Thursday, September 15, 2005

n + 1, part 2

Did I have something to say about n+1? Maybe not. My first thought upon reading last weekend's A.O. Scott piece on The Believer and n+1 was as follows: boyoboy, the internet is going to be very upset. (My second thought was this: A.O. Scott has a literary agent?) I refer you to the Fuck You, Believer! post over at Soi Disantra; it's pretty funny, and nicely distills the essence of what I hesitate to call an ideology because it seems more like an aesthetic gag reflex. (n+1 attempted to articulate this ideology in an editorial; actually, the folks at that magazine will also be pretty upset to be lumped in with the "Eggersards.") Here at Corn Chips & Pie, we take no stance on the merits of these two magazines' editorial philosophies, 1) because we haven't read them attentively, more out of laziness than anything, but we generally like them. As a consequence, 2) we are leery of engaging in ill-informed but funny criticism in order to bolster our credibility (at least today). Finally, and most importantly, 3) we've carefully staked out a focus-group-tested middle ground in the optimism vs. pessimism debate. We is me, by the way, and we'll stick with it until we forget, because it sounds more highfalutin. Plus it makes me feel like there's a consensus on my opinions.

I'd just finished reading the article (whoops, forgot already) when I coincidentally came across this passage in a short story called The Music School by John Updike:

...I conceived of him as being too fine, translucent, and scrupulous to live in our coarse age. He was to be, if the metaphor is biological, an evolutionary abortion, a mammalian mutation crushed underfoot by dinosaurs, and if the metaphor is mathematical, a hypothetical ultimate, one digit beyond the last real number. The title of the book was to be "N + 1."

I think Updike writes like a god, but I often find him objectionable for reasons that should be familiar to most people of a less patrician demographic than Updike's. You may refer to the previous post to discover the exact contours of my annoyance with this particular passage. In contrast, I think "n+1" is actually a pretty nifty title for a lit mag (somewhere, Benjamin Kunkel breathes a sigh of relief); we could have done without the cheesy manifesto ("to those who insist the series is at an end, we say: n+1"), but what are you going to do?