I recently started receiving Esquire magazine! (There were air miles to be disposed of, so why not?) And so one came the other week and I sat down and read it. Not sure which issue it was, I think the new one, they all look alike—as in, I just looked at every cover this year and I can't identify which one I read from either word or pictures (what with their covers being a weird corporate last echo of Ray Gun). It was okay! Slightly irritating was that the whole magazine was one long listicle, with "bits" crammed into every corner of every page. The winky hetero-laddishness was a little irksome too, but I know I'm not their target subscriber, not being a credit-card loving, manscaping, overcoat-buying fathead, so I can brush that off. But then yesterday the magazine went and did themselves so wrong. They republished the classic 1966 Gay Talese piece "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" online.
Ageist metaphor alert! You know how you see some adorable fun old man limping along, perhaps clad in an eccentric robe, maybe headed for the beach? And then later you go over for tea and in his house are all these stunning pictures of a really hot guy and you're like, OH, same person? That's what republishing "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" is like. (In this tortured bad metaphor, Esquire is the old dude, obvs.)
Now, we all say that no one would publish "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" today, even though Esquire named it in 2003 as the best story they've ever published. Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. Probably it's not that they wouldn't publish it, it's that they wouldn't wait for it to be delivered during the endless and expensive write-around period.
And boy oh boy does it ever make the charticle age of the magazine look terrible.
Ron Rosenbaum has already addressed the dreck that is the current Esquire celebrity profile. So what's enraging about this Talese reprint is that the Esquire of now is pretending to be the Esquire that was then.
Pimping the glory days is awkward. It's even more degrading that pieces like this are their Free Quality Web Content. Need to fill up your website? Head to the morgue! It's too bad they don't have $250K to make a stand-alone web editorial unit and invest in a couple of experienced editors to work with young writers on stories that may (or may not!) make a splash. Guess the bottom line is too tight.
And guess we'll be seeing magazines and newspapers cough up their archives more and more on their websites. The New York Observer has been reprinting "Sex And The City" for the last couple years—but in that case too the reprint sometimes mocks the paper of the day.
Just make sure, if you go over to Esquire, that you don't click on the link for "more from this author," because there isn't any more to be had.