July 08, 2003

Off the Rails

Got the latest issue of the Oxford American yesterday. Back in January, I wrote about why the new, improved OA pissed me off. Since then, I hadn't paid attention to the issues beyond a quick "skim and trash" procedure to make me feel like I was getting my money's worth.

But yesterday the July/August issue arrived, and it had a very well done article on Jim Hatfield, the con artist and petty criminal who tried to realize his dream of becoming a professional writer by inventing history. Anyway, I was impressed with the article and decided to read the rest of the magazine, beginning with the Letters page.

All I can say is, the hell, people. Apparently, I wasn't the only person who took issue with the reissue of the OA. However, the letters section went beyond criticism of the mag--it was an outright flamewar worthy of the comment threads on a site like Little Green Footballs.

Here, let me share the fun:

First, we get the usual selection of letters that actually reference articles in the magazine. Whatever. But toward the end, it gets a little, well, wacky. One lady writes to complain about a photo of a turtle being held upside down. TURTLE TORTURE! DEAR GOD, NO! She cancels her subscription in a huff. (Note: she hails from Sonoma, CA. Insert regional mockery here.)

Another guy writes to complain about the photo essays in general. I have to concur, on the grounds that they are an obvious way to "pad out" the issues without having to pay writers for columns. That would be a legitimate complaint--the new OA seems awfully thin on content--but he focuses on the fact that seven pictures of old people in Florida just suck. Okay. Moving on...

Then the "Stop the Liberal Agenda" letters begin. Best quote: "Spare me the anti-Southern views and youthful angst!" Hee! That made me giggle.

And this one, which I will quote at length, and which also complains about the photos of old people:

"We are not a bunch of inbred, Marlboro smoking tattooed, tater-eating, screwing-our-first-cousins bumpkins...And what is with the nine pictures of old Northern women and men sitting in nursing homes...Who wants to look at a bunch of wrinkled Yankees?"

I must've missed something good with that old folks issue...Hee! Moving on, we get a letter of praise from a Yankee (oh, THAT will go over well with the "you Yankeefied the magazine" crowd), someone who cc'd Trent Lott on his letter to the editor about the same subject, and then this crazy-ass screed that gave me a blogwar flashback:

"I see that you have run afoul of the `don't diss my Fuhrer' mentality so often expressed by right-wingers of the Republican party, who organize these letter-writing campaigns to intimidate those who have other ideas about the country or state they live in."

Yep, we've managed to invoke Godwin's law on the letters page of the OA. The writer goes on to reveal all sorts of weird southern self-loathing, adds some conspiracy theory speak and a dash of vitriolic name calling, and finishes by claiming that the critical letter writers are intolerant and hateful. I had to check and see if the guy's last name was Pot, because if so, he should expect a call from Kettle ANY DAY NOW. Geez, dude, calm down!

Oh, and in case you're interested, the fiction selection still sucked. Guess I'm glad I'm letting my subscription lapse; I really don't need the added stress of flamewars in my coffee table reading, you know?

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 8, 2003 09:15 AM

The music issue is most worth it.

i try to step over all the pitchers and the black squiggeldies in between.

Posted by: red clay at July 10, 2003 12:26 AM

I agree that the new OA sucks -- even the music issue is a disappointment these days. That's hard for me b/c I was there when it was "born". Incidentally, did you read the essay a few issues ago where the poor English instructor at a FL comm. coll. was trying to get his students to care about Emily Dickinson (he should try economics)? Pure elitist crap, in my opinion, and now I see he is to become a regular contributor. Nuff said.

Posted by: St. Caffeine at July 10, 2003 03:40 PM

Caff -

Yeah, I read it, thinking it might be interesting, but the guy was a completely insufferable, pretentious, unlikable narrator, and I remember wishing one of his students would knock him upside the head with a heavy book Flannery O'Connor style.

Bleh. It's a phenomenon I liken to the nouveau riche, who feel they have to flaunt their wealth--the nouveau intellectuals, who must flaunt their intellectual cred. It's silly. If you're smart, it will come through in your writing WITHOUT continual, condescending, oblique references to the ignorance of others.

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