Dear Page Six Magazine editor Margi Conklin,
Hi! Long time no ombuds. I meant to get to you earlier on this, and by the time I got to it I wrote this really long missive that I'm editing now because good advice gets lost when you don't cut to the chase. So first off, the third issue of your magazine was another overall improvement, with the exception of Hayden Whatserface. (Her outfit: don't want!) But a widely-read (at least, among people I know) piece called "They Need Weed To Succeed," by the (prodigiously talented) Emily Gould, an editor at our big brother site Gawker and former raging pothead, gave me a chance to expound upon something I spend a lot of time thinking about, being someone who basically recycles the same ten posts every day for a living: How to dress up a magazine Mad-Lib. (Rule of thumb: more anecdote, less adjective!)
Okay, so: the gist of Emily's story, for which she agreed to be semi-"soulfully" photographed, was: "I have a love-hate relationship with drugs," the most harmless subgenre of the reliable "Addiction" narrative. Specifically, Emily had the kind of drug problem-ish common to many creative urban precocious types who derive motivation, solace, inspiration etc. from some illicit substance on which he/she eventually becomes paranoid that he/she is hopelessly dependent, especially if he/she has achieved some sort of sudden success he/she is constantly wondering whether or not he/she actually deserves, and then, in a related development, wonders if the drug deserves some/all of the credit, or alternatively whether the drug is the only thing from keeping everything from falling apart all at once, like some pin in a grenade or some other, less-overused cliche; you see where I'm going. (Or wait, you probably don't.) Anyway, put simply: it's hard to say where the internal monologue stops and the actual problem begins, and the only problem with that is, lack of jail stints, prostitution, occasions of bone-chilling, gut-churning debasement etc.
This particular piece gets written a lot, I think because a lot of people abuse substances, especially when they are writers, because writers were generally dorks in high school. But the problem is that most people who were dorks in high school were too sheltered to have a huge number of other real problems in the world outside the self-loathing, insecure recesses of their brains, which is why if they really want to be writers they should spend more time talking to other people, which is to say "who are not self-obsessed substance-abusing writers." (And before I say another word: "Guilty — DUH!")
THAT SAID, you have something special with this story, which is to say that it is about weed, which is a little exotic in this town because it usually involves a carbohydrate chaser. And what a magical drug it sounds like! The way Emily and her band of overachieving potheads tell it, weed both enabled them to concentrate AND relax; focus on neuroscience homework AND feel "brain dead." Who are they buying this shit from? I wanted to learn more. But I was confused. And this, you see, is where any hack editor could tell you, words like "neurons" and "receptors" and maybe "lobe" come in. What is the drug doing to her brain? Could a doctor maybe have given her some words to make me at least feel a little bit enlightened? Marijuana isn't supposed to be physically addictive the way coke and alcohol and heroin and all the usual non-munchie-inducing New York drugs of choice do, so why exactly do people smoke so goddamn much of it? I want to feel that and smell that and watch movies on the couch with that a little more. Or fuck, maybe I should just buy some.
Similar problems beset the cover story on Kissing Jessica Stein writer Jennifer Westfeldt: the language is vague, the anecdotes are broad and hazy, and she doesn't seem like much more than a cliche to me: the fabulous female writer who moves to LA to do something in Hollywood because it blah blah pays better. But the cover line doesn't approach "They Need Weed To Succeed" (lol!); it's... "Jennifer Westfeldt Brings Smart To The Big Screen"... and that would be why she's shooting a come-hither glance in a sequined purple cocktail dress and there are approximately nineteen wardrobe changes in the accompanying photo shoot? So she has a new movie out — a second in a 15-year career or whatever — give me a decent subhead! "Woody Allen's got nothing" on her? Um, really? Do you mean, in terms of having pretty hair and a vagina?
And on a final copy editing note: the sentence at the beginning of the fashion feature on hedge fund types who buy their suits in London, "The sub-prime market is down, but so is buying off-the-rack clothes for many of the monied bosses who work on Wall Street," makes no sense, and if that's your attempt to feel the pain of all the Wall Street guys losing their shirt in this wretched market — yeah, it just hit a new high so save your pity for the sub-prime people losing their houses right now. Which reminds me: do you intend on featuring middle-class people in your magazine? I know everyone who reads Page Six is like, a trust fund kid or whatever, but there is such a thing as voyeurism.