14 June 2006

The new New Statesman

Traditional left-of-centre weekly The New Statesman has revamped its design and image. The editor John Kampfner says that a new format and a new influx of columnists will provide "More scoops, more cutting edge insights". He's also expanded the magazine in size and price. I bought this week's issue and sat down to be impressed. So what's on offer? Major features on robotic weaponry, sex life in China, and an interview with David Cameron. Worthy, but unexciting. The articles are all too long. You might think that writers ought to be given the chance to develop their ideas at some length. May be, but I think they need to earn our attention, and despite the pleasure of turning glossy pages whilst sitting in an armchair, I would sooner scroll down screens of bloggers who get to the point more quickly - and have more to say.

In the book reviews (wherein I am most qualified to speak) there's a welcome critique of Melanie Philips rightwing rantings - but that also goes on too long. She's not worth so many column inches. In literary studies Margaret Drabble delivers a weak-kneed critique of David Lodge's latest book - a maundering account of his worries about writing a novel about Henry James at the same time as Colm Tobim was doing exactly the same. Poor thing. Private Eye described it as 'paranoid'. Books like this will be remaindered almost before the hit the shelves - and rightly so.

There are feeble celebrity columns by Steven Fry and Rory Bremner (with Julian Clarey to come - as it were) and Hunter Davis on his domestic arrangements for watching the world cup. This material is simply sub weekend supplement stuff.

The Staggers may claim it is going to be 'cutting edge' - but this just doesn't cut it at all. In the light of recent discussions concerning the pressure felt by traditional print from new Web-based media, this just looks tired and old-fashioned. I wonder if magazines like this would survive if they were not heavily subsidised by their owners (in this case, the former Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson).


more on PUBLISHING here


skipper said...

Did you mean Lodge's book would be remaindered? I thought it was very good. Not as well written as Toibin's book-whom I suspect was feeling for the 'Master's' style- but maybe an easier read. Apparently it was pure coincidence that both produced biographical books on the same guy. I see, incidentally, that the Irishman won some major Irish award for it recently.

Roy said...

Thanks Skipper

I did mean Lodge's book would be remaindered - but it wasn't the one you thought.

Having written a novel on Henry James, and having discovered that Colm Tobim was also writing one at the same time - Lodge then wrote another book about writing a novel about Henry James and discovering that somebody else was writing one at the same time.

He goes into neurotic and verging on paranoid detail about his fear of being bettered by a more talented writer.

And he treats his readers to moment-by-moment accounts of fluctuations in his feelings of ... etc, etc.

This is writing of the genre 'Disappearing up one's own arse'.