Why I subscribe to Esquire.....
And then there's the content, both the writing and the pictures. It would be bad enough if it were just erotic stuff in bad taste, but it's worse than that. About a third of it is erotic stuff that appears to have been written by male seventh graders huddled in snickering groups in their locker rooms. The Esquire staff fixes the spelling and punctuation and throws in a few sophisticated lexical items to make it look as if grown men had written it, but the real source is obvious: It's either actual seventh-grade boys, or it's the staff's Inner Seventh Grade Boys. Tasteless smartalecky smarmy filth. The postoffice persons wonder what on earth Miz Elgin could possibly be doing with that stuff; surely I'm not reading it?
And they're right; I'm not. I already know which columns and features will reliably be tasteless smartalecky smarmy filth every month, and I don't read those. I only have to read a couple of sentences in an article or interview to find out if it's just more of the same, and then I stop reading that. I rip out the perfume pages the instant the magazine enters my house and put them in a sealed plastic bag in the trash.
And then, after the sanitation triage, I read the good stuff that Esquire is inexplicably salted with. What possesses the editors to put some of the best writing available -- not only superb short stories but equally fine articles on religion and economics and politics and more -- in the middle of sets of disgusting pieces of trash I cannot imagine .... except that it's the sort of thing a twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy might think it was really funny to do.
Anyway, the part of this month's issue that I wouldn't have wanted to miss is "The Five-Minute Guide: Oil," by Robert Thompson, on pp. 134 and 136. Not a lot there I haven't read before, but it was always scattered all over the place; this article has it conveniently gathered together on two excellent pages. It tells us that our Strategic Petroleum Reserves "would keep the U.S. operating at normal capacity for about forty-five days." It reports that the oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is "the amount the U.S. burns through in about twenty-two months." It explains that if we switch to synthetic oil at current rates of consumption we'll reach "the peak of U.S. coal supplies within two decades." It notes that global oil production will peak within twenty years and that foreign reserves outside the Middle East "will likely be played out by 2025." It provides a careful history of the problem from 1859 to date; it has a map, and it has all the useful statistics. It tells us that the answer to the question "Should we be scared?" is yes. And it gives us this lovely bit, on page 134:
"Even the oil-glutted Saudis have a saying: 'My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son rides in a jet. His son will ride a camel.' "
If I didn't subscribe to Esquire I might miss it when they do "The Five-Minute Guide: Water." I wouldn't want that to happen. I just wish they'd exhaust their resources of male perfumes.