Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary this year. Bill Morris offers his thoughts on the magazine and an exhibition of it in the Butler Library at Columbia University.
In a land where most magazines have the lifespan of a fruit fly, how is it possible for one magazine to survive — and thrive — for 75 years? Janet Hutchings has a theory: “The great power that Frederic Dannay gave this magazine was its variety and its reach.”
For the first time in American publishing, the magazine published any good mystery it could: “hard-boiled stories, classic English mysteries, noirs, suspense, cozy mysteries, the work of literary writers.” It broke down barriers to what was acceptable to publish. “Now, writers of every stripe gleefully plunder one or more genres, stitching together scraps or horror, pulp, crime, fantasy, ghost stories, mysteries, westerns.”
If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
The strong Christian review magazine Books & Culture has announced it will close the bar and usher everyone out the door over the coming months. The next issue will be the final printed issue, and they will continue to publish online for 2017.
Alan Jacobs shares his thoughts, saying many people esteemed B&C.
“Alex Star, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine and now an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, once told me that he read every issue in full. Cullen Murphy, former editor of the Atlantic, told me that John Wilson is the best editor in the business.”
Many years ago, B&C editor John Wilson wrote for the NY Times about evangelicals as they are depicted in literature. “Charmless, ignorant, homophobic and either brazenly hypocritical or obnoxiously sincere, they quote Scripture unctuously and have bad sex.” (Get an excerpt through the link above or read the whole essay here.)
But B&C is closing, and I ask myself what shall I do now? What shall I do? I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
With my hair down, so.
What shall we do to-morrow?
Do we view ourselves as political beings? Would we say our minds are bound by cultural cords? I don’t think most of us would describe ourselves in these ways. We think of ourselves as independently minded and capable of standing on our own, but if we allow our attention to be directed by the popular press, we are training ourselves in groupthink and tweaking our moral compasses.
Not long ago, the media was celebrating the suicide of a terminally ill woman. They repeated uncritically the ridiculous arguments for suicide being a matter of dignity and honor. How long will it be before they celebrate someone making public arguments about the right to suicide without illness? “Ask not for whom the bell tolls,” he’ll say, “so I wanted to die on my own terms.” Doesn’t the press already support this the line of thought?
This week, they have celebrated another vein of self-destruction, and I’m troubled by the many people have said it’s none of their business. It is your business. It’s just as harmful as celebrating suicide. We are not islands. When others buy and sell vanity in the marketplace, we can’t just ignore it or many more will be hurt by it.
Take the idea that some people don’t believe they should live without disability. Does the press celebrate this yet? Is any form of identity up for grabs?
I think we need to reject the popular press at large. Many individuals already have, but I want to encourage select business leaders to take this up.
Grocers who are willing to sell the regular line of magazines everyone else sells should reconsider what I assume are practical reasons for selling what they would not want their families to read. It doesn’t matter if all the publications are bundled together by the vendor. Insist on being allowed to sell only what you want to sell. Make noise about wanting a choice in the titles you offer, and don’t surrender to the bad logic that says someone is going to sell it, so it might as well be you. A vendor can’t force you to make immoral choices. By refusing to offer pop culture and other immoral magazines, you help others avoid buying them. You encourage them to think independently, as they already believe they do.
It feels like a throwback idea from the ’80s, but is it not still a fair idea?