Esquire redux

The monthly sweeps five National Magazine Award nominations, but its resurrection is still a work in progress.

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The American Society of Magazine Editors
announced the href="http://asme.magazine.org/national_magazine_awards/2000.html">finalists for
the 2000 National Magazine Awards

Wednesday. Usual suspects included the
New Yorker (which received 11
nominations), such general-excellence
perennials as the Sciences (in the under-100,000 circulation category) and Vanity
Fair (hitting now in the over-a-million
league).

While these nominations may be old hat
for editors like David Remnick (the New
Yorker was nominated for eight awards
last year — and received none), they
are the stuff of heart attacks for such
relative newbies as Zoetrope: All Story,
the Francis Ford Coppola-funded fiction
quarterly. The four-year-old publication
is nominated in the fiction category
alongside Harper’s, the Georgia Review
and, naturally, the New Yorker.

“Those are magazines I’ve read all my
life and I’m just so honored to be in
their company,” said editor Adrienne
Brodeur, moments after hearing her
magazine (and its Web site) had been
nominated. Coppola himself was supposed
to be dropping by their offices any
minute and the mood was buoyant, if a
little incredulous.

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Things were a little heady over in the
Esquire offices as well: The men’s
magazine had been nominated in five
categories (though not general
excellence or fiction). Back in the days
of its legendary editor, Harold Hayes,
Esquire was a regular at the NMA, but the
magazine has gone through some
unfortunate incarnations since then. Its
resuscitation has been a protracted and
public process, beginning with the
appointment of David Granger to the
editor’s post two-and-a-half years ago.
Do people still confuse his magazine
with some of its more specious versions?

“It does take a while to change
perceptions, especially since the
magazine had been in something of a
tailspin for a while,” allows Granger.
“I think it takes any editor a
considerable amount of time to get
anyone, writers and staff, to buy into
what you want to do with a magazine.
Especially when it’s a monthly and it
takes a while to evolve. It’s not like
fruit flies; they evolve pretty fast,
but their life span is only a couple of
days.”

Among the stories nominated, Granger was
most surprised by Richard Dooling’s
“First Immortal Man” in the personal
service category. In that essay, the
writer imagined the pros and cons of
immortality and offered sidebars with
advice on topics like personal finance
for eternal life. “What’s the new
definition of fuck-you money when you’re
going to live to be 250 or 300 years
old?” asks Granger.

Esquire’s Cinderella story has to be the
nomination of “Blood Runs Likes a River
Through My Dreams” by Nasdijj. The
first-person account arrived over the
transom, addressed to no one in
particular. “The cover letter was this
screed about how Esquire had never
published the work of an American-Indian
writer and never would because it’s such
a racist publication,” recalls Granger.
“And under it was this essay about the
death of this guy’s son, one of the most
beautiful pieces of writing I’d ever
read.” By the time the piece was
published in the June issue, the writer
(who lives on an Indian reservation) had
a book contract.

The awards will be presented May 3 at
the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Sean Elder is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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