Much Ado About Some Things

The Atlantic, September 2012


This is as close to a themed issue as I’ve seen from The Atlantic, and as you might expect, the focus is on this year’s Presidential election. For someone who follows politics, there’s little new here, despite James Fallows’ gaming of the Romney/Obama showdown, a bit on the Latino Vote, and the most talked about article of some time , Ta-Nehisi Coates’ critical evaluation of race in America from the standpoint of the U.S.’s first black president. But back to that in a minute.

One other article sure to put letters in the editor’s box is Hanna Rosin’s sex on campus article. Here, Rosin speaks rather cautiously of the rise of feminist sexual romps on campus, how women are focusing on careers and independence (and that includes sexual) instead of the old saws about catching a husband during those halcyon four years.

An there are two other quirky ones: how tequila does or doesn’t make you crazy and, how the millennial generation is ignoring the old values of home and car ownership – and how that generation’s turn of values might save our economy.

Now to Coates:

Much has been said for years about a need for a national conversation on race, and Coates does his damnedest to begin one, centering on the Obama Presidency. Ignoring the 2008 hype about the U.S. as a post-racial society, Coates also all but ignores the insane charges by his political opponents and centers on Obama’s reaction to all of that. Obama, says Coates, has been more than reticent to amp up race talk, because he (Obama) fully understands the nation hasn’t come very far since Emancipation, even since the racial liberties granted in the ‘sixties. Coates’ object here isn’t to condemn Obama, but to explain his racial reticence in light of the nation’s stalled experiments in equality. And to wish Obama had ventured more bravely into this social and political arena.

Atlantic Fiction:

Emma Donoghue has written a present tense, third person story, that has a first person feel, “Onward.” It’s a pretty ho-hum story until you either realize (if your’e a student of literary history) that it’s about a woman, Caroline Thompson, who was befriended by Charles Dickens,  or are told so by an editorial footnote. Actually, I find the editorial footnote much more interesting than the story, but then that’s me. 

There are other pieces of interest here in you’re a fan of The Atlantic. But I’m becoming a bit dismayed with this mag. Why? For years it’s been one I could look to, not only to set the table when it comes to controversial social and political issues, but to suggest a way to answers and solutions. As much as I admire Coates‘ article, I don’t see a way out of the political darkness in it, nor in Rosin’s sex expose (it’s hardly an expose). Perhaps I’ll have to rely on the millennial article for that and hope for better things in the next issue.



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