and it’s very accessible in its coverage of sometimes-complicated business matters. The October issue of a special issue about design. One of the better things in Fast Company is the extensive calendar of events. It consistently covers interesting stuff going on all over the world, and frequently highlights conventions and other events in Las Vegas. It is noted that Tony Hawk’s book, How Did I Get Here?: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO, comes out Oct. 4. I probably won’t read it, but it’s certainly relevant to avid readers of this magazine. Did you know that Oct. 13 is the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. aerial photo? Neither did I. But here we go: Oct. 14, BlogWorld & New Media Expo, Las Vegas. Might be worth sneaking into. Did you know that Oct. 30 is the 100th anniversary of the cathode-ray tube? Neither did I. Further on, columnist Farhad Manjoo suggests that Netflix and Hulu should merge. Sounds reasonable. The “Masters of Design” package doesn’t do a whole lot for me, except for a piece about McDonald’s design. McDonald’s is not, in fact, the same everywhere you go. Lots of very interesting design variations around the globe. Gonna clip this one, too. But I’m not going to read the article titled, “Can Design Save the World?” No, no it can’t.
• Harper’s: This magazine is not like the others. This is a serious magazine for serious readers, my friend. I like it, but sometimes, you know, it can be a bit much. However, the Harper’s Index never disappoints. To wit: “Total number of pages in the financial reform bill enacted by Congress in July: 848. Number of pages in the bills that created Social Security and the Federal Trade Commission, respectively: 29, 8.” Also in the October issue, there’s a “Letter from Cuba” that looks interesting but long. There’s also a piece on “the decline of NASCAR” that appeals to my dislike for racing. There’s a short story by T.C. Boyle. I like short stories, but I never seem to read them in magazines. Don’t really know why. I often clip them out and save them, planning to read them at some point, but then I don’t do it. This one is kinda long for Boyle. Benjamin Moser’s book reviews don’t interest me at all this month. I will, however, read Terry Eagleton’s review essay about Tony Judt. Judt, a great public intellectual, died recently.