The Dud Thinkpiece

The New York Times has profiled some young people who briefly ran a tiny circulation newspaper in New York during the pandemic and are now launching a brand-spanking-new online publication, The Byline. Running a small press newspaper runs the obvious danger of being an exercise in nostalgia, but now that danger extends to running upstart an upstart, online magazine.

Ms. Lorenz, a former New York Times reporter who is writing a column for Byline, roll-called a number of defunct or diminished sites: “There was this middle ground when I was coming up — xoJane, Jezebel, Rookie Mag, Hello Giggles, Man Repeller — these midlevel media outlets where you could get your feet wet.”

“It’s all gone,” she said, “and no one has built anything to replace it.”

I dipped into one article about the Wikipedia that was getting linked in places, and found it strange. I won’t say it was bad, but the first thing the writing reminded me of was chat-gpt. (“Their tireless efforts are the building blocks upon which the internet’s foundations rest, with Wikipedia standing tall as a testament to their ingenuity and collective wisdom.”)

As it happens, I’m reading The Dud Avocado, which features pretentious Americans in Paris, self-conscious and conspicuous in their efforts to make a literary scene happen.

“Listen, Jim, about this new magazine we’re getting under way: first of all I want to make it quite clear, see, that we’re not having anything to do with all this effete chi-chi they’re trying to unload on us now.” A would-be Editor disdainfully brandished two small Paris-American magazines he’d just been sold. “I mean ours is going to be really experimental, in the true sense of the word, for Christ’s sake. These other bastards must be walking in their sleep or something. Look at this-” he flipped through the pages scornfully. “A reprint of an early Spender poem and a lousy Ugo Betti translation — Ugo Betti, for crying out loud.”

The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy

Maybe I should pitch my own lousy Ugo Betti translation.