Magazines Matter: Vol. 8 - May 2011

For the past half-year, I've been looking at magazines that supply mostly non-fiction. Some publications do provide outlets for creative writing, fiction and often times poetry.

Besides the lyrics in music, I don't read a lot of poetry, but Sherman Alexie did provide a brilliant one called "The Facebook Sonnet" for the May 16th issue of New Yorker magazine. If Shakespeare were alive today, I think it would be something that he'd appreciate.

Often though, some periodicals offer up narrative prose. This May, The Atlantic gave us one such work from the famous author, Stephen King. His story "Herman Wouk is Still Alive" was about a car crash and the two parties involved. The Atlantic also had a piece of fiction from Mary Morris titled "The Cross Word," which was about two sisters and was both a story and a puzzle.

What I thought was the best, if weirdest, display of creative writing was John Kenney's humorous piece in the May 23rd issue of New Yorker entitled "What Happened" where he gives fictional accounts of the Navy SEAL Team Six on the night they killed Osama Bin Laden.

But, normally, instead of printing an artist's work absent commercialism, most magazines print articles about the artist's themselves, their lives. The Atlantic epitomized that this month. Paul Simon was on the cover of the inaugural edition of The Culture Issue. The editors gathered 14 of America's leading artists to share the unexpected inspiration and idiosyncratic process behind their genius. Some of the artists included Tim Burton and Lupe Fiasco, but Paul Simon was at the forefront.

Speaking of Paul Simon, Nicholas Dawidoff wrote "Paul Simon's Restless Journey" for the May 12th issue of Rolling Stone, but Simon wasn't the only musician honored this month. AARP magazine had country music stars Vince Gill and Amy Grant on its cover. In honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, which was on May 24, the magazine printed a series of short interviews with those such as Bono, Martin Scorsese and Maya Angelou who said, "He [Bob Dylan] speaks for the American soul as much as Ray Charles did."

The Flaming Lips is a music group that hasn't been around as long as Bob Dylan, but Jason Ankeny's article in Entrepreneur was about reinvention and how The Flaming Lips are trying new things, embracing YouTube and other new avenue, to help them survive long enough to ironically have AARP honor them.

Time magazine released it's list, the Time 100, which is its ranking of the world's most influential people. Some musicians made the list. Notables like Dilma Rousseff who is Brazil's first female president made the list. Time did it's best work this month on May 16th went it released its Special Commemorative Issue about "The Royal Wedding."

Reader's Digest had a  list of 100 people, places and things it loved, but its list wasn't as lofty or international as Time. It was the "Best of America" and included things like best places to get ice cream.

While I'm on the subject on food, Wayt Gibbs and Nathan Myhrvold wrote "Add a Pinch of Science," which previewed the book Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet. The book puts a physicist in the kitchen to revolutionize the art and science of cooking.

Better Homes and Gardens didn't revolutionize cooking, but Joanne Weir, the award-winning cookbook author, guided readers through the fresh flavors of Mexican cooking. In her May article, she gave us the recipes for chorizo-pepper hand pies, fish tacos and margaritas, which all looked very delicious.

Piotr Naskrecki had a not so delicious photo gallery of spiders called "Spinning Their Spell" in Audubon magazine. Alisa Opar had the most haunting photograph in that magazine. It was the imprint and blood stain of a dead coyote for her article "Ghost Dogs."

Air & Space Smithsonian had its 25th Anniversary Special. The director of the National Air and Space Museum wanted to honor Paul Edward Garber, the Museum's first curator by spotlighting 25 encounters with the greats of aviation like Charles Lindbergh and Chuck Yeager. On the cover is a picture of the B-25. Inside was a retrospective 25 years back to when the mag first started in 1986.

For May, Ebony did a special report called "Mixed-Race America" or "Multicutural in America." The cover story was on the new film Jumping the Broom. What was most stunning was the story by Francie Latour called "Without a Trace" about the case of Phylicia Barnes and the numerous missing black people cases that don't get much if any national media attention as others.

Best Magazine Articles of May 2011
  1. "Without a Trace" by Francie Latour for Ebony.
  2. "I Will Not Blog About My Students" by Vicki Glembocki for Philadelphia.
  3. "Facebook and the Government" by Joseph Guinto for Washingtonian.
  4. "What Happened" by John Kenney for New Yorker.
  5. "The Fall of Tastykake" by Patrick Kerkstra for Philadelphia.
  6. "Love, Death, and Lacrosse" by Harry Jaffe for Washingtonian.
  7. "Where's Earl" by Kelefa Sanneh for New Yorker.
  8. "Kevin Smith's Happy Ending" by Josh Eells for Rolling Stone.


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