In other words, First Things defiantly refuses to accept the diminished condition of print today. The object you hold in your hands must be a pleasure to hold and read — or what good is a printed journal, with the cacophony of the Web sounding all around us? . . . [B]eauty, and text, and content, and presentation, and the experience of reading all matter — and matter greatly, to us and to the world in which we live.

Joseph Bottum, in an editorial sound-off upon the newly redesigned First Things. It does feel good to hold in your hands and read this revamped mag, it has to be said. Will that translate to an enduring position in the evolving marketplace? I certainly can’t say, but right now I like Bottum and his team.

2 Replies to “Upstream”

  1. While there is much to admire in this sentiment, I have to say I wrestle with it on a weekly basis. I’m a print addict, chiefly in the form of magazines. Many of those find their way into the family blue box after a month or two, but that is a habit I’ve learned after years and years of collecting mags & journals etc. that I will never read more than once. In this regard, the web has proven itself surprisingly helpful. Ease of disposal — and a small “footprint” — can also be good things.

  2. It is a tricky problem. I know the guilt over what follows from one’s need for continual exposure to print. (Also the shame of gross indecisiveness about when & what to send on back into the stream.)

    So I’m, like, an anti-waste professional? So I should be very firm on this point of need for restrictions (voluntary, ‘incentivized,’ whatever) to consumption & the overproduction that supports it?

    What I think about here is the connection between cultivating taste for things really worthy of ‘consumption’ and acquiring the sensibility that prefers to conserve rather than to overuse. It’s a complicated and something paradoxical relationship, as I see it. And here, re. the genial defiance of Jody Bottum above, it’s not so much separating the ‘good’ periodical & other lit. from the mass-market — a distinction you’d want to be first in line to challenge, I expect, maybe — I have in mind, but the particular place that reading well arguably has to hold, toward this cultivating, toward such a conserving-minded culture.

    (Eh — a hint, there, it appears, of some ongoing thinking about mutual necessity & complementarity of liberal & conservative traditions — what I think we should mean when we use the terms, at any rate.)

    Would like to have a chance to develop these questions a bit. If this were a fully functional blog, I guess that’s exactly what I’d try to do. Maybe I’ll post some thoughts yet.

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