As you've probably heard or read, marvelous things are going on at The New Yorker under the guiding paw of somebody named Florio, imported from somewhere like your typical cavalry in the very nick to save the world.
One thing he's going to do (though he has temporarily yielded on the Jockey shorts ads since old William Shawn, editor, wears boxers) is put those cardboard post cards in the magazine. They are tipped in and it takes an engineer to pull them out.
Methodical people go through a magazine before starting to read it, searching for all the inserts. They spend two minutes pulling them all out and throwing them away, and this is the logical way to proceed. But those of us who, like merry grasshoppers, sing all summer long and think the world is a friendly place -- we just start reading, and every six pages we have to stop to pull the damn things out. It's not the time it takes, it's the fury that accumulates, and at subscription renewal time makes you think twice.
Anyway, this Florio is going to stick the things in The New Yorker. This will, needless to say, cause everybody who now pays for the magazine to cancel it, but that's probably the idea. Somebody really should do a study on the American proclivity for driving customers away. If it's not Coca-Cola, it's the house of bishops screwing up the prayer book or Briggs refusing to make lemon ice any more. So now it's The New Yorker's turn.
As I get it, from extensive study Florio wishes to attract a younger up-scale crowd. He will do this by sticking in those pull-out cards and running undergarment ads, followed most likely by Can You Draw This?
Welladay. The thing that gnaws me is that Florio is right. I have always known I display very strong wimpish qualities; indeed, it is a rare day that street beggars from as far away as Anchorage do not mob me on the streets in any 10-block walk. They know. They can spot a wimp.
But I didn't know The New Yorker knew, and now Florio does. He wants the likes of me to begone, sir. He told one reporter there was a cartoon of people peeking through his office door and saying egad, now we've got an Italian, or something to that effect. Florio loved it.
But as far as I ever knew, The New Yorker was always run by Italians; I mean how would you know? Italians, Baptists, all those people never bothered me for a second, so I don't see what's so funny about Florio's name. Pretty. Like spring flowers and all.
And I really do not think in this year of grace that anybody pays any attention to what a chap's name is. I mean, his mother could be a Winthrop and his ancestors be solid Galts, Thigpens, Gooches, and then all of a sudden one Florio, which would not give you the real picture at all. So it's not the name.
He told a reporter that "this is a video generation . . . we're living in an age of People magazine."
Now there's his problem. We are not, in fact, living in an age of People magazine. It's present among us, yes, adding its voice to the choir, as I was saying to my wife only yesterday when she was dipping Max (terrier) for fleas, that we should remember fleas are part of God's great creation, too.
As a member of the massiest medium in the capital, I am far from sniping at the mass media. The nation would be the poorer without us (speaking of novel insights). But nobody ever thought, at least not at a fairly good newspaper, that we were the whole world down here. We all know the Freer Gallery has great lectures that appeal to small but important numbers of people. We know it's worth your life to try to break into a Museum of Natural History slide show on archaeology in West Assurplomia, so great is the crowd running for seats.
We do not, ourselves, lecture on silk weaving in 18th-century Java nor have a regular section on ancient digs, but we are well aware down here that people all over Washington have been right through high school, and many of them have traveled as far as Philadelphia and have read books and like that.
People magazine is read by people who read People magazine and that's all there is to Mr. Florio's alleged "age of People magazine."
They are probably perfectly nice people (as the lady said when asked about her vision of heaven when she was at death's door in the hospital, though she recovered) "but nobody you'd ask to dinner."
But if a magazine thinks that's the way to go, it's no skin off my teeth. As for this search for a younger, "more up-scale" audience, I guess he means the movers and shakers who read People. Wear Jockey shorts. Real high-life stuff.
"A lot of people out there are waiting for me to fall on my butt," he has said. Now there's his problem. Nobody is waiting for him to fall on his butt that I know of, since nobody has heard of him, most likely. And he should loosen up, baby, just a little, for Americans are not really people who can't wait for a guy to fall on his butt.
On the contrary, we like a thousand flowers to bloom. A pot in every house with his own chicken in it. Good will to all.
It is not a question of The New Yorker falling on its butt. It is simply a question of what The New Yorker wishes to print, how it wants to look, and in what direction it wishes to grow and to change.
No big deal, and the world at large will barely notice and hardly care. It's not really true that the world is a jungle with tigers out there just waiting for you to make one wrong move, buddy.
You don't fall on your butt in America. You merely choose your position.