Two of the major forces in the publishing industry are introducing new magazines this month: Time Inc.'s monthly Discover, "The Newsmagazine of Science," went on sale nationwide this week; and Reader's Digest will test-market in the supermarkets and newsstands of 39 cities -- including Washington -- Families, "a national magazine that provides counsel and encouragement to all who are involved in the challenging but infinitely rewarding task of raising families."
Graphically, Time Inc.'s lively contribution to the field is a cross between Money and Fortune; the writing seems to blend the easy accessibility -- albeit mundane prose -- of Popular Science with the scholarship of Science 80. The first (October) issue, which sells for $2, includes articles on Hurricane Allen (quite timely for a monthly), microcomputers in new automobiles, a layman's look at what scientists have learned from Mount St. Helens (including the best before-and-after photographic spread yet published) and some astounding examples of computer art.
Families is a well-designed, sumptuously printed, Time-sized, perfectly-bound book that borrows heavily from the format of the Digest: long on excerpts and condensations; short on controversy. The lead article, "Kids and Pot: What You Should Know," has the catchy veneer of sensationalism that helps the Digest march off checkout counters every month; a quick perusal reveals that even mothers in Peoria will find the tenor decidedly tame. And with nine pages of paid color advertising from the Mormons titled, "Can You Have a Happier Family Life?" there's little doubt left about what audience is being courted here. The back of the magazine contains a long excerpt from James Michener's new novel, "The Covenant."
Both magazines are guaranteeing advertisers a circulation of 400,000 for their first issues. Time says it has already passed that figure, because Discover sold more advance subscriptions than anticipated. Families will be totally dependent on single copy sales -- selling in this market for $2.49. Reader's Digest will try a second test issue in March, and then decide whether to go monthly and solicit subscriptions. Both magazines already seem like financial winners: Discover has 60 pages of ads worth $600,722 in the premier issue; Families has 67 pages of ads, 61 in full color. J-School Was Never Like This
When they do things in Texas they do them big: How about $50,000 in expenses on one magazine story that includes bars of silver smuggled across borders, a bodyguard who comes three seconds from getting his brains blown out in a Beirut hotel room and an editorial assistant dispatched to Milan with $12,000 in cash to buy a stolen car?
It's all in "The Italian Connection," a 20,000-word transcontinental epic by 27-year-old John Bloom in the September Texas Monthly. With the help of a Texas drug informant, Bloom spent a month in Europe penetrating a multi-million-dollar Italian black market operation in stolen art. By the end of the story he's fleeing through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in a rented Mercedes and barely lives long enough to fill out his expense account. And nobody knows what's become of the informant. This is the stuff that journalism students dream about. (In reality, if they're lucky, someday they may get to write a column about magazines for a great metropolitian daily.) Facts of Flying
And now, three "essential truths concerning airplanes, airports and air travel," courtsey of Mollie Fermaglich and the Sept. 8 New West:
"Estimated times of arrival and departure are unconfirmed rumors;
"Anyone willing to 'wash the basin off for the next passenger' is welcome in our house anytime;
"Anything requiring 'reservations reconfirmed' is worth having reservations about." Bombs Away
In a generally swinish broadside published for the Democratic convention by Esquire, we discovered this small pearl from Craig Copetas and Peter Kaplan:
"The real Dump Carter Movement
"Behind the podium is a sunken trap door, the door that covers the Bomb Chute. If, while Carter is on the podium any bombs are thrown, the Secret Service will pull open the trap door and Pele the bomb down the chute. The bomb will roll down into a secret room lined with sandbags."
The question, of course, is what would happen if the chute opened and the president lost his balance and . . . Unfriendly Persuasion
ATTENTION!!!! Residents of West Virginia, particularly of the female persuasion. A "voluntary social companion" -- i.e., a date -- with whom a woman has had consentual sex within the last 12 months cannot be charged with rape.
This and other mind-boggling revelations from "In 44 States It's Legal to Rape Your Wife," in the September Student Lawyer. Reads of the Month
Frederick Iseman's seething, haunting view of war in the Sahara in the September Harper's, which also contains Edna O'Brien's insightful reflections on James Joyce's women. You'll learn why Molly and Leopold Bloom slept the way they did;
Stephen Smith's concise analysis of newspaper vs. TV coverage of the Democratic convention in the Aug. 25 Time, one of the most intelligent things written about the boring circus;
Frank DeFord's delightful report on "Youveeay," better known to some as the University of Virginia, in the Sept. 15 Sports Illustrated:
"Mister Jefferson is doing terrificaly. Ask anybody around Hookville. Hookville is Charlottesvill, the same name apparently deriving from the shape of the apostrophe when it is written C'ville. In Hookville it is always Mister Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson is a name in history books. Mister Jefferson is around. There is always the sense that he'll be back in minute, that he just went down to the apothecary, or is over at the Sunoco station, kicking whitewalls. At Monticello the places are set and there are fruits and nuts on the table. Oh sure, Mister Jefferson hasn't been especially crazy about making the columns with Sally Hemings the last few years. Now his and Sally's love-story has been optioned by Hollywood. But what are you going to do?" (Meanwhile, over at opposition Inside Sports, Ken Turan has an admiring profile of DeFord in the September issue);
Greg Easterbrook's proposal to create a Bail Out the Rich Endowment (Bore) in the September Washington Monthly:
"How would BORE funds be raised? by taxing those goods and services patronized solely by the wealthy. For example, a surcharge equal to 25 percent of the purchase price would be imposed on: all property that adjoins water; any car that costs more than a house; any object worth more than $10,000 yet small enough to swallow; all products advertised in The New Yorker; and any liquids 12 years or older (excluding cafeteria coffee)";
Ray Reece's indictment of the Energy Department's method of handing out grants for solar research reveals what happens when DOE and EXXON go sunbathing together, in the Sept./Oct. Mother Jones;
John McPhee, in the Aug. 4 New Yorker, on the arrival of telephones in Circle City, Alaska, which has one unlisted and 17 listed numbers. If you ever wondered why the phone company was so successful, here's some primary data:
Albert Carroll, the on-again-off-again Indian chief, speaks for the whole tribe when he says, "I don't get out and holler the way we used to. I call from here to here. We stand in the window and look at each other and talk on the phone. I don't have to walk over next door and ask Anne Ginnis if she has a beer. I call her and tell her to bring it'"
Geoffrey Smith's explanation of Dungeons & Dragons, which finally makes the game understandable to persons over the age of 18, in the Sept. 15 Forbes;
Robert Hoffman's vivid and engaging recreation on a little-reported display of Barbaric French colonialism in Africa at the turn of the century in the September/October Harvard Magazine. Finally, two notes of passage:
Washaington Calendar Magazine suspended publication with its September issue, citing "economic problems related to the current recession."
And the Magazine Column raised a glass of Lanson champagne (his choice, not ours) to William Rice, a cook known to bring us his personal jar of duck fat when visiting to saute fresh foie gras . Willie, as he is known to his mother, departs as executive food editor of The Washington Post to become editor-in-chief of The International Journal of Food and Wine, recently rescued from economic oblivion by American Express. He can only make it better, and we suspect the best.