Critical Linking: June 12, 2012


Unlike newspapers, most magazines didn’t have large classified-ad sections to lose to the internet, and their material has a longer shelf-life. Above all, says David Carey, the boss of Hearst Magazines, a big American publisher, they represent aspirations: “they do a very good job of inspiring your dreams.” People identify closely with the magazines they read, and advertisers therefore love them: magazines, says Paul-Bernhard Kallen, the chairman of Hubert Burda Media, a large German publisher, remain essential for brand-building.

I am considerably more loyal to magazines than to newspapers, and maybe this explains why.

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Actually, when people don’t like a book we have more to talk about it. There’s only so many different ways you can say “I loved it!,” but there are a million different ways to pick apart something you didn’t like.

This is true. This also means we need to be smarter about how we rave about books.

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The most effective social documents these days are genre novels — crime novels, for instance, but particularly science-fiction novels that can make the world the protagonist, the background foreground. By isolating the issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, climate change, environment, governance, economics, catastrophe and whatever other problems the present embodies or the future may bring, science fiction can do what Dickens and Sinclair did, make real the consequences of social injustice or human folly.

Genre writing is older than literary fiction (think The Iliad, Don Quixote, Epic of Gilgamesh) and will be around longer, too. Mimesis is important, but nothing catches us like works of towering imagination.

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And yet Fitzgerald had a kind of double agent’s consciousness about the tinsel of the jazz age, and about the privileged world of inherited wealth; he couldn’t help stopping to admire and glamorise the glittering interiors of which his midwestern heart ultimately disapproved.

The sadness of The Great Gatsby is definitely under-acknowledged.

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