Spy vs. Spy

In the race to replicate the long-gone Spy magazine and update it to our new, more celebrity-ific times -- the race, that is, between Radar and Gawker -- Radar has seemed the slavish copycat (it's an actual print publication!). It still lacks, however, the literary polish that Spy often had. Despite the historic pigeonhole into which Spy has been wedged (the mag that let loose the Snark, the mag that permitted the bemused tabloidification of media gossip), Spy provided a lot more amusement than just celebrity/politician skewerings. After all, it was once known as the New Yorker with wit.

Or, yes, the nasty New Yorker. But still ... at its best, it had some style.

Gawker, on the other hand, quickly morphed into something rather different and new. At times, it became almost incomprehensible to anyone not a cynical, status-obsessed, in-the-know Manhattanite. Despite the millions of hits the website gets per month, book/daddy often suspected that only the denizens of a select number of city blocks in Manhattan could actually decipher all the names and references and backstories -- or would care. The only knowledgeable readers were the denizens, that is, plus their disgruntled employees eager to get some dirt on the boss.

Gawker humor is often campy-vicious and dismissive (many of its targets hardly qualify as fat cats) and the level of on-the-ground, target observation is unnerving because the gaze is so obsessive, sneery yet fascinated.

The past several days have seen talk about Gawker shoot up because of staff departures, reports of the absolutely miserable pay scale and this historical overview by Carla Blumenkranz run by n+1. It's a more succinct, more thoughtful (less self-obsessed) take on the phenomenon than Vanessa Grigoriadis' New York magazine feature from October (although book/daddy loved her title: Everybody Sucks: Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass).

The one point Blumenkranz missed: Despite its appalling faults -- or rather, because of them -- Gawker is probably the Spy we deserve, it's Spy post-Monica impeachment, Spy post-stolen presidency, Spy in the age of Britney, partisan blog rage and cell-phone photojournalism. The best thing about the n+1 story: Once you've read it, you probably won't need to read anything else about, by or for Gawker.

From n+1:

"The Gawker editors have always been forthright about the fact that what they wanted was to leave Gawker--its low pay and marginal status--and work for the people they maligned. This stance was supposed to give them more credibility; it was also a form of flattery. Furthermore, it was the truth. But in fact they already were working for a media corporation that functioned more effectively but in the same way as the ones they criticized, and as media players the Gawker editors had become more powerful than many of their targets. Gawker retained the stance of a scrappy start-up and an attitude of populist resentment toward celebrities and insiders, even as it became the flagship publication of an online media empire. The status of Gawker rose as the overall status of its subjects declined, and it was this that made Gawker appear at times a reprehensible bully."

December 6, 2007 2:05 PM |



Best of the Vault


Pat Barker, Frankenstein, Cass Sunstein on the internet, Samuel Johnson, Thrillers, Denis Johnson, Alan Furst, Caryl Phillips, Richard Flanagan, George Saunders, Michael Harvey, Larry McMurtry, Harry Potter and more ...


Big D between the sheets -- Dallas in fiction


Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on December 6, 2007 2:05 PM.

Take an interdisciplinary blog tour was the previous entry in this blog.

Golden lad and lass is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.