Though I shouldn't have been, I was surprised to find A.O. Scott, in this weekend's New York Times Magazine, praising as rebellious two literary journals that couldn't be more establishment. I read and admire aspects of The Believer and n + 1, but I wouldn't define them as detached from the media machine, which is how Scott portrays them.
Both magazines are firmly entrenched, The Believer in the irreverent McSweeney's empire, n + 1 in the old boys network that originates in Harvard Yard. While Scott is pretty up front about the editors' affinities, he's less forthright about his own.
Scott characterizes the editors' mission as instigating discussion about cultural artifacts because they matter, not because they're popular. He seems to appreciate serendipity and denounce synergy when it comes to what we consume. In a Scottian utopia, I would read a book because I stumbled upon it on a step at a Carroll Street stoop sale, not because I marched purposefully to Barnes and Noble after learning Liev Schreiber directed the movie version. In this world we would live unsullied by press people, Hollywood tie-ins, well-connected agents...
...or would we? Two-thirds of the way through his call for artistic independence, Scott discloses that the same person reps him and an n + 1 editor, whose book Random House has just published. Oddly enough, the book received top billing in the review of, coincidentally, Scott's place of employ. And did I mention Scott Rudin has purchased the movie rights?
Next time Scott runs away to join the circus, he might want to carry more than a little handkerchief filled with lapsong suchong tea leaves tied to the end of a stick.
Elvis Mitchell, where are you?