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Publishing, Reading, The Writer's Life

Apparently, Literature is not in Vogue

I usually bring something to read while I’m waiting at the salon where I get my hair cut, rather than subject myself to the stack of glitz and glamour rags, but this time, I forgot. So, what the hell, let’s take a look at what the other ninety percent of the world is reading.

I scanned the glossies, each thick with ads and photo spreads of the young and ultra-thin and beautiful (and pretentious, disinterested, and vapid, as long as I’m judging), and each weighing in at a couple hundred pages, which makes my usual reads like The New Yorker and The Atlantic look anorexic in comparison.

And then I saw it… Vogue.

A whopper. 606 pages, and that’s just for March. It would be like the sumo wrestler of the magazine world, except they would probably never print a photo of someone so not thin.

I picked it up. It had the density of a shot put. The thing was thicker than a telephone book.

Well then, let’s check out the articles.

I flipped through. Where the hell was the table of contents?

Ads. More ads. Ads for clothing. Ads for makeup. Ads for fragrance. Ads for hair stuff. Ads for I don’t even know what the product is, but the models are young and ultra-thin and beautiful in a pretentious, disinterested, and vapid kind of way.

Ah, finally. The table of contents is tucked back on page 100. And it says the first article is not until page 399.

You read it right—page three hundred and ninety fucking nine.

I flipped through to find it. You may not care what it was about, but I must report that this blog, which is not yet done, is already longer than that article. Why should we read when there are pictures of the young and ultra-thin and beautiful, etc. etc.

I checked with my stylist, and yes, there is a new issue every month. That comes to about 7,200 pages a year. Most of the literary journals I read probably haven’t printed 7,200 pages in their existence.

How I’ve fooled myself for so many years. This—Vogue—is the state of literature in the United States. I’ve wasted a good half decade trying to write for publications that hardly anyone reads. Damn it, I’m tired of the obscurity of literary journals. Is it too late for me to be in vogue? I could lose weight. I could dye away the gray. Trust me, I have no problem looking disinterested. With a little practice, maybe I could be pretentious… possibly vapid…


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


21 thoughts on “Apparently, Literature is not in Vogue

  1. With this blog post you officially become cantankerous. What you describe is something that made me hang my head some time ago. While there are still a couple decent fiction magazines on the shelf, most of the ones I read have come to run fiction as justification for the majority of its content–the ads. And worse, flip through the reviews. The untrustworthy reviews which reflect the magazine’s ownership. Here, you’ll find little more than infomercials for the mega media owner who has paid good money to get its book on a bestseller list or into consideration for an award which is little more than a pale echo of its former self.

    Welcome, Mr. Cantankerous. Allow me to introduce myself, :Mr. Curmudgeon.

    -Stewart Sternberg house-of-sternberg.blogspot.com

    Posted by Stewart Sternberg (@ssternberg) | March 17, 2012, 1:37 PM
  2. I completely concur. Literature does not have the same cool reputation it once enjoyed. Perhaps people who sell books should hire some voguish stylists to give the idea of literature a makeover. I’m half joking, granted, but that means I’m also half serious. (And remember: don’t go looking for baby artichokes at the Office Depot.)

    Posted by girl in the hat | March 17, 2012, 4:03 PM
    • Wow, literature was cool once. I always suspected I’d been born into the wrong period of time.

      Actually, you may have a good idea. Lure the unsuspecting public in with clothes, hair and makeup, then use, say, Franzen or Kevin Brockmeier to describe the layout. Stealth lit!

      Posted by jpon | March 17, 2012, 7:22 PM
      • I love that you include Kevin Brockmeier along with Franzen. I don’t think Brockmeier gets enough attention because he’s not a realist, strictly speaking. i feel a post coming.

        Posted by the circular runner | March 18, 2012, 8:21 AM
  3. As a not so secret fashion-lover, I too gave up on Vogue when I could no longer find the TOC. This is, apparently — someone once told me — a marketing ploy to keep people from selectively perusing in the supermarket or drugstore and forcing them to purchase the mag if they want to read what’s in it. But the size is odd. Vogue used to have only one enormous issue — the September issue — which was eagerly anticipated because it spelled out THE LOOKS for the year. Now they seem to want to just make it all enormous — which is a strange choice.

    But I think magazines are completely in crisis. Women’s mags used to have fiction in them. Seventeen did, Glamour did, and that’s all gone. I even seem to remember poetry in Seventeen…. but perhaps that’s an illusion.

    love –
    Miss Cranky Carnaby Street

    Posted by Stephanie Barbé Hammer | March 17, 2012, 5:52 PM
  4. I work in a bookstore sorting and shelving magazines. I can always tell when the fashion magazines come in, the boxes weigh at least 50 pounds. Placing these monsters on the shelf, I can’t help but notice the similarities between them. The airbrushed, make-up caked faces, the cleavage revealing dresses, the word SEX is in bold on 90 percent of the covers. I could go on and on about the crap that we sell, don’t even get me started about Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. But there’s a light at the end of this tunnel made of glossy, perfume laced magazines. Our best sellers are still The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Harper’s and we still carry a bunch of literary magazines. And at the end of the month I get to box up all the Vogue’s that haven’t sold and put them in the trash, where they belong.

    Posted by Lisa Santo | March 17, 2012, 6:27 PM
    • Too funny! And very satisfying to hear. But remember, you live in Portland, or as it is more commonly known, Freaklandia. The bookstore on the next street from my salon closed last year for lack of interest.

      Posted by jpon | March 17, 2012, 7:26 PM
  5. i’ve never met you, but i’m willing to bet you couldn’t really look disinterested for any amount of time (unless i made you read only Vogue back-issues) and vapid? you couldn’t muster that even after a year’s worth of Cosmo–do they still print Cosmo?

    Posted by the circular runner | March 18, 2012, 8:19 AM
    • You haven’t met me, but you have found me out. Thanks for the compliment–but now I have to live up to it.

      Posted by jpon | March 18, 2012, 10:00 PM
  6. It helps to imagine Vogue as a magazine of ads. The ads are the purpose; it’s like a catalog. (A catalog of outrageously priced products on freakishly airbrushed models who are chosen for their ability to make the clothing look as though it’s still on the hanger.)

    Posted by Averil Dean | March 18, 2012, 4:03 PM
    • Coming soon… Ad TV. The channel where the commercials get more time than the programs.

      Posted by jpon | March 18, 2012, 10:04 PM
      • Might be an improvement. Have you seen what’s on TV these days?

        Posted by Averil Dean | March 18, 2012, 10:42 PM
      • Unfortunately, yes. I don’t watch much, but when I do, I spend more time scrolling through the listings, seeing what’s not worth watching, than actually watching. Then I give up and go back to my computer, or read something.

        Posted by jpon | March 19, 2012, 9:39 AM
  7. Fashion, glamour, sex are all well and good, but what what feeds the minds of people nowadays?

    Posted by Nadia Ibrashi | March 18, 2012, 5:07 PM
  8. Vogue is almost Biblical in its proportions, so perhaps the answer to your question, Nadia, is in there…

    There was a great multitude, and they were hungry for knowledge, but the bookstore had nothing with which to nourish their minds. And the people from Vogue said, “Lo, we will feed them.” From the book of Vogue they ripped out five ads and two articles, and the ads multiplied until there were enough for everyone. And soon, the people were sated.

    Stupid, but sated.

    Posted by jpon | March 18, 2012, 10:09 PM
    • You are funny, but I agree with you. The new culture gods do not include include literary works.

      Posted by nadiaibrashi | March 24, 2012, 4:21 AM

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