The Believer Magazine: C or D

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Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:13 (eighteen years ago) link

dud. I'm out. dud anyway.

enrique (Enrique), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:22 (eighteen years ago) link

i just bought my first copy, haven't read it yet.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:25 (eighteen years ago) link

They interview some interesting people (eg Richard Rorty a coupla issues back), and Howard Hampton wrote a great piece about Ghost World and Cat Power, plus the Steve Erickson article by Brian Evenson may be the best thing that's ever been written about a very critically neglected writer. Matthew Derby and Steve Lipsyste are also always welcome. It's annoyingly infected with that McSwys' kookiness when they could get away with being more serious (gosh shucks, foax, we have a HANDTOOL OF THE MONTH feature!). Unfortunately, when they do write serious stuff they sometimes get completely pompous asshats to do so (eg that piece about Gary Lutz). Also in the negative column - they have Hornby. Despite all that, I'm a subscriber and I'm not regretting it yet. It looks nice piled up on muh bookshelves.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:27 (eighteen years ago) link


Hmmm. I like the idea of it more than I like the actual magazine, I think. And not the idea of it as being anti-snark or whatever that Julavits essay was about it -- but as being a more "pop" lit mag than, say, the New York Review of Books. (Although now that I think about it, The Believer doesn't actually review books.) But I've read two issues, and some of the essays I've been most excited about (Howard Hampton on Cat Power and Ghost World; an analysis of The Fortress of Solitude w/r/t comic books [with a extended ref. to Mark Sinker's Buffy review in the Voice!]) have tended toward discursiveness, without much insight. Also, the whole Tool/Light/Child/etc. is too precious in that now-predictable McSweeney's way. Best so far, actually, may be the interviews.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:34 (eighteen years ago) link

JtN, what did you find so great about the Hampton piece? It definitely made me want to check out more of his stuff, simply based on the subject matter (and esp. that he's willing to investigate connections among different art forms [film and music]) -- but I don't remember getting much out of the essay itself.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:36 (eighteen years ago) link

Scott Seward likes The Believer, I seem to recall.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:38 (eighteen years ago) link

Jerry, do you mean "Sam Lipsyte"?

@d@ml (nordicskilla), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:42 (eighteen years ago) link

I did mean Sam! I was befuddled by the title of his novel 'The Subject Steve'. :((

I think I liked the Hampton piece because.... well, I'd read a piece by him about Chris Marker in Film Comment a month or so previously, which I thought was ace, and the Ghost World piece was read in that light, ie confirming for me that he was really good. He reminds me of a less fusty Greil Marcus, if Marcus had taken on board Ian Penman's comments on 'In the Fascist Bathroom'.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:04 (eighteen years ago) link

illust. classic

Dean Gulberry (deangulberry), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:06 (eighteen years ago) link

Yes, Charles Burns is very good.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:15 (eighteen years ago) link

Which issue had the Cat Power/Ghost World piece? I gave up after the first issue (with the article on that anti-publishing/anti-lit writing group that hates Rick Moody).

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Monday, 3 November 2003 19:39 (eighteen years ago) link

Dud. I think I might have said "classic" if I was still in high school. I find it rather irritating and juvenile and not particularly funny or insightful. However, I've still had a look at every issue because my spousage likes it. Soon I shall give up and not look at it anymore.

quincie, Monday, 3 November 2003 20:11 (eighteen years ago) link

Milo: it was the August issue.

I think I was excited about that article, because I once wrote something in college about Ghost World (before it was a movie!) and MTV's Daria, and then disappointed because Hampton's piece didn't go in the direction I wanted.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:26 (eighteen years ago) link

Also, it is online.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:28 (eighteen years ago) link

It looks super-nice. The writing is fun, but... uh, inessential. However, as anyone in Canada should know, it's still waaaaaay better than The Walrus.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:33 (eighteen years ago) link

What is The Walrus?

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:37 (eighteen years ago) link

Canada's answer to the New Yorker, apparently. And to which the only response can be that old Danny Baker cliche: Run for the hills!

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:55 (eighteen years ago) link

Same damn deal as always with this clique. The topics, figures, intelligence of the writing are all extremely appealing. The packaging, attitude, condescension etc--those fucking talking-point glosses, inserted like overturned tumbrils, barricading title and reader from content already generally sporting tertiary-text insulation--completely cancels this out. Looks great on a coffee table.

brian nemtusak (sanlazaro), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:35 (eighteen years ago) link

JtN did you ever send me that copy of that piece which mentions me cz i never got it if you did :(

mark s (mark s), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:51 (eighteen years ago) link

Nope - I'll bring it along to the next FAP, Mark.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:56 (eighteen years ago) link


mark s (mark s), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:58 (eighteen years ago) link

It speaks of you very highly, Mark!

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:10 (eighteen years ago) link

so i heard!

mark s (mark s), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:17 (eighteen years ago) link

(Although now that I think about it, The Believer doesn't actually review books.)

This is my problem with the entire enterprise in a nutshell.

Actually, it's not, but it's a good starting place. Not wanting to be categorically dismissive of well-funded, well-meaning literary ventures by folks with book contracts and editorial jobs at the VLS, I've read a couple issues (though I'm not forking over the $65 for a subscription). And in the wake of the incessant hoo-haa over the 'snark' essay I find it sort of unbelievable that THERE ARE NO BOOK REVIEWS!!!!!! Rather, still predominantly a vehicle for profiles of pointless celebrities (Liz Phair?) and cutesy quirkiness (the star-nosed mole???). And if I wanted that I'd read Spin or McSweeney's, thanks.

I also choke on the cover price. Sure the magazine is pretty to look at, but who exactly is their target audience? Who can afford a $65/year magazine subscription? If they'd take some damn ads, print the thing on lighter paper (so it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to mail), and run some &$^% book reviews, I might start paying attention.

martha bayne, Monday, 3 November 2003 22:47 (eighteen years ago) link


My objections to the cover price are both practical and ideological. Sure, I'm not that likely to pay $8 for a magazine on impulse, or pony up the subscription $$, but I'm almost more offended by the elitism implicit in creating such a precious package (insert pet graphic design peeve here as well). It'd seem to run counter to the magazine's stated "alternative" mission. So I'm forced to conclude that (as Brian said, *again* with this clique) that the Believer is an alternative to the NYRB only in that it's target audience is young, moneyed, educated white people instead of their grandparents.

martha bayne, Monday, 3 November 2003 22:54 (eighteen years ago) link

yeah but the nyrb never said nice stuff abt ME!!

mark s (mark s), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:59 (eighteen years ago) link

I think you Yanks are a bit spoiled with your litawewy periodicals. Every time I go to the States and one of those grand old independent bookstores like Powell's or Elliot Bay or Tattered Cover I mosey along to the magazine section and swoon over all the lovingly produced mags filled with great writers! This week I charitably bought Zembla magazine (successor to the unlamented 'Butterfly' mag) and, believe me, it makes 'The Believer' look like the bleeding 'Partisan Review'!

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 3 November 2003 23:23 (eighteen years ago) link

Jerry, you've been to Elliott Bay? I LOVE Elliott Bay (and work about six blocks from it yay!).

most of my gripes w/the mag/enterprise have been addressed above, but I've grown to like it more and more w/each passing issue--seems like they've gotten over a lot of the stupider "you've gotta say NICE THINGS about writers, maaaaan" stuff. or maybe I've just stopped noticing it so much and concentrate more on the stuff I liked. also, the ?uestlove Q&A ( is one of the most flat-out entertaining interviews I've read in ages.

M Matos (M Matos), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 00:42 (eighteen years ago) link

that plea for positive reviews thing really ruffled some feathers, i guess... i haven't read it but the NYTimes made some nasty crack about believer being a vanity press project or something like that

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 01:06 (eighteen years ago) link

Isn't Elliott Bay owned by Half-Price Books now or something?

martha bayne, Tuesday, 4 November 2003 01:08 (eighteen years ago) link

Seemed to me the ruffled feathers were theirs ...

brian nemtusak (sanlazaro), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 01:10 (eighteen years ago) link

as I said, I haven't read it yet...

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 01:22 (eighteen years ago) link

Yeah, Matos, I feel like the magazine is often reduced to that "anti-snark" essay, since it was a big-ass manifesto that appeared in the first issue, by the editor-in-chief (in other words, This is What We Stand For). But I don't necessarily see what they've published since as direct attempts to achieve those desires.

jaymc (jaymc), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 02:58 (eighteen years ago) link

I skip through a lot of stuff in the mag (as w/all mags) so I probably miss it if there are any. also I don't know anything about Elliott Bay or Half-Price's business ties or lack thereof.

M Matos (M Matos), Tuesday, 4 November 2003 04:02 (eighteen years ago) link

one month passes...
what issue was the 'the fortress of solitude' article in?

cozen (Cozen), Friday, 26 December 2003 20:29 (eighteen years ago) link


jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 26 December 2003 20:31 (eighteen years ago) link

it seems like the magazine is getting better w/each issue, or more confident in itself, a really good thing. I'm liking it more and more. possibly that's because the subjects are more to my liking (at least w/the current ish--not-bad Ice Cube Q&A, quite good pieces on Sweet Valley High books and how-to-write books (and um as far as I can tell those may not be book reviews in the classical sense but there's certainly no shortage of writing about books in the magazine). but even minus popcult coverage I'm drawn to the stuff in it more w/each passing issue. also the gripe about "pointless celebrities" is typical lit snoot, yawn.

Matos @ Kate Silver's (Kate Silver), Saturday, 27 December 2003 08:24 (eighteen years ago) link

quite good pieces on Sweet Valley High books

What? Oh no.

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Saturday, 27 December 2003 16:04 (eighteen years ago) link

i agree with matos; i got a subscription to the believer as a gift, and have been enjoying every issue more and more. the michelle tea piece on camp trans was also, i thought, pretty outstanding. (and don't worry rosemary!! there is certainly room for more than one sweet valley high examination in this world)

maura (maura), Monday, 29 December 2003 02:11 (eighteen years ago) link

three years pass...

McSweeney's needs money

Dandy Don Weiner, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 13:08 (fourteen years ago) link

i'd make a donation if sarah vowell pledged NOT to write anything for it

m coleman, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 13:28 (fourteen years ago) link

fourteen years pass...

The Believer magazine, classic or dead? (Dead)

BREAKING: UNLV and @BlackMtnInst announced @believermag will publish its final issue, No. 139, in February/March 2022. "The Believer consumed a significant portion of BMI's resources... there was no path forward to continue publishing the magazine."
Full release below.

— Off the Record (@offtherecordnyc) October 19, 2021

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 19:27 (seven months ago) link

What a bummer.

a superficial sheeb of intelligence (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 19:28 (seven months ago) link

This sucks.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 20:49 (seven months ago) link

Budget context:

the poetry editor was Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown. & UNLV can't figure it out. i just want to point out that the UNLV football coach makes $625,000 a year &the Wolf Pack has $2.225 million tied into football coaching staff for the 2020 season. higher ed makes me so mad

— Patrycja (@jej_sen) October 19, 2021

... (Eazy), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 22:18 (seven months ago) link

six months pass...

The other shoe (is a dildo, apparently):

Hi, this is the new owner of The Believer. We purchased the website to keep the archives up.
Our goal is to bring back the magazine, but since it was losing tens of thousands a month we need to get it making money using SEO then use that to bring back all the original writers.

— The Sex Toy Collective (@ST_Collective_) May 9, 2022

a true literary clusterfuck

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 12:19 (one week ago) link

A little more context: McSweeney's was supposedly interested in buying it back, but UNLV sold it to the Sex Toy Collective instead.

Alright. Here’s what happened. I left The Believer in July, and a few months later its parent institution, the Black Mountain Institute based at UNLV, announced it was shuttering the magazine. It went up for sale.

— Kristen Radtke (@KristenRadtke) May 10, 2022

I wonder how many writers are going to come back to The Believer (NSFW)

Chappies banging dustbin lids together (President Keyes), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 16:21 (one week ago) link

Introducing The Believer's audience (and a sizable percentage of its writers, probably) to the concept of sex can only be a good thing.

but also fuck you (unperson), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 16:59 (one week ago) link

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