I like Atlantic Monthly. I do. In fact, I've been subscribing to it since…..well, not since Mark Twain appeared in those pages (cripes, I'm not that old).
But I could only thumb through the May 2012 issue and read, well, superficially. Sure, it's the "culture issue," and American pop culture being what it is, that always seems the lowest common denominator in any magazine bent to writing about social media, pop music icons, or consumer technology. (And, yes, I realize such topics pop up regularly in this blog. Hmm. No wonder my readers are few but rabidly manic-depressive. No – not you – you're exceptionally cool.)
Here's an example from the mag: David Samuels compares Kanye West to Mozart. Really? Sure Kanye is emotionally large in pop culture, but so was Andrew Breitbart, and look what happened to him. (Are those boos and hisses I hear from the right-wing seats?) Where the comparison succeeds is in the realm of personality, where callow Amadeus shocked the prigs, just by being himself, which had absolutely nothing to do with his music.
Then there's B.R. Myers' screed on Chad Harbach's novel The Art of Fielding. I've read the book and consider it light and entertaining while doing a decent job of character transformation within that style of writing. Which is not to say that I disagree with a lot of what Myers writes about the book, writ large :
Obviously the nation's M.F.A. programs still teach no solution to the main problem facing today's young "social" novelist: How to offer a realistic portrayal of the most garrulous generation in American history without boring the reader?
That Myers ends that quote with a question mark punctuates my view that this review is something akin to a pot calling a kettle too hot, too cumbersome.
Then there's the article on game developer Jonathan Blow who carps that other social games can be "likened to muggers, alcoholic enablers, and brain-colonizing ant parasites." For my money, that self- mirroring posture blows even as it amuses.
Of the title article on Facebook, I can only ask: Are we so weak as a species that a fad of technology can alter our human makeup? Stephen Marche seems to think so.
It's one thing to report on callow superficiality, but I really hate reading "hard-edged" critiques that are equally facile. I can only say that I look forward to the next issue, in which Atlantic will surely return to in-depth reporting on subjects that matter. Right, editors? Right?