AMID all the hoopla over Tina Brown's alterations to The...

Salmagundi

October 01, 1992

AMID all the hoopla over Tina Brown's alterations to The New Yorker, Forbes magazine observed its 75th anniversary with an issue that examined why Americans "feel so bad."

Writers such as Saul Bellow, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Simon Schama, Paul Johnson, John Updike and Peggy Noonan contributed essays, all of them so well-written and so likely to make the reader feel not simply bad but downright lousy.

Here's a small sample from the Updike piece, titled "Where is the space to chase rainbows?":

"We sense that the vast 1980s explosion of corporate acquisition and junk-bond floatings was a storm of meaningless activity that left us without the ability to make anything -- this having been, as our schoolteachers used to tell us so proudly, citing Henry Ford and the Wright brothers and Thomas Alva Edison, a nation of makers. The pioneers who perfected the apple corer have became the flaccid starers of the Sony upstairs. Just the muscle tone of Americans is discouraging to contemplate -- either the artificially swollen pecs of exercise freaks or the utterly limp abdominals of junk-food-fed channel surfers, mainlining electronic visuals. Not many generations ago, this was a nation of firm-bodied farm folk, and the sheer suety pallor of our consumerism, of our 'service economy,' is enough to make us feel" -- everyone, all together now! -- "bad."

What the 75th anniversary issue of Forbes could have used was a New Yorkerish cartoon or two to break up all those hefty blocks of good prose about why we feel so . . . well, you know.

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