Speed, Magnitude? of Mags

Upon reading the Scholes and Wulfman article "Modernism and the Rise of Modernism," I (as apparently the commentator on our copy of the text was) was struck by this statement: 

"What we need to understand is that modernism was not only the sum of these relatively successful solutions. It was the struggle between those two modes itself, in both artworks and criticsms, combined with the struggle between reaching a broad audience and pleasing a small coterie, between seeking to create a 'great audience' for 'great poets', as Poetry magazine sought to do, and 'making no compromise with the public taste, as the Little Review claimed it was doing" (34).

This quote coming just after Dujardin's idea that "symbolism could enhance directness" (Scholes and Wulfman 34), and this idea that speed is important to modernism (28). I'm about to explode these ideas I think. Scholes and Wulfman talk about speed being important in terms of printing and manufacturing, but another way that speed is incredibly important is in the distance (and the time it takes to cross that distance) between producer and consumer. So, questions begin to arise about the ways this speed manifests in magazines (even all print media popularized in the early 20th century like throwaways, newspapers, bulletins, etc.). For example (and I have no idea if this is the same form that the newspaper took in the early 20th century, but the general principle remains), have you ever opened your crisp, new, dainty newspaper, and read its contents partially. Then, something happens and you spend forever attempting to put it back in its original form (or you abandon it like me and throw it on the floor and come back later)?  Or, with the same newspaper, have you spent forever trying to get the pages separated because the pages have stuck together? Why has the newspaper settled in form of the large, thin, sheet with lots of information on one page with runny ink? If the producer is interested in speed, then why not have newspapers in the form of flashcards, smaller pages, or even pick your own pages of interest at the numerous news stands that existed in the early 20th century (if this is even the form it took)? I'm sure a majority of the explanation is cost effenciency, but even today, why not mix it up in that form (obviously other forms have been made like multimedia forms, text messages, etc.)? Also, have the magazines that were interested in having a "higher class consumer" always had thicker pages? While there's obviously a convenience factor at work there (it's so much easier to turn the pages) and this idea that you are getting a quality work because of the quality pages, maybe there's also a motivation on behalf of the producer (advertisers, writers, editors, etc.) that you will get to their product faster or spend more time looking at it because its an unaffected piece of paper [unlike your flimsy (I mean dainty) newspaper that bends, runs, moves].

Also, to continue, this article is rife with mindblowing word usage like this "directness" I referenced earlier and this idea of "greatness," speed, and public taste all mixed into the magazine. Both articles are interested in this physical relationship that producer (writer, manufacturer, etc) has with the consumer in the advertising and content, and this relationship, to me, has always been understood in my world as very one dimensional.  However, it seems to me that there's a very multidimensional experience lurking here. Perhaps I've drank too much Kool-aid in my life, but it seems like there's a clear physics about the ideal relationship being fulfilled or created by magazines in this time period.  Any other thoughts about this?

 

This is a crazy story.

Comments

I think the speed of the large format newspaper you're describing is primarily in the production and dissemination side. You can print much more information on a large page, of course, and do it quickly with a drum press. And the light, folded units are quickly deliverable to newstands for up-to-the-hour information, which felt new during the late 19th Century.

But maybe speed is not the experience of the reader who needs to manipulate those large flimsy sheets (I have just as much trouble re-folding newspapers as I do roadmaps -- thank god for GPS devices). But a newspaper in flash cards or some other small-area page cut would then be much thicker, which would be incovnenient in a different way. I think the little magazines, relative to newspapers, would have had a different sense of speed for the reader, since they are smaller units both in terms of page area and in terms of page numbers.

Paper quality, as you point out, is actually a very important metric for rating readership class, as it often determined the price and therefore who was unable to afford a subscription or newsstand purchase.

Anyway, it's definitely worth thinking about the physicality of speed for the reader tomorrow. Thanks for bringing it up.