Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What’s Wrong with this Picture?


WE at New Pop Lit (www.newpoplit.com) received a tweet Tuesday from n+1 magazine leader Keith Gessen. The tweet was in response to a question we asked publicly, as to whether n+1 could be said to be “oligarch-backed.” Granted, that phrase might be exaggerating the situation—but only slightly. If media moguls are nice guys, and parents of your officially listed editor, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not oligarchs!

In his tweet, Gessen pleaded poverty. They’re a “nonprofit” (the word “nonprofit” having magical qualities). They’re mostly volunteers, struggling, none of them has any money; it’s all very bleak. A situation with which I can easily identify! Reading the tweet, in fact, I became quite concerned. I expected to run into the n+1 people when turning a corner here in Detroit, the lot of them squatting in rags on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs—Keith, Dayna, everybody—the signs saying “Please help me!” I thought, “What can we at New Pop Lit do to help these beaten-down writers?” A joint presentation?

Then I caught myself and asked myself a few questions. I outlined in my head a few facts and certainties.

Among them, that the n+1 staff consists of the so-called best and brightest. All are from Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and the like. They have access to the so-called best writers in the nation; bonded and branded, well-awarded and certified. Many of them published by the Big Five. n+1’s advisors include some of the shrewdest business people on the planet, including, as I mentioned, a big-time media mogul, as well as two of the publishing world’s most successful literary agents.

On top of this, for ten years n+1 has received more and better publicity than any literary journal in the country—including the McSweeney’s machine—always positive; in the most prestigious and widely-read newspapers and magazines. World-respected newspapers and magazines. Among them, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, the New York Times. And many, many smaller outlets. People love a designated winner. n+1 has received publicity and promotion that ANY business in any field could only dream of, much of it coming from the very center of media empire, New York City, n+1’s home base.

In short, everything has gone their way.

And they’re still not making it?

An intelligent person involved with a more modest project would try to learn from their mistakes. Would analyze the situation. During that analysis, I come up with three possible reasons for n+1’s unhappy plight. Feel free to tell me which one you believe is most, er, on the money.

A.) A bad product.

B.) Flawed thinking.

C.) On the wrong side of literary history.

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