For two months I've been a subscriber of Esquire.
The pages are glossy. Glossy and often cologned. "Man at His Best" is the magazine's motto. Man at His Best. That's a bold trademark, but in all fairness, I've enjoyed Chuck Klosterman's columns and their pretzeled arguments of pop sociology, and I've enjoyed A.J. Jacobs and his nerd-chic experiments in "honesty." While Esquire's grooming and clothing tips go well beyond my stylistic and income bracket, I figure that's the nature of a men's magazine targeted at thirtysomething professionals who no longer shop at Target.
But then came the October 07' issue, and Esquire's experiment in "marginal fiction."
"Along the bottom of this page, you'll find a line from "So Far From Anything," new fiction by Benjamin Percy... it's the kind of storytelling that, in a perfect issue, we'd have on every page. So we did just that - one line per page, from the opening line (page 29) to the climax (page 244.)"
One line per page? Seriously? How's that supposed to work? If you don't have a copy of Esquire in front of you, here's how a reading experience of Percy's "So Far From Anything" would go, beginning a few lines in:
(Since the text in the following images is fuzzy unless enlarged, I'll post the relevant lines of story below the images.)
"praying, for music. You need something you can sing along to- some caffeine for the - "
Commercial interruption. Gary Sinise likes Baume and Mercier watches. Okay. Cool. And now, back to the story -
- or not. Spiderman 3 is coming out on HD DVD. Awesome, I guess.
"ears- to keep you awake until the next service station. In the pop and hiss of static, you- "
Asics shoes. Look at that dude in Asics shoes!
Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey? I'm thirsty!
And so it continues. Till the end of the magazine. A line of story, advertisement, advertisement, a line of story, advertisement, advertisement, advertisement. Imagine watching a TV show, only with commercial interruptions every six seconds, and you'll have a good idea of what it's like to read Esquire's marginal fiction. Is it fair for the story's readers, or for that matter, its author, that the words of "So Far From Anything" are sprayed across the bottom of pages like graffiti? And how can we lose ourselves in a story if we're constantly reminded of Asics Shoes and Tullamore Dew Whiskey? That's not right. That's not fair. Unreadable is what it is.
In his editor's letter, David Granger refers to Percy's story as, "our little experiment in using as much of the available space on every page as possible." If this is only a "little experiment" and not a regular feature, I can forgive Esquire. But come on. Really. What was gained by this experiment? How many people are going to read Percy's story if it means piecing together phrase after phrase like a never-ending ransom note?
In maximizing all "available space" in its pages, Esquire looks like a website bloated with a thousand different links rather than a high-class magazine. And that's unfortunate, because as I've mentioned, the publication does feature some quality essays, and who knows, maybe its latest issue includes a really good story that doesn't deserve to be marginalized.
So thank you, Esquire, for the dumbest thing I've ever seen in an American magazine. Ever.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Columns June 2007-October 2007
Letters, Rants, and Experiments June 2007-October 2007
- Breaking Up With Facebook for a Week, Part I
- Breaking Up With Facebook for a Week, Part 2
- Breaking Up With Facebook for a Week, Part 3
- Corporations Kill People. Michael Clayton Kills Me.
- Dear Producers of "So You Think You Can Dance,"
- How MacBook Broke My Heart
- If I Were a Middle-Aged Woman Looking for Romance...
- Thank You, Esquire, for the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Seen in an American Magazine. Ever.
Personal Essay/Memoir June 2007-October 2007
- Are you Hot or Not?: The Price of a Free Date
- Don't Forget to Give Me Back My Black T-Shirt!
- Drunk Driving and Waffle House Lesbians: A True Story
- How Nancy Drew Saved My Summer
- Ninja Turtles Don't Wear Denim: My Shopping Disease
- Small Talks and Rent-A-Cops
- Small Talks and Rent-A-Cops, Part 2
- Snowball, Part 1
- Snowball, Part 2
- T.G.I.F., 1993
- The First Real Kiss
- The Sammy Mystery
- When A Neighbor's Dog Craps in Your Yard...
- You Kill Me, or Do You Really?: A Dispatch from Death's Door
Short Fiction June 2007-October 2007
Writing on Writing June 2007-October 2007
Columns Archive: October 2005-June 2007
- Emory's The Hub October 2005 "Love Online? LOL"
- Emory's The Hub December 2005 "Dead Ends"
- Emory's The Hub March 2006 "Guessing Game"
- Emory's The Hub May 2006 "The Thrill is Gone, Baby"
- Emory's The Hub October 2006 "Spreading Love Too Thin"
- Emory's The Hub December 2006 "Three's Company"
- Emory's The Hub May 2007 "Graduating to Unemployment"
- American Jewish Life May-June 2007 "Shalom, Snoop"