…is gone. That is, TNY will now publish only one all-fiction issue per year. Editor David Remnick explains that money is the reason, and this isn’t a surprise – the magazine can get a lot more in ad revenue, publishing a “world changers” issue in its place.
I haven’t hunted much around the blogosphere, but no doubt there’s much weeping and gnashing of flesh about this, among those who like the fiction TNY publishes, and – especially – among both those who’d love to publish a story in it, and those whose senses are sharpened, to look for any sign that indeed there is less and less demand, even among high-brow readers, for complex narrative content, in textual form.
I’d argue, though, that this shift shows that demand to be as strong as ever – it’s just that today’s New Yorker readers prefer non-fiction narratives, and particularly celebrity biographies. Of course part of the reason is that the New Yorker is less highbrow than it used to be, and the middlebrow demand for biographies is as strong as ever. And the high-middlebrow market, which the New Yorker has owned for decades, is eager to read this stuff too, provided the subjects are people whom they admire or recognize as having lives and goals similar to their own. Also key too, I think, is that these bios be crafted in line with their own view of how the world works, and should work – that is, these pieces need to deliver a message in keeping with the dominant secular-humanist ideology.
The New Yorker‘s audience, these days, isn’t made up of aesthetes. I think of the typical New Yorker reader as an assistant desk chief at the State Department, or a program manager at an environmentalist non-profit. The stereotypical “New Yorker short story” is targeted to them – they care about culture, and appreciate literary fiction, but given their practical bent and worldview, they can’t help but read a short story or novel as a sort of guide for living in the modern world. A “world changers” issue will be full of narratives that they find useful in just this way. And because these will be non-fiction narratives, they’ll be, for this audience, much more more compelling than the latest story by Don Delillo or Yiyun Li.