Thursday, May 6th, 2010

So Lev Grossman What Is the Deal with You and Time Magazine (Part 2)

Here’s the other thing people generally mean when they ask me why I work at Time: Why do you, a card-carrying member of the nerdo-American underground, work at Time, which is by and large an organ of the straight mainstream surface-dwelling culture?

cocktails were news in 1985 apparently

The answer to this is actually kind of complicated, which is one reason I created a fictional alter ego for the express purpose of asking myself this question in public. (I shall kill him now. There, he’s dead.)

The easy answer is, it happened by accident. I was going to be an academic. In fact I took the drastic step of going to grad school for three years in comparative literature. While I was there I learned something really important: a career in academia is really hard, and I wasn’t very good at it. So I left and did what you did when you had no marketable skills and it was 1996, which was get hired as a Web producer.

My first job was at a startup — this startup — which died. My second was at Time Inc. I did Web stuff for them for four years before they decided I was better at writing than at Web stuff, which isn’t saying much.

This isn’t the normal way you get into writing at a magazine like Time. You’re supposed to go to journalism school and then do a few years at a local paper. But they needed somebody who was into books, and another person who was into zithromax online usa technology, and if they could get one person who was into both, they would take him and save an entire salary. I was that person.

So that’s one way to explain it: I needed a job, and that was the job I could get. Another way to look at it is that I have a habit — good or bad, I don’t know — of throwing in my lot with large, stable institutions. I went to Harvard. I went to Yale. I went to Time. I’m very risk-averse that way. Except when it comes to writing novels, I’m crap at going it alone. It doesn’t make for a very exciting resume, but it cuts down on my ambient anxiety levels considerably

Another downside is that It creates weird expectations about what kind of person I am. People tend to assume I’m this conventional, conservative, fogey-ish, bow-tie-wearing pod-person. Which by the way, there aren’t really people like that at Time. But I’m probably a little less like that than most, and there are times when I feel like I’m communicating with my co-workers across a vast cultural chasm. I dwarf, you elf. I Morlock, you Eloi.

So if you run into me at a reading or a convention or wherever, and you’re wondering what the hell the guy from Time magazine is doing there, just remember: when I go to work, everybody at Time is wondering what the hell the guy in the Potions Master t-shirt is doing there.

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