Perhaps you've heard about Time magazine's redesign. Everything's different now! Let's check it out from stem to stern.
A brief word on the cover: We don't give a shit about the Photoshopping controversy, although given what happens inside, it might have been more accurate to paste a tear on a picture of Henry Luce. The cover is no better or worse than it needs to be. Okay, we're going in!
The first thing you notice is the GIANT SCREAMING HEADS. Sections and columnist bylines are set in what appears to be 800-point type, presumably to make them more visible to Time's aging readership. Helpful or not, there is something rather disturbing about the name KRAUTHAMMER when it takes up 50 per cent of the page. It's like an ad for a German porn flick.
Anyway, the magazine itself: Paging through, you just get the feeling that someone's trying so hard. It's like hanging out with your sorority sister's dad: He wants you to think that he's "hip" and "with it," but you can't help but notice each time he "accidentally" bumps into you, that his hairline is receding at an alarming rate and his breath reeks of the tomb.
The book opens with a section called 10 Questions, which are solicited from readers on Time.com (interactivity!) and put to a different celebrity. Chris Rock shows up in this go-round, and it's immediately clear why there will always be work for professional interviewers: readers are retards. Deborah Solomon could suffer through a simultaneous car wreck/brain aneurysm and she still wouldn't wonder whether Rock found Pootie Tang to be postmodern.
There are four "sections" in the new Time. Briefing (n e Notebook) is full of short, gossipy lists and items that try to be funny but fail in such a way that it results in an awkward feeling for the reader, who cannot turn the pages quickly enough. It's unfortunate, because that brings you right into the commentary section, which is like leaving a room at a party because there's no air conditioning only to find that the next room has as its main fixture Joe Klein.
The Well is the main section of the book, and the layout isn't actually terrible. There's a lot of white space amidst the GIANT SCREAMING HEADLINES. (White space, the love of designers and word-haters everywhere.) As for the articles themselves, they're exactly what you'd expect from Time. We're not sure whether this is Managing Editor Rick Stengel's attempt to bring the title up to what he believes is the Economist's level or Huey's plan to drag it down into the gutter where the majority of the magazine-reading public resides, but it reads like some unholy marriage, or sameness, of the two. ("The scene was like the Iranian answer to March Madness," opens a story on "Iran's War Within." Wow, March Madness! I can relate to that!) Knocking this section is sort of pointless; the whole point of Time, we suppose, is to summarize the news for people who want more than what they get from a half hour television broadcast, but, you know, not all that much more.
Life and Arts follow; they somehow seem more pinched than The Well. Maybe it's because they try to cram so much more crap into them. There's a servicey feeling, but not much in the way of news. (The ineluctable Will Ferrell's movie characters are often subject to humiliation? They are! Time helpfully provides a box with five other "classy clowns." Historical context!) Downtime, on the penultimate page, is there to "help you make your entertainment choices for the weekend." Casino Royale's on DVD, you guys! We know what we're doing Saturday night!) The back page is a completely unnecessary parody piece ("Top 10 Best Sellers of 2027") which proves that it actually is possible to make a lame joke about Ann Coulter.
"Every issue of TIME tells a larger story about the world we live in," notes Stengel in his introduction. The story we're learning from the magazine's redesign is that the general interest newsmagazine is dying out, at least as a print concern. Time seems to get this: There are plenty of URLs scattered throughout the book to send you to the web. Interestingly, they're all tiny; it's like they're afraid to let the old people know about it. Maybe they're worried that Ana Marie Cox's humor is a little too "saucy" for Ed and Mildred in Emporia, Kansas. In any event, too much of the magazine feels like it was focus-grouped to death. Maybe when core readership finally dies off they can give it another shot. And please, do something about this:
It's just so BIG.