Perhaps Christmas week is the wrong time to blog magazines, but I am left-handed, after all, and tend to pay scant attention to convention. I will, of course, sandwich these around my usual Pogo Christmas greetings.
Harper’s Magazine, December 2012
I suppose a year-end issue of a magazine like Harper’s will draw on the finest of the odd pieces from the year, and I suppose that’s what’s happened here. Or could it be the effect of the Mayan calendar’s end? hmmm. Among the most significant pieces:
Alan Lightman’s article, “Our Place in the Universe,” in which he doles out little known and probably misunderstood factoids science had found out about the structure and nature of our universe, most of which would seem tantamount to the infinite when explained successfully to us of less exalted scientific minds. Oddly, Lightman seems to feel more in touch with the infinite on Earth’s open seas.
Another odd piece is one written by one Hilton Als, “I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love.” about the musician Prince and how some black men are apparently attracted to the dapper guy, supposedly because he’s “pretty.” Nuff said ‘cause I don’t get it.
A book review by Wes Enzinna, “Man Underwater – The Democratic Fiction of Richard Brautigan,” gives a rather long journey through the novelist/poet’s life, his struggle to have his odd-for-the-times work accepted, his intermittent championing of the lesser writers, and, finally, his solitary death. Brautigan was a countercultural icon of the ‘sixties, but he was apparently more conventional than most of his readers thought at the time.
And finally, there’s Russell Banks’ short story, “Christmas Party,” about a divorced husband and wife who show up at the same gathering during the Christmas season. It’s a rather plain story; like many popular novelists, his short stuff doesn’t work as well as the longer fiction. As my mentor Doris Betts once said, “Some people are born novelists, others are born short story writers.” Still, it must be tempting to taste all the literary waters once you’ve found a measure of success in one.