The Reading Room
The Atlantic Monthly
If I had to choose one magazine to take to a desert island, it would probably not be one of the celebrated giants published in New York – Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, or Harpers -but the Atlantic. Its refreshingly outward looking focus reflects the fact that its origins as a literary and cultural commentary magazine lie in New England rather than Manhattan. It is a far less incestuous look at American politics and society than those house organs of the New York establishment. Its office has now moved from New England to Washington but still manages to write fascinating reportage about the world that is actually interested in what is happening elsewhere. The best long pieces on Iraq were by James Fellows in the magazine; Hannah Rosen’s pieces on faith in America are excellent for understanding how religion influences politics; and the Ex-Pat Brit and King of the Blogosphere Andrew Sullivan is unmissable. And, for my money, some of the best pieces that the late Christopher Hitchens wrote were in the Atlantic’s backpages. He did an an elegant line in the English literary canon – writing monthly profiles of giants like Wodehouse, Waugh, Mitford, Ballard, Isherwood that manage to be both gossipy and critically acute. He does an an elegant line in the English literary canon – writing monthly profiles of giants like Wodehouse, Waugh, Mitford, Ballard, Isherwood that manage to be both gossipy and critically acute. The magazine is published a quirky ten times a year. And in recent years the pay wall has been removed so that riches of its archive – including early pieces my Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson – are searchable online.
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