The New Yorker's been America's voice of urbanity since 1925. It's given us EB White and James Thurber and Dorothy Parker. It published THE look at Hiroshima and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". The New Yorker, I would argue, has been America's greatest magazine for most of its run. Other magazines make great runs, then fade away. When you average them out, The New Yorker has been the best, year in, year out.
Which is a bit frustrating to those of us on the Left Coast. Why does everything always have to be about New York?
And so we've seen magazines with clever names like San Francisco or Los Angeles that managed to fit in the What's Happening Here element of The New Yorker and the We're So Cool aspect of The New Yorker, but managed to utterly fail at being interesting outside their own metro era.
As for me, I've given up on a western New Yorker ever happening. The era of the magazine might be over anyway. Time to move on.
And, as is so often the case, just when I stopped looking, I found what I was looking for.
The Believer is part of Dave Eggers's McSweeney's conglomerate and as such is pretentious without pretentions. A delightfully San Francisco combination.
One of the things these The Believer has in common with The New Yorker is that I have too many hand-me-down issues of both to ever bother actually subscribing. And: they're both excellent reads whether breaking news or years old.
The issue of The Believer I just finished was from September 2009. And it's the one that smacked me with the realization that: The Believer is the West's version of The New Yorker!
The Believer does not announce its urban affiliation on its cover and so I had never really thought about it as a New Yorker competitor. But in this issue, that affiliation stuck its head out of the closet. First, with its interview with Philip Zimbardo of the Stanford prison experiment. Zimbardo now lives in SF and, of course, the experiments took place down in the South Bay. Follow that with an interview with Nick Cave in which the interviewer starts off by saying:
I was at both Grinderman shows in San Francisco.As I think about it, The Believer could hardly be more Bay. Even though this same issue talked about Midwestern car salesmen and a Chicago "murder" and V.C. Andrews (who, best I can tell, was never within 500 miles of my house), homebase is always San Francisco.
Which takes it into New Yorker territory. The New Yorker too may talk about tugboats or George R.R. Martin, but that's only because any decent urbanite cares about the rest of the world---even myopic New Yorkers.
The Believer shares that DNA.
Though that doesn't mean The Believer looks much like The New Yorker. Because it doesn't, not much. It's not even traditional magazine shape or paper. It's perfect bound. It takes the idea of iconic covers much more literally. It runs interviews that look like interviews instead of like articles. It publishes poetry but not fiction. Most of its humor pieces don't look at all like Talk of the Town (though some do, sure).
The main thing that's missing is killer investigative pieces. Which is why---
WIRED IS THE WEST'S NEW YORKER!!!!!
Why have I never noticed this before? I guess because I subscribe?