Issue Nine of n + 1 is another terrific collection of reviews, fiction and social commentary.
Produced in Brooklyn twice a year, the journal is always sane and always funny, but you never know what the crew of writers overseen by Keith Gessen (above, left) and Mark Greif (center, with editor-at-large Marco Roth, right) might zero in on in each issue.
The new issue has an excerpt from frequent contributor Sam Lipsyte’s hilarious new novel, “The Ask”; Greif’s brilliant piece on the way “Octomom” took the media fall for the financial collapse of 2008; an overview of the Jane Austen + zombies publishing genre; and two excellent pieces on “Narcoterror in Mexico.”
n + 1 always starts with a section called “The Intellectual Situation” in which anonymous writers tackle some of the biggest issues and themes of the day.
“Addled” is one of the best analyses of the impact of the Internet on advertising and print that I’ve ever read. Whole books and conferences on the subject — which scares people in my business to death (with good reason) — have not addressed the subject so pointedly.
The anonymous writer notes that advertising has now escaped from the confines of newspapers and magazines and TV to confront us everywhere we look on the Internet (and in new public places thanks to digital TV technology):
“With so many new surfaces available to ads, newspapers will never make close to what they formerly earned, no matter how often we reload the Times website. As the space open to advertising continually expands, the value of each individual ad must correspondingly decline.”
“Of course, ad revenue could go up if companies started increasing ad budgets, but over the past ninety years, through the rise of TV, radio and the Internet, total advertising spending has remained almost constant at between 2 and 3 percent of GDP.”
“Ads themselves are premised on the infiniteness and malleability of human desire; ad budgets, on the other hand, recognize the relatively fixed and inelastic nature of disposable incomes.”
The anonymous n + 1 writer believes the rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter could spell the doom of traditional, salaried media:
“The extension of advertising to the domain of private chatter undermines the competitiveness of anything that costs more than private chatter to produce. Marx blamed the below-subsistence wages of the proletariat on the reserve army of labor; the below-subsistence revenues of the Times can be blamed on the reserve army of the social network.”
In another part of “The Intellectual Situation” the writer takes exception to the idea that the Kindle and the Nook will promote more reading of what we now call a “book.”
In response to publishing world hype that stated “The Internet is the largest group of people who care about reading and writing ever assembled in history,” the n + 1 critic agrees that there is a lot of reading and writing going on in cyberspace, “But what kind of reading, what kind of writing?”
“The Internet is the largest group of people ever assembled, period. Some join ‘Infinite Jest’ discussion groups. Others can’t read to the end of a wire story. Book-length literature is the product of certain historical conditions, of a certain relationship to written language. Assimilate book-ism to webism and the book looks like nothing so much as an unreadably long, out of date, and non-interactive blog post.”
(You can find more info on n + 1 via the bookmark on this page.)