Remember how, for years and years, the year-end double issue of the New Yorker was the Winter Fiction issue, featuring several long stories by contemporary masters (sometimes excerpts of major novels, in fact), so that once the hectic part of the holidays were over, or when you were traveling, you could have something to read?
Yeah, I just got my copy of the New Yorker’s annual “World Changers” issue, a holiday tradition since 2009, when, as David Remnick explained at the time, it was decided that far-flung correspondence and profiles of innovators not included in the “Innovators” issue could draw two dozen more ad pages from bigger luxury brands.
Underlying all this is the presumption that fiction, an essentially solitary enterprise for both reader and writer in a way that reportage isn’t, is somehow less than relevant, has little to teach us about the world ever more at our fingertips. As if culture is somehow a petty abstraction not worth caring about—hell, as if the expanded capacity for emotion, intuition, insight and empathy you get from fiction is invalid because not instantaneously translatable.
The “World Changers” Issue—I’m still not convinced that it’s that different from a good issue of the New Yorker, except to the advertisers, but the premise is—fills us up with shiny innovative people and ideas to suggest at parties, like oh I just watched this TED talk where other people’s legwork helped me to think more attractively about vaguely applicable concepts. It flatters our illusions of interconnectedness, especially in tech-, money- and media-savvy way, like we all read The Economist on airplanes, constantly. Fuck you and the flat earth you surfed in on.
Fiction doesn’t flatter us, though it may console us.
Well, at least we’ll still have “Greetings, Friends!” (Right?)
(Related phenomenon: this infuriating LongReads thing, where people congratulate themselves for taking the time out of their busy days to read fucking magazine articles. What the fuck is up with that? All ya’ll can kindly get off my lawn.)