The Paris Review
It’s usually not a good idea to subscribe to a fiction magazine. If there is a variety of authors and styles represented, then it tends to be a hit or miss affair. Some stories/authors resonate and others fall flat. If there is a narrow focus then, even if you like that focus, the magazine will start to feel stale after a few issues.
However, the issue I read of The Paris Review largely avoided these pitfalls. It’s a 200+ page quarterly containing poetry, a few interviews, a half dozen short stories, and a serialized novel. That’s a lot of material! Surprisingly, I liked all of the prose even though it seems quite varied in subject matter. I didn’t ‘get’ some of it right away, but most of the stories presented meanings if I marinated on them a bit. I’ve even considered re-reading some of them to see what I may have missed the first time around. The serialized novel was thoughtfully written. While I’m not sure what the thrust of the story is, it’s only the second chapter. I’m happy to have found a magazine like this so I can maintain some connection with contemporary writers and writing. That’s usually missing amid my classicist reading preferences.
While the interviews left me cold, it was likely because the subjects didn't resonate with me more. What I’m unlikely to warm to is the poetry. I found virtually all of it typically contemporary: self-referential to the point of opacity, self-consciously arty, devoid of the love of language, and full of grindingly unevocative imagery. I’m hoping I just hit a bad issue. Otherwise, I can only pray the poetry content was higher than normal because the issue fell over National Poetry Month.
Luckily, the bulk of The Paris Review is fantastic prose that is more than enough justification for the subscription.
Astronomy has been around for a long time, and I have a long history with it. I read my first issues back when I was in grade school! I’ve come back to the magazine many times since. While it’s definitely a lighter magazine than Scientific American, what makes Astronomy such a good read is the tight focus. The magazine does a great job bringing the most interesting developments in planetary science and even a bit of astrophysics to the general reader. Best of all, there is excellent coverage of the most interesting developments from current space exploration missions and satellites. Complete with the ‘pretty pictures’ we all love to see, Astronomy has an instinct for what someone with a general interest in the title subject wants to read.
If you are a telescope or space photography enthusiast, it’s hard to imagine what could be better than this publication. It contains plenty of content about how to see what and when to see it. I skip over all this material since I do not own a telescope, and there’s probably too much light pollution where I live for it to make sense buying one. While that’s a lot of pages I’m not reading each issue, I don’t mind at all. It’s even kind of a plus, given the volume of magazine reading I’m undertaking of late.
This is an absolutely beautiful magazine about art and art collecting. It screams high end and delivers a luxurious tactile and visual appeal in every issue. The latter is especially important in a magazine about the visual arts. Apollo tackles all periods of art from ancient art all the way to contemporary painting. The writing is rather scholarly but avoids being stuffy for the most part. Of course – small quibble – there seems to be an odd bashfulness about acknowledging the sexuality of homosexual artists. The words “companion” and “friend” have appeared in some articles, as if the writers were at a tea party in the 1950s.
The magazine has an extra dimension in that almost every issue contains an article about a major art collector. While I can’t imagine I’ll ever become so expert in collecting, I find it super interesting to read their thoughts on their collections, why they collect, and how they got started. Kind of inspiring really. There are also tremendous book reviews.
I’ve been introduced to many artists in the pages of Apollo and, thanks to the scholarly approach to the writing, the profile's of the artists include their milieu. This has introduced me to some relatively obscure, yet highly rewarding, authors. I’ve picked up several novels based on references in an Apollo article, sometimes being exposed me to entirely new genres. This enriches me as well as heightening my appreciation for the art I’m viewing. Tremendous publication!