A conversation between a New York City bookseller and n + 1 magazine evokes pretty plainly the climate in which small literary and intellectual publications are trying to make a go of it:
Bookseller: This is a baby-stroller and pacifier crowd. Very conservative tastes. This is why we sold so many copies of that loathsome Corrections. Which, you know, we have a rent of seventeen thousand dollars, so —
n+1: Not so loathsome.
Bookseller: Oh, loathsome, quite loathsome. This just isn’t, you know, it’s just not where things are happening. Maybe things are happening somewhere else. But here, we did some readings, a few years ago, with Open City —
n+1: They’re good.
Bookseller: Yes well and I used to invite a lot of people, and they’d say, “Great!” And then I’d tell them where it is and they’d say, “Oh. Sorry.” The most we ever got, I’m saying the very most, was fifty people, and —
n+1: Fifty’s not bad.
Bookseller: — and not one of them bought a book.
Kevin of Languor Management applies for a job and is grilled on his reading habits in such detail that I’m convinced the interviewing editor is personally responsible for implementing the U.S.A. “Patriot Act“:
Executive editor: I’ve never heard of the last two.
Applicant: Voinovich is Russian and Pamuk is Turkish, both books were recently translated . . .
Executive editor: from Russian and Turkish?
Executive editor: “Yes” what? They were both translated from Russian and Turkish?
Applicant: Well, no. One was translated from Russian and the other from Turkish.
Executive editor: Translated from Russian and Turkish into what?
After mulling over how to find an undecided voter for an upcoming bit (“Well,” Stewart muses, “you’d have to go out and find a fucking idiot”), he turns to the “headline” item that will kick off tonight’s broadcast: the speech that Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi gave to a joint session of Congress that morning. . . .
All morning the show’s researchers trawled video of recent Bush speeches and located instances where the president used the precise words that Allawi did (“Iraq is safer,” “The United States is safer”), and cut them into a rapid montage. At the 6:30 taping of the show, Stewart played the montage. Then, in a signature move, he shot a bemused look into the camera. “It’s almost like the United States wrote the speech,” he said, with puzzled disingenuousness. “But . . . that . . . couldn’t be? . . .”