Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My more fanatic readers might know that, years ago, I published several articles in The Atlantic, most importantly a cut from Eagle Dreams that was later selected for Best American Travel Writing of 2002.

Shortly thereafter, the magazine was sold to new owners, and I received a correct but cool letter informing me that my kind of writing (whatever that is) would no longer be welcome there and that, more comprehensibly, that they would be relying more on staff.

I was a bit hurt but such things were, I assumed, routine; my good editor had departed to (!) Vanity Fair. For along time I thought little about it, though I was mildly perturbed by the amount of Animal Rights- toned remarks and even stories. They also hired one or two vegan writers (not as far as I can see to write on AR or vegan topics) and published a few reviews reflecting such viewpoints. Their wonderful and carnivorous food writer Corby Kummer (our four beast two- day South Italian red sauce owes much to him) was not fired but relegated mostly to the cyber version.

What crystallized my growing suspicions was an article attacking what the writer called "foodie gluttony". I can accept that Anthony Bourdain might not be to everyone's taste (though he is the skinniest glutton I have ever seen--- see photo below!) But earnest, Green, "eat mostly vegetables" Michael Pollan?? As far as I can see his only sins are to eat good meat and to have tried hunting...

My suspicious nature wide awake now, I found explicit confirmation of the magazine's quite unstated editorial bias in the July- August issue. In a review of the life's work of childrens' book author Beverly Cleary, Jonathan Schwartz, the magazine's literary and national editor, who arguably sets the tone and certainly decides, for instance, what books are reviewed, says:

"For instance,Henry feeds his dog horse meat, as kids did in 1950-- a fact that my son, raised an animal welfarist and a vegetarian, has to reconcile with Henry's likable and admirable qualities."

WTF?? I can accept that they don't want me, and have the right not to buy my work or ideas. I feel a little worse about not having any likable or admirable qualities. But does he, or the otherwise mainstream magazine, reject all carnivorous readers, even those with demonstrably good environmental histories like mine? Where does he stand on, say, domestication? Should my dogs be vegetarian or simply not exist? I think if the magazine actually espouses such an agenda those of us who buy it should be, in the interest of candor, informed. I for one have doubts about renewing.

Below, Libby and a more famous glutton:


Pai said...

Man, I have such a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain, I'm not ashamed to admit it! =P

The militant-vegan stuff is so common all I can do is sigh. I assume their constant hostility and nastiness is due to the lack of animal protein in their diet.

Anonymous said...

I've searched in vain. What's your recipe for four beast, two-day, South Italian red sauce? Because I need to try that as soon as I cancel my VF subscription. (Just kidding. I've never subscribed to VF.)

Steve Bodio said...

No, no, cancel ATLANTIC ! ;-)

VF actually had a falconry piece a few years ago. It probably doesn't hurt for that venue that RFK Jr And Tony Huston are falconers, as was director John Richardson.

Under I think "Red Sauce", Kummer's version should be in Atlantic's archives, unless they purged it. I will eventually blog a version though it may have to wait for cooler weather.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Atlantic wuz uh ocean, where fish eat each other all the time....L.B.

Matt Mullenix said...

Perhaps a boy "raised an animal welfarist and vegetarian" will one day, in an enlightened and progressive Atlantic future, be able to sue his father for damages?

Gil said...

Ah, the zeal of the tyrants of veganism barely surpasses that of Born Again Amway salesmen.
Bourdain had a great series on Montana featuring R. Chatham and Jim Harrison. It was on Youtube for some time before it was yanked...

PBurns said...

Nothing to worry about, I assure you.

You see, in the print world these days few are predators and most are prey.

Take a good hard look at The Atlantic.

Note the eyes that look out the side of its head, but cannot see straight in front.

What's that tell you about what kind of animal this is?

Can it see the future? I doubt it.

The editors here will not be employed forever, and indeed in recent years the magazine has been bought and sold and moved from one location to another.

There was a place for such magazines in the past, but I am not sure there is a place for them in the future. The world is changing and these paper dinosaurs have not yet figured out how to capitalize themselves for the Next Economy.

And, to put a point on it, neither has anyone else.

In a world in which I get the BBC, CNN and 500 newspapers a day on my phone (a simple off-the-shelf model) and I have 100 channels on my, and global radio in my pockets, what is The Atlantic bringing to the table? How is it going to compete for my time with 10,000 words pieces?

Yes, there's some very good stuff in there, I have no doubt, but is there enough water in the world to float that weight?

Nope. Not in this modern world of more than 200,000 tightly-targeted advertising opportunties and free ads on Craig's list to boot.

The Washington Post only exists at all because of educational fraud being perpetrated by Kaplan University.

The New York Times is bleeding money like a drunken sailor on shore leave and will close within two years.

Newsweek was sold for a dollar and the assumption of its debts.

US New and World Report bellied over like a fish caught in rip tide of red ink.

There's even a web site (or used to be) called "The Magazine Deadpool" which took odds on which of the 300-500 magazines a year were going to die first. The Atlantic? It's not dead yet, but it has a hacking cough and it's a long winter ahead and I predict the summer will end with not too much in the freezer.

The wolves circle, but with every turn, there is an opportunity.

My suggestion is to buy up low-cost scrub on the far outskirts of Magdalena and advertise it an "artists colony" for unemployed magazine editors with their sniffing pretensions and degrees from Harvard and Yale. It will be filled soon enough!


BorderWars said...

Gotta love Bourdain. He's one of the few food writers who puts TASTE above tangential concerns with food like politics and prestige (which seem to dominate other food writers and critics). The sort of guy who wouldn't be afraid to drink a $9 bottle of wine because he enjoyed it more than the $400 bottle.

I enjoy his coverage of peasant and street food and the comparative lack of pretentiousness in his prose... he doesn't try and find an excuse to use "jejune" or "nugatory" or "Guignol" when describing the food. And he doesn't pretend it tastes better because it fits some political agenda.

Matt Mullenix said...

Patrick I don't think Steve needs those particular neighbors!

grapfhics said...

Start cooking bacon, and lots of it.
that aroma should bring them 'round.

Andrea said...

I've subscribed to the Atlantic for about 10 years and am seriously disappointed with the drop in quality that started maybe 3 years ago. First the fiction feature got axed, now we have a barely funny mock advice column on the last page. The main articles are still pretty good, though I am sad that I haven't seen Hitchens there for a while. Yeah, they changed their food column (which often had a good recipe) to some vegan fool who never wastes an opportunity to diss meat. I think I'm letting this subscription lapse...

Steve Bodio said...

We should all probably complain though I doubt it will do any good. If (when?) Hitch goes there won't be anyone worth reading anyway; I'd say Robert Kaplan but where has HE been??

Retrieverman said...

Let's call a spade a spade here:

This is elite liberal cultural imperialism.

R.S.Breth said...

I'm disappointed - but not surprised.