Sunday, November 20, 2005

Entertainment Weekly is one of those magazines I love until I hate it. As with Pitchfork, I'm excited when they give something I already like or that I'm really hoping will be good an "A" (or in Pitchfork's case, a nine), and I'm pissed when they pan something I like. Then they're idiots (Pitchfork particularly).

So my feelings were mixed when I read the most recent issue and saw they'd given Billy Collins' new book the featured review spot. That's not the problem. I like Billy Collins, and anytime a book of poetry is getting the full-page treatment in a pop culture magazine, well, that's a good thing. What gets me is the reviewer's approach. "Do poems scare or bore you? Try Billy Collins on for size." It continues in this vein: "Billy Collins is like the best buggy-whip maker of the 21st Century. While many have an almost allergic reaction to text with ragged right-hand margins, they might change their minds if they opened (BC's new book)" "Perhaps because his work is accessible and widely read, and perhaps because people (and not just English department colleagues) actually pay money to hear him speak, he doesn't get much respect in some serious literary circles." You get the idea. What a cliched, condescending, and intellectually lazy approach. They don't frame their review of the new French film with "Most people think French movies are really boring..." Or start all hip hop album reviews with "Does rap scare you? Do you think it's all 'bitches and ho's? Do you think it's 'not music'" Ugh. I'm risking charges of sour grapes, but come on! Don't talk down to your readers, EW. You're always reviewing "serious literary fiction" so you know your readers aren't stupid. Review things on their own terms, please. Otherwise you're not doing us poets the big favor you think you are. And there should be a law against any other person using the word "accessible" in relation to Billy Collins, damn it.

I feel much better now, thank you.

9 Comments:

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read the same thing, pete, and had a similar reaction. also of note is the little block of four new poetry titles on the second page, with a heading something like "What's New in Poetry".... now, I love Patti Smith, but really, does SHE need the publicity of a spot there? Like you said, it feels like they think they're doing this cool thing by featuring poetry for once, but it feels very, well, Entertainment Weekly-esque.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Shaftway said...

I'm with ya Pete. My subscription is about to lapse and I am debating the renewal (though I know I will give in eventually. We've been together too long for me to give it up now. But I shall sign up under a new name using a card from a newsstand copy to enjoy the great 'introductory offer'). It seems there was more pleasure to be gained from EW in years past. Ah well. Our Saturday afternoon beer and bath dates are still a treat.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger tina said...

Pete and Stephen,

You guys have Saturday afternoon beer and bath dates?! Sweeeeeeeet.

 
At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Shaftway said...

oh. Now, Pants...I meant me and my EW.
But my tub is pretty big...

 
At 11:49 PM, Blogger pete. said...

It's Stephen King's fault isn't it, Shaftway? That nerd just wants to ruin everything. But, more importantly: SHAFTWAY READ MY BLOG!!

 
At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Shaftway said...

Yeah that fucking Stephen King is super lame. And then it's the Pop Culture Quiz. Where are the stupid questions? Or remember when they used to do profiles on specific years? Ah well.

And yes I have entered the blog reading world (no Shaftway blog as of yet. I can't figure out how the damned thing works). I know it means that people won't talk about me and long for my approval any longer. That's the price I must pay to keep up with my dear friends.

 
At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, i actually like Stephen King's columns in EW...and I've never read a single book by him. I loved his recent one about the media, for example...

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger pete. said...

Oh, I acutally like some of Stephen King's books (though it's been years since I read one) but in that column he raditates, for me, too much of "dark hipster with something to prove" sorta vibe. Check out Pet Semetary. I remember that was scary. A friend from my first year dorm is actually writing the remake (he also wrote the screenplay for that Nicole Kidman "Body Snatchers" remake...weird).

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger wherlinb said...

I have to be the voice of dissention here. Poetry is outside the vein of mainstream folks, by and large. I mean, when's the last time a tome of poems hit the NYT's bestseller list? Sure, EW's comments are condesending to those who are in the swim, but most-a folks-a (that's my Mark E. Smith impression, Pete) will not gravitate towards poetry without a healthy shove.

 

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