If the '70s were the age of Big Boredom, what better way to end them than with . . . get this . . . not one, but TWO pieces on the decade by . . . Tom Wolfe.
That's right. Mr. Ellipsis Himself, who says this was the era to cash in on your life, puts theory into practice in both Life and Esquire this month.
Really. The SAME piece written in TWO different ways.
Wolfe offers his thoughts in essay form in Life, where his article is the highlight of a slick, photo-heavy glimpse of the past 10 years, nicely offset by a running compendium of quotes.
Over at Esquire, Wolfe abandons the well-crafted meter of his prose for a series of extended photo captions. The Life piece is a coherent analysis; Esquire's format allows Wolfe to get off a series of pointed one-liners:
"In movie circles today, anyone who wears a suit, shirt and tie is presumed to be on the premises as a representative of Wells Fargo or some other burglar alarm company."
The father of New Journalism also notes in Esquire that the phrase New Journalism itself began "to haunt me like a No-Pest Strip" and complains that the films "The Great Gatsby" and "Saturday Night Fever" ruined one of the great joys of his life: "wearing white suits."
Poor Tom Wolfe!
The best critique of the '70s actually appears in P. J. O'Rourke's introduction to The National Lampoon's delightfully lavish new $20 anthology of its first 10 years (distributed in hardcover by Simon and Schuster).
"The Sixties," writes O'Rourke, "was a decade defined by racial and generational tension . . . by a total reassessment of America's role in the global community. . . .
"The Seventies was a decade defined by giving up cigarettes." The Santa Syndrome
The Magazine Column welcomes Christmas.
WARNING: The following item is NOT to be read by CHILDREN. PARENTS are advised to remove this section with a RAZOR blade and use it to light a CIGARETTE.
Three Nebraska psychologists have concluded that contemporary children feel twice as "cheated" or "sorry" when they learn who Mr. Claus really is than children did in 1896.
The report, published in the December Psychology Today, was prompted by the discovery of an 1896 study in a yellowing copy of The North-Western Journal of Education, which folded in 1901.
Today's children are more likely to want to teach their children about Santa than last century's kids.They ascribe fewer superhuman powers to M. Claus than did their predecessors, undoubtedly because "raised with Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Batman and the Bionic Woman, they find Santa Claus a bit lauckluster as a mythic figure."
One 1977 fourth-grade girl explains how she cracked the myth:
"My sister asked our dad if she could leave Santa a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and my dad said he would probably want a Reuben. And my dad likes Reubens."
Speaking of Santa's savories, the holidays do conjure up visions of vittles, even with the current dearth of partridges. An overview of the current crop of cooking magazines is in order:
Gourmet, in business for 38 years, is certainly the best aged of the lot. Its finely honed sense of snobbery makes the reserve of The New Yorker seem downright folksy. What Mortal could question pronouncements like, "What you find then in pied-noir cuisine is a melange."
Still, Gourmet dishes out wonderfully arcane articles on travel and equipment, not to mention its calorie-laden recipes. ( $12 annually from Box 2980 boulder, Colo. 80321.)
With a circulation of 1,130,000, Bon Appetit is decidedly the most popular of the menu mags (No. 3 Gourment has 660,000 buyers). Where Gourmet is bullish on Hollandaise, BA is not above printing recipes calling for Dream Whip. It does have its strengths, particularly when dealing with a broad topic like cooking with chocolate or reporting on James Beard's latest series of recipes. ( $12 a year from Box 2427 Boulder, Colo. 80322.)
Cuisine, formerly known as Sphere, is one notch below BA in sophistication and imagination. It's hard to comprehend why this lackluster collection of uninspiring recipes has a circulation of 778,000, except perhaps for its price. ($8.95 annually from Box 2640, Boulder, colo. 80321.)
The International Review of Food Wine is an attempt to mix the haut-pretension of Gourmet with the more plebian munching of BA. While the magazine does include some socko recipes, it seems skimpy in comparison. The December Food & Wine has 72 pages, versus Gourment's 200 and BA's 188. Quantity does not necessarily imply quality, so we will assume that Food & Wines's 250,000 buyers find something that others don't. ($9.95 a year from Box 2695 Boulder, Colo. 80321.)
The Shellfish Digest. Who can argue with a magazine that offers Calvin Trillin, frozen shrimp and soft-shell crawfish in 40 pages that are a foot square (and charges just $2 for two annual issues from post-office box not located in Boulder: Box 469, Georgetown, Del. 19947)?
Pleasures of Cooking. We're saving the best wine for last here. Pleasures is one of the true secrets of the cooking-mag biz, with a circulation under 10,000. Published by Cuisinart, it does not tout food processors -- or anything, for the matter. It contains no ads.
What you get every two months are 48 full-color pages that clearly and concisely explain the techniques involved in making, say, oysters with watercress or brown stock or a brunch torte. From basics to extremes, Pleasures is the most imaginative and mouth-watering of any cooking publication. ( $18 annually from 411 West Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, Conn. 06830.) Video Viability
"Whatever forms the new structure of show business, is it too much to hope for a day, in the not too distant future, when it will not be said of a television show of high quality, generally praised and viewed each week by an audience of 12 million people, that it has not generated sufficient interest to make it a viable program?"
-- John Houseman, in a superbly written account of the birth and death of "The Paper Chase" in the December Harper's. His Master's Charge
Farkle The Cat, who lives in Annapolis, recently got a Master Charge card in his own name. When his first charge, a vet bill, was paid promptly, his credit limit was increased.
"Who says the Fed's tightening credit?" asks the December Money, in report on Farkle's new-found float. Just for Kicks
In case you didn't know, it's okay to kick vending machines.
Inc. reports in its December issue on an NLRB decision ordering an employer to reinstate two union members fired for letting a mechanical monster have it right in the solar plexus.
Said an NLRB arbitrator:
"Vending machines are most imperfect creatures, subject to being physically abused without penalty when they malfunction."
The Kinsley Report
The tempest in the teapot at The New Republic, prompted by publisher Marty Peretz's refusal to publish an article on Ted Kennedy and women, has resolved itself. Editor Michael Kinsley, who assigned the story, quit the magazine and then returned.
"Marty and I were sort of circling around each other looking for a way to resolve this," says Kinsley. "I made him give me a raise for my pride."
Meanwhile, the piece in question appears in this month's Washington Monthly, supporting Peretz's claim that it was too vague and quoted only anonymous sources on the question of Kennedy and his alleged womanizing.
All of which seems odd in light of the seven women quoted directly on the same topic in the Dec. 3 New York. Says Gloria Steinem: "The issue is whether or not he perceives women as equal and serious human beings." Here Come the Marines
Poor A. J. Vanderwaal.
On the night of Oct. 6, he was carrying out orders to paint mile markers on the streets of the nation's capital for the impending Marine Marathon when D.C. police arrested him for defacing public property.
The December issue of Running Times recounts this tale of mayhem, in which Vanderwaal was booked, fingerprinted and locked up for several hours before the Marines rescued him. He was finally allowed to finish his assigned task at 4:30 a.m.
Who says the police here aren't efficient? Rollers and Rockers
Good reads last month:
Bob Merlis on seismic car stereos in the Dec. 3 New West, chronicling the latest from Pioneer: a speaker into your car seat and aimed right for your coccyx.
"Sedentary discos might spring up," writes Merlis, "thus easing the current bunion blight."
William G. Shepherd, in a November profile in Avenue magazine:
"Meeting Jann Wenner, the publisher and editor of Rolling Stone magazine, is a bit like watching three people trying to get through a doorway at the same time. . ."
Meanwhile, Wenner's year-end $1.95 issue of the magazine uses 138 pages of slick paper to offer in effect the best of the year's Random Notes items.
Now that's conserving energy. On Second Thought
Whhooooooops! Dept.: The Nov. 5 National Law journal, in a house ad, claimed that it "numbers among its subscribers 9 U.S. Supreme Ct. Justices." After a note from American Lawyer publisher Jay Kriegel offered $1,000 to the charity of the Journal's choice if the claim was proven, the following week's Journal claimed to have "nine subscriptions to the U.S. Supreme Court" . . . After a successful test marketing this fall, Newsweek has committed $10 million to editor John Walsh's Inside Sports, which will begin monthly publication with an April issue . . . the current Great Wallposter ( $20 annually from The Jerome Bar, Aspen, Colo. 81611) includes a delightful mock ad for Lillian Hellman Designer Jeans . . . the Direct Mail Marketing Association reports on those odd little coupons in magazines, claiming that more people ask to be put on additional junk mail lists than ask to have their names removed. After all, junk mail does make great free kindling . . . Where It All Started Dept.: Julia Child writes in the January Quest/80 that the dish that spawned her interest in cooking was Dover sole in brown sauce consumed at the end of October 1949, at La Couronne in Rouen, France.
And finally, a sin of omission: In reporting last month about the forthcoming Chinese edition of Scientific American, The Magazine Column overlooked the Chinese version of Science News, begun in July and selling 50,000 copies a week.
Our most humble apologies.