One holdover from the days when I was a media reporter is the overwhelming amount of magazines I receive: Wired, Men’s Health, Shape, Vibe. (If a marketer ever tried to craft a profile based on my mail, he’d think I was schizophrenic or leading a double life. Or both.) Most of the time, said magazines sit around my apartment until the piles become overwhelming. Then I recycle them.
But every now and then (read: in the middle of an epic losing streak during which I can’t sleep), I end up reading through a whole slew of said magazines. So it was last night. And let me say: GQ confuses the hell out of me. A recommendation for a lamp begins, “That black halogen floor lamp your mom bought you freshman year isn’t going to cut it anymore.” The advice column features this question: “I just graduated and I have a bunch of job interviews coming up at various magazines in New York City. I’m confused by the whole business casual thing.” And then there’s an article on $500 hand-made shirts made in Paris and a photo spread of Zach Braff wearing $4000 suits. I understand aspirational, but that’s a serious disconnect.
By the time I got to page 384 and John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “The Final Comeback of Axl Rose,” I was experiencing a pretty intense case of vertigo and basically just flipping through the remaining 25 pages so I could move on to last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. But Sullivan — whom I hadn’t heard of but later discovered is the author of Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son — pulled off an increasingly rare feat: a glossy magazine article that had me laughing out loud and nodding my head at the same time. (It’s not as difficult as making circles on your stomach with one hand while tapping the top of your head with the other, but it’s close.)
The story was written in the first person and done without the benefit of an actual interview with Rose, which is probably a good thing; celebrity interviews, as it were, are usually carefully scripted events meant to convey a sense that said star of the moment and said writer are longtime friends instead of two people who just met each other and will never speak again. (“When I first saw John, he was sitting next to the pool at the Chateau Marmont. I walked over to our table, and he looked up. ‘You hungry?’ he said, eyeing me from beneath his vintage Wayfarers. ‘Let’s grab a bite.’”) Sullivan’s piece gleefully dispensed with this kind of formulaic tripe in favor of passages like:
“When he first came onto the scene, he often looked, in photographs, like a beautiful, slender, redheaded 20-year-old girl. I hope the magazine will run a picture of him from about 1988 so the foregoing will seem a slightly less creepy observation and the fundamental spade-called-spade exactitude of it will be laid bare. But if not, I stand by it. Now he has thickened through the middle — muscly thickness, not the lardass thickness of some years back. He grabs his package tightly, and his package is huge. Only reporting. Now he plants his feet apart, ‘You know where you are?’ he asks, and we bellow that we do, we do know, but he tells us anyway. ‘You’re in the jungle, baby,’ he says, and then he tells us that we are going to die.”
or laconically pithy observations, such as:
“He was nervous, but nervous in the way that any decent person is when you sit down in front of him with a notebook and are like, ‘I have to make a two-thirty flight. Can you tell me about the heaviest things in your life? And order more spinach-’n'-artichoke dip. I can expense it.’”
I know I’m supposed to come up with a epigrammatic ending here, but I’m tired, late for an appointment, and still reeling from a 3-11 record over the last 14 games (to say nothing of a starting lineup that would have been more appropriate for a spring training game than a late-August match). If you’re looking for a diversion, spend the $3.99 and grab the September GQ. Lord knows you could use something that makes you laugh out loud.