Friday, November 10, 2017

FFM: VENTURE: THE TRAVELER'S WORLD, February 1965, edited by Curtis Anderson & Cynthia Kellogg (Cowles Magazines): Muriel Spark, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, John D. MacDonald et al.

Venture, the initially hardcover bimonthly published by Cowles Magazines and Broadcasting (the Look magazine people) knew whom they wanted reading their travel magazine... apparently not sold on newsstands, founded with the February 1964 issue, by the 1965 issue I have in front of me they were charging almost $3 per issue via an annual subscription of $17.50 ...when most slick magazines ran one 50c-$1 an issue on newsstands. The advertisers were mostly airlines and cruise ship lines with some cars thrown in, including inducement to buy a VW Beetle in Europe and have it shipped home when the vacation was over. You needed disposable income to afford this magazine, and at least the aspiration of throwing that income around to visit the destinations they covered, in rather good photography and not the least expensive (and often English emigrant or frequent visitor) writers. Not challenging themselves too much, but nonetheless coasting on practiced charm. So, too, this issue, with essays by Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, John D. MacDonald and Graham Greene (though only Waugh, with the then-recent reissued/filmed bestseller in part about the British exile community in Los Angeles The Loved One, getting cover billing). Alistair Reid, not yet a commodity, is a columnist (MacDonald is given no great attention, either, despite serving as both photographer and essayist about the Everglades). Cowles spared little expense (considering they were charging the equivalent of well over $20 an issue to subscribers in inflation-calculated terms, they might well); lenticular covers were soon offered on the magazine.

Muriel Spark writes about how she would Get Away to NYC to do her writing, living in a certain unnamed hotel for months on end to, among other ends, remove herself from the familial nature of the UK community of writers and editors, all apparently enmeshed and without boundaries; in New York, they will leave you be if you say you need to work. She also notes that in 1964, the most common British complaint she'd hear about the city was the poor quality of the restaurants, somewhat comically given the reputation of British cuisine even then (raised under straitened circumstances as a Scot, Spark notes she's usually willing to eat anything put before her without complaint). She also, as a faithful Roman Catholic, passes along a few observations about the churches around the world and particularly those in Gotham...they tend, among other factors, to have more Bleeding Hearts among the sacred art up on the walls. 

David Holden, by this time a "roving reporter" for the Manchester Guardian,  provides a sort of sub-Mailer essay on the three cities of Saigon, Singapore and Bangkok, characterizing each in gender terms...Saigon corruptly female, Singapore brusquely male, Bangkok a harem eunuch. He isn't quite as self-indulgent in prose or personal anecdote as Mailer, and he does drop some rather sensible observations in with his mild contempt for people trying to make their ways in the tough times each city faces (a tendency that is too common in most of the lesser writers for this elitist magazine). He does remind us that Burma and Indonesia are as wartorn at the time as the eventual reunited Vietnam.

John D. MacDonald gets no credit in the table of contents for his photo-feature (handsome) about, and back 0f the book essay on how best to tour, the Everglades; among other advice, he suggests not bothering with airboats (Sterling Archer would be disappointed). 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

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