Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Atlantic Monthly - "Not Dead Yet"?

Every five years or so, I subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly. My current subscription is just about to expire, and not a moment too soon - less clutter in my mailbox. When managing editor Michael Kelly died in Iraq last year, I was mildly surprised to read in his various obituaries that he had infused new life into the magazine. You could have fooled me. Under his direction The Atlantic seemed to be a repository for the idle musings of columnists more gainfully employed elsewhere: Christopher Hitchens flung his most militant spittle in the pages of Vanity Fair, then took a deep breath and capitalized on his post as The Atlantic's "Contributing Editor" by penning lengthy appreciations of Waugh and Proust (the latter, we're informed, is still best read en francaise); P.J. O'Rourke's sniggering social commentary transferred easily from the unread-pages of Rolling Stone to the unread-pages of The Atlantic; and while Thomas Mallon steered The New York Times Book Review to unleash a controversial broadside against Margaret Atwood's Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin, he chose a different tack for The Atlantic when he sang the praises of Robert Stone's predictable hyper-literate-hero-in-midlife-crisis tome, Bay of Souls.

One year after Kelly's death, the magazine is still heavy with bilge. I have here the May issue, and if we flip past 40 pages of Howell Raines wringing his hands over his truncated tenure at The New York Times, we can feast upon Christopher Hitchens' appraisal of W. Somerset Maugham (!) and glean critical gold from Thomas Mallon's siftings through "the lost world of Booth Tarkington"....

But wait! Just as The Dead Collector begins his toll and reaches for my Blue Box, I am stunned to see that the June issue includes fiction by crime-writer Dennis Lehane! Genre writing - a story where something happens - in The Atlantic! Could this signify the welcome winds of change?

An enjoyable interview with Lehane regarding his story, Until Gwen, is viewable here.

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