The Post Office has become the department of print spam, an agency that delivers trash for us to recycle. I pay most of my bills online, and do most of my reading digitally (computer, iPhone or Kindle); I subscribe to fewer and fewer print magazines and have no use for catalogs. So it's great when the mail includes something I want to read. Last week, that was the 200-page issue No. 7 of N+1, entitled "Correction."
A few years ago, Tony Scott wrote an essay about the earnest young New York writers who started N+1. On a whim, I bought a lifetime subscription. (They still sell them for $200.) It seemed like a good deal, even for a journal with an uncertain publication schedule, now described as twice a year. The cover price is $11.95 per issue, so I have yet to break even. (The founders went on to write first novels -- both enjoyable but slight -- or become literary fixtures, and they have tangled with the gossip blogs now and then).
N+1 feels right in print. Despite the promise of "Web only" content once or twice a week, I rarely visit its Web site, which is odd behavior for me, given that most of my news is filtered through blogs or social media like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and Delicious. (There is some good stuff there, like this article about being a student of David Foster Wallace).
An infrequently published print journal of incoherent aims is an anachronism, to be sure, but an enjoyable one -- the news writ slow. I devour it in a way I do not devour The New Yorker, which tends to pile up into a tall stack that taunts me until at last, weeks behind, I skim wildly, looking for the articles people went out of their way to mention. "Did you see in The New Yorker..." Well, yes, I saw it.
This issue of N+1 was not a disappointment. It was perfect like hot coffee on a cold November morning. Here's how it went down:
The Intellectual Situation The front of the book is usually engaging, and this issue does not disappoint, with a humorous series of "ironic" corrections. Other items include a discussion of the next president as an American Gorbachev ("The America our new president inherits bears an uncanny resemblance to our old enemy, the Soviet Union -- right before it went under"), an overview of the new Jewish magazines, an argument for literary incoherence and a few other odds and ends.
Politics/Blood Sausage The highlight of this section is the continuation of the series of enlightening interviews with an anonymous hedge fund manager as the economy collapsed this fall. It is insightful and the best article in the issue. I won't be surprised if N+1 relocates from New York to a squat in an abandoned Florida McMansion. The onetime blogger A.S. Hamrah (Suck.com -- now that takes me back) delivers an interesting overview of films released during the Iraq War, from "Pearl Harbor" to "The Dark Knight." Then we have three poems by the cult poet of dogshit and ball gags, Frederick Seidel. The rhymes seem cheap, but he's won some big awards, so what do I know? ("The homeless are popping like pimples," he writes. Sure they are.) Mark Greif delivers an entertaining but slightly hard to follow high-concept essay, "On Food." (Greif, incidentally, doesn't care for the show "Mad Men," but he wrote the best essay about it anywhere, for the London Review of books.) I wasn't in the mood for the play that followed, something about Nazis, so I skipped it.
Home and Away And so we find ourselves in the middle of the book, with a story "The Family Friend" by Ceridwen Dovey, the author of the novel "Blood Kin." It's like one of those New Yorker stories I never read. That doesn't mean it's not good. It just means I didn't finish it. This is followed by a Benjamin Kunkel essay about anonymity and identity on the Internet, with charts. I like anything with charts, but I think Greif has won this issue's high-concept contest (there is nothing in the issue under the byline of co-founder Keith Gessen, though perhaps he wrote this). This is followed by Elif Batuman's "Summer in Samarkand," and Jace Clayton's "Confessions of a DJ," neither of which I read. Sorry! Maybe I'll get back to them.
Reviews Wesley Yang writes about the rise of the sleazy "seduction community," young men who practice a form of sexual manipulation, which started out before the Web on Usenet and found its way to best-selling books ("The Game" by Neil Strauss) and TV shows ("The Pickup Artist," starring Mystery), with concepts like the "neg" and the "wingman." Then Molly Young -- also a contributor here -- reviews Adderall, the much-abused ADHD drug (My advice: Stick to espresso.) A version of this article was first published as "Web only" content on N+1 in January when it drew some attention. Maybe it's not real until it sees print.