I was reading a piece in the latest GQ magazine this morning over oatmeal and coffee. “Operation Iraqi Vacation” by Saki Knafo is a wonderful piece. It’s first-person journalism, memoir, and personal essay all wrapped into one. And it got me thinking about where all the good writing is these days? What I mean by that is this – with all the new platforms for writing, where can one find the truly solid, authentic, meaningful writing?
It’s not a simple answer, really. But I do have my own observations. GQ, as much as it can be an advertising hound (more ad pages than real writing), it still has at least one tremendous piece of writing every month. But my favorite old-style magazine for great writing remains Esquire. In its heyday it was unmatched. Hemingway wrote in Esquire, for goodness sake! But even today, it has a marvelous bench of writers, consistently producing engaging, interesting, sometimes groundbreaking work, and much of it is personal essay/journalism.
Certainly there’s plenty of good writing on the web. SLATE comes to mind, and there are others. Sure, there’s a lot of junk on the web. But there are gems too. Obviously, the great writing in the NY Times, The New Yorker, etc. is still there and of course found on the web.
One other thing today – related, somewhat.
It’s the birthday today of poet Billy Collins. Who once said, “My poetry is suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that, but I hope there’s enough imaginative play in there that it’s not simply poems about barbecuing.”
I love this! It reminds me that memoir and personal essay does not have to be fantastical. It does not have to be incredibly harrowing. It just has to relate to the human condition in a way that is uniquely reflective. This also reminds me of John Updike’s famous line, “My only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me—and to give the mundane its beautiful due.”
Live your day, remember your moments.
David W. Berner