Wednesday, January 12, 2005

As The New Yorker's turning 80 years old next month, its Russian imitation, Novy Ochevidets (The New Eyewitness), is closing down after only four months of publication, due to financial problems. (Here's a report in Russian.)

Novy Ochevidets was launched in August 2004, right before the plane crashes, explosions and Beslan, and this sorry timing erased the weekly magazine from my radar immediately and almost completely. The only text I read in it was about the Ukrainian town of Berdichev, and though I liked it, the copycat New-Yorker-ish design and the really dumb cartoons prevented me from reading further, even despite some nice drawings and photos: it felt like trying to eat a strawberry cake decorated with shrimps, sickening and frustrating.

The editor of the pathetic look-alike, Sergei Mostovshchikov, used to be one of my favorite writing people in the world in 1998, after I returned from the States. He wrote some witty and crazy stuff, but then switched to TV, where he just didn't belong, and, later, to being an editor - first, of Bolshoi Gorod, a Moscow weekly that's becoming totally readable only now, thanks to the new editorial team, which includes my favorite Masha Gessen, and then of Men's Health, a publication I have nothing to say about.

When they launched Novy Ochevidets, they mailed a copy to The New Yorker's editor, David Remnick, with a note quoting Leo Tolstoy: "All happy families are alike."

Of course, waiting 80 years to send a note like this would've been unrealistic - no one, not even Mostovshchikov (who's now about 40 years old), can expect to live and work happily till the age of 120, and the market is such an unpredictable thing. But they could've waited at least a year or two.

I'm not gleeful about the closure, I just don't really care. Right before all the horrible things started happening in August, I was bitter - I was thinking, But why can't they come up with something as interesting, fun and high-quality as The New Yorker without making such clowns of themselves?

And now, somehow, these lines from my favorite Tom Waits' song come to mind:

And the places that I'm dreaming of
Do they dream only of me?

No, they don't. The New Yorker's turning 80, and no one gives a shit about Novy Ochevidets ceasing to exist.

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