n+1, 1&2

Wed May 12, 2010

I ordered all of the issues of n+1 a while ago, and they arrived today. I’ve never actually read a print issue of it before, though I have followed the magazine’s career with interest.

I liked Joshua Glenn’s “The Black Iron Prison” from the first issue, and Chad Harbach’s piece on Oblivion has speculations about what we know now to be The Pale King that are interesting to consider in retrospect. I liked the essay by Masha Gessen also.

In the second issue, “Trends in Network Television Comedy” by Peter Frankel, a pseudonym, apparently, is my favorite thus far. Observe

TV and film development is just like the game Battleship. Executives flail about blindly, making wild guesses about what combination of coordinates will hit, and when they do stumble across something that connects, they just keep firing away at the same general area and hope to connect three or four more times with the same exact formula. Witness three CSI shows and soon a fourth Law and Order.

And, also:

There’s also the comedy of Dennis Miller, who strings together cultural references into rambling sentences that have the rhythm of jokes, but are not, frequently, jokes. He’ll say things like, “I haven’t seen a tax plan this poorly constructed since Tony Orlando did Jager shots with Buzz Aldrin,” and the crowd will, inexplicably, bust its gut.

That last bit, especially, is very apt. Speaking of television, I was reminded of a first-season voiceover David Simon did when he regretted giving in to network pressure to incorporate a flashback in a Wire episode when watching Lost last night. Except that I don’t think it was network pressure there. The Frankel essay, near the end, mentions that the decision to award Conan O’Brien the Tonight Show in 2009 is a good sign. The pseudonymous writer lets slip that he was in school with Jedediah Purdy in the midst of a bit about Jerry Seinfeld’s reaction to Purdy’s anti-irony treatise. You wouldn’t have to read very far in n+1 to guess what school this was.

(I also don’t get the bit about the pronunciation of Coetzee’s name in the Kunkel piece in the second issue. No one would think the last vowel is to be pronounced as schwa, would they? The only two options would honey bEE or BEEthoven, right? And the first syllable is like “foot,” right? Maybe that’s all part of the joke.)