For half a century, I have loved The New Yorker. I remember learning about REM sleep from reading the magazine on a long train trip between Cleveland and White River Junction, VT (I was attending college in nearby Hanover, NH.) Then, in the late 1960s, there was a pioneering article about Magical Realism in Latin America: That started me on Jorge Luis Borges, who in turn led me to hundreds of writers whose work has become precious to me.
It was responsible for publishing Jorge Luis Borges, John Cheever, Roald Dahl, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, James Thurber, John Updike, Shirley Jackson, Eudora Welty, and Truman Capote.
But now, alas, I am thinking for the first time of not renewing my subscription when it expires later this year. The New Yorker has survived Harold Ross, William Shawn, Tina Brown, and David Remnick as editors. But I don’t think it can survive continuing ownership by Condé Nast Publications with its focus on the super-rich. Although the magazine has broken its long-standing policy of not endorsing a presidential candidate, it went for John Kerry and Barack Obama in the last three elections.
My bet is that the magazine is veering to the right. It takes its advertising revenue very seriously, and this has slanted its editorial content to fashion-conscious CEOs who are more likely to buy the ridiculously priced merchandise. There are still short stories by world-class writers, but not so often as before. And it seems that the farther The New Yorker goes from Manhattan, the less trustworthy are its articles. They have a particular problem with Southern California: It seems that they haven’t developed any further than Nathanael West, author of Day of the Locust.
Particularly dismaying are the endless bios of CEOs, a subject not dear to my heart.
Oh well, sic transit gloria mundi. I am more likely to get my info from The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement from London.