Is n+1 worth the time I'm devoting to it? Frankly, no. These stooges live in an intellectual bubble-- arrived on the scene with a splash of publicity and have allowed their momentum to slow. Unlike the ULA, they don't have the born energy to reverse it.
Their big hope with issue #4 is an essay by Philip Connors. Forget the symposium, "American Writing Today," an instant snoozer. Even the editors hope to forget it. They've now posted big signs around the Connors essay, with large black arrows pointing at it: "Look at This Instead!"
Yes, the Connors essay is the best thing in the issue. I'm reluctant to criticize it, because it contains a chunk of strong 9-11 reportage near the end, but the rest is mediocre.
Connors doctors an article in order to be employed at the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper he loathes. He stays three years around people he intensely dislikes-- apparently collecting material for an expose. The resulting expose is mostly embarrassing, the kind of thing once done better by Jay McInerney, punctuated by two highlights: 1.) Evil Editor Bob Bartley changes "pipe dream" back to "pipedream." 2.) Connors and Bartley share an elevator ride. "I was going to ask this. I was going to ask that. I didn't ask anything." (Literary people love writing about missed moments.)
(I found the piece unsettling because the Underground Literary Alliance had in its ranks for a short time a person who secretly loathed us and everything we're doing. Whatever you do, be genuine. If Connors was himself fraudulent, how can one take his scathing remarks seriously?)
His great revelation: That the WSJ editorial page is the WSJ editorial page. It's pro-Capitalist (pro-Monopolist) and ultra-conservative. Shocking!
Dog bites man.
More relevant would be an article on how and why the liberal-"Left" has fallen into lock-step with the notorious Wall Street Journal editorial page on the subject of uncontrolled immigration. (Memo to Thomas Frank: Sometimes people in red states like Kansas do vote their economic interests.)
Another Gessen complaint is that I included his magazine's Letters section in my own letter's purview. Sorry-- but throughout n+1's short history, James Wood and Jonathan Franzen have been the editors' touchstones of literary intelligence and relevance, mentioned by them again and again. Their exchange in #4 SHOULD be a highlight of the issue. That it's not is an example of how establishment literature carries only the facade of life and relevance. They're pretenders; cardboard imitations. No energy is there.
Another letter I quote from, from Columbia professor Jenny Davidson-- whose remarks go into the issue unchallenged-- argues that the lit journal is too narrow and elitist. The example she gives, of school principals and such, is intended as a way for n+1's editors to broaden their focus. That I quote it as an example of the furthest reaches of this crowd's narrow limits is well-justified.
That Gessen tries to direct and control the kind of letters which go into the journal further shows that I was right to include them in my fairly tame remarks. After all-- they made it into the issue, didn't they? My letter didn't. Oh well.