George V. Higgins was one of the best contemporary authors in the state of Massachusetts and elsewhere as far as the crime genre goes. His masterpiece (and first novel) is considered to be The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which opens with one of my favorite first sentences:
“Jackie Brown at 26, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns.”
Higgins died in 1999, before reaching the age of 60, but his impact will be felt far longer. I write of him not in appreciation, although I do appreciate him, but because the other day I found myself wading through a stack of magazines — those glossy sheets of paper stapled or glued together that had their Golden Age in the 1950s through 2000 — flipping with my finger through a iPad cluttered with apps from some other “magazines” and I suddenly remembered Higgins’ weekly column in the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed section: The Lit’ry Life in which he randomly related his reading through the books, magazines and papers from the week before. Higgins inherited that column from its original author, George Frazier, perhaps the most elegant columnist in the city of Boston.
I wish there was an example I could quote, but the column was immensely useful to me as a reference and recommendation source for great long-form essays and journalism. From the Atlantic to Harpers, Time to Foreign Affairs, Higgins somehow find the time in between his law practice and his novels to read and read some more and then summarize that in a succinct 200 words every week.
Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I figure it’s time to do the same, especially since an avalanche of reading material comes out of my post office box every week and it seems like a full time hobby just to skim it all. Add to that my vow not to become overloaded with junk information from the Internets and the Facebook, but to focus on quality, and well, heck, I might as well make a habit of noting what I’m reading and think you should too.
So, first off, the basis of my reading ramblings are:
- The Atlantic Monthly: both in print and online. This was the crown jewel of Boston publishing until it decamped for Washington, DC, but the writing is superb and I am a devout fan of James Fallows.
- The Economist: again, both online and in print. This is the magazine that, like cod liver oil, is taken dutifully as a chore but is good for you. While one might joke about reading a six-page exploration of the economy in the Maldive Islands, the business coverage is superb and the columns tart and succinct. All I know about the Euro Zone, I owe to the Economist.
- The New Yorker: online only. A joy to read in the post-Tina Brown era. David Remnick continues to produce a masterpiece. Any publication that publishes John McPhee and Roger Angell is fine by me.
- Monocle: print, haven’t checked out their website. This recent (and expensive) addition to my stack, is a uber-trendy global style monthly edited by Tyler Brule (there are all sorts of diacretical marks in Brule, but darned if I can find the keys to produce them) the founder of the late 90s style bible Wallpaper (which I never read). Monocle is part Economist, part GQ, part hipster e-zine.
- WoodenBoat: print only. I believe the noblest manmade object is a wooden boat, and this monthly is a pleasure to read for any armchair maritime historian or sufferer of boat lust.
- The New York Times: I still get it in print and read it both on paper and the iPad. The Sunday Magazine is a favorite, as is the Book Review. David Carr and Gretchen Morgenson and Nick Bilton and John Markoff and ….the talent goes on and on.
- Wired: I only read it on the iPad. That is continues to march along is a bit of surprise. Anything as ahead of its time as Wired was from the beginning seems doomed to age and wither soonest, but not Wired.
- Cape Cod Times and the Barnstable Patriot: local news I read online (and pay for). Disclaimer, I am a former Cape Cod Times “special” writer, having spent the summer of 1980 beginning my journalism career in the newsroom on Main Street in Hyannis.
All of these have one key thing in common: I pay for them and probably will continue to pay for them. Notable omissions: The Boston Globe which I probably should read for the Red Sox coverage. Forbes (I spent 13 years there, and grew so accustomed to receiving a box of first-run freebies every two weeks that when I left in 2000 I never got around to paying for a subscription).
So, going forward, I’ll try to find the time every week to write a synopsis of what I’ve read and recommend as well as what books are loaded in the Kindle. Right now I’m just beginning Gore Vidal’s first novel, Williwaw, and finished over the weekend Steven Pressfield’s account of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, Gates of Fire. More to come later.