Not Fit For Prime Time Players

Back in the day, the latest offerings of Philip Roth and Don DeLillo would have appeared in Esquire or The New Yorker.  In 1964, Norman Mailer's An American Dream appeared in installments in Esquire.  Mailer wrote the novel on the fly and it was a highwire performance by the author and the editors.  Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea appeared in Life and John Hersey's Hiroshima first saw light of day in The New Yorker. 

Philip Roth's book clocks in at around 160 pages and DeLillo's tome creeps just over 120 pages.  With the enlarged fonts and fudged margins, surely these "novels" should be published in a magazine and not legitimized by hard cover publication for $22 or whatever the crooks at Houghton Mifflin or Scribners are charging for this player to be named later in a six book deal.

The fact that books like this, which are becoming increasingly common, speak to the financial and creative bankruptcy of the corporate publishing industry is obvious.  But the fact that they are published in hard cover and not in magazine format also indicates the dire straits of the corporate magazine industry.  In the 1960s, mainstream magazines like Playboy, The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper's presented the latest work from the hottest authors in its entirety.  For example, Esquire is a shell of its former self.  All the spreads of models in the latest fashions only highlight how out of fashion this mainstream magazine has become.  Such magazines become more like the supermarket circular in the daily paper with each passing day and just about as relevant on a creative level.

It's a shame because for a time in the 1960s the corporate magazine was as lively a forum for creative writing as the most vibrant of little mags in the Mimeo Revolution.  The admen have taken over these mags from the maverick editors like Harold Hayes or Clay Felker.  The result is a mainstream magazine as empty of content in its pages as it is silent in its editorial voice.


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