February 28, 2008


ONE NATION, UNDER VANDEN HEUVEL: Mugger kinda likes the little liberal weekly. What’s up with that? (Russ Smith, 2/28/08, NY Press)

Perhaps I’ve been snoozing, but when did The Nation morph into such a pleasantly quaint magazine? It’s not that the weekly, founded in 1865, has been left behind by the melding of print and web. Just as The National Review made itself relevant again several years ago by establishing a vigorous online presence, its left-wing counterpart is also energetic on that front. And in contrast to the fading New Republic, The Nation’s paid circulation has swelled during the Bush years. As a longtime subscriber, I scare myself upon retrieving the slim weekly from the mail slot on whatever day it arrives. I place it, along with The Weekly Standard and The New Yorker on top of a must-read (or, more accurately, must-look-at) pile. [...]

One aspect of The Nation’s content I appreciate is that there’s no pretense of humor, satire or celebrity worship.

The humorlessness of a Leftwing rag can hardly be news anymore, but this makes a nice bookend with an older piece from when folks were just realizing that all humor is conservative, Bubble Wrap:
The Nation vs. The Weekly Standard
(John Powers, 8/30/02, LA Weekly)
[O]ver the last two decades, the joy has gone out of the left -- it now feels hedged in by shibboleths and defeatism -- while the right has been having a gas, be it Lee Atwater grooving to the blues, Rush Limbaugh chortling about Feminazis or grimly gleeful Ann Coulter serving up bile as if it were chocolate mousse, even dubbing Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning television." (Get your political allegiances straight, babe. Katie's the Madame Mao of morning television. You're Eva Braun.)

These same high spirits course through The Standard, whose editor William Kristol constantly shows up on TV grinning like a catfish. His magazine features catchy covers, a reader-friendly layout, breezy headlines (a hit piece on Lula was called "Brazil's Nut") and a core of enjoyable writers, notably David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell (whose article on Islam in France is one of the best things I've read this year) and David Tell, probably the country's most compelling editorialist. Although driven by a devout ideological agenda -- it's for unfettered free trade and war on Iraq -- Kristol and executive editor Fred Barnes know how to mix things up, running a parody page (often mirthless, to be sure), funny articles by the likes of P.J. O'Rourke (who reminds us that reactionaries make better humorists than liberals) and sharp, short items designed to keep readers amused on that long march to Baghdad. Snappy and pointed, it's designed to compete in a world that has many magazines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 28, 2008 7:46 AM

And in contrast to the fading New Republic

I think The New Republic might be doing better if they'd at least label the fiction they publish.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 28, 2008 4:29 PM

One aspect of The Nation’s content I appreciate is that there’s no pretense of humor, satire or celebrity worship.

Or decency. Or sanity.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 29, 2008 8:14 AM