Periodicals of Yesteryear: the Last Issue of Might

Yesterday I saw this post from Pete Mulvihill's bookseller blog, about cool used books that will never sell, offering to give away After Dinner Science and the last issue of Might magazine to whoever asked for them first.

I was too late for After Dinner Science, but I did score the last issue of Might, published in the summer of 1997. This was the magazine Dave Eggers produced before he became famous, and that Eggers voice is recognizable more or less throughout, both in pieces written by Eggers himself and in those written by people under his influence:

"Winter begets spring, night ushers in the dawn, and loss sows the seeds of renewal. It is, of course, easy to say these things, just as it is easy to, say, watch a lot of television."

Arch knowingness, semi-apologized for, masks a kind of angry sincerity. The ads try desperately to be as hip as the content. The phenomenon of animal-on-animal violence is bemoaned, and Alan Greenspan is "outed" as gay. Perhaps no last issue of a magazine has ever contained more sarcastic jokes about the magazine going out of business, for example the following item from a list of "corrections."

"In our last issue and all issues previous, we put Might together pretty much exactly the way we weanted to, publishing stuff we thought people would want to read, and not publishing stuff we thought was dopey or dishonest or irrelevant -- all the while thinking that everyone, particularly advertisers and distributors and wealthy people with itchy check-signing fingers, would pat us on the back for it. That was pretty dumb."

Eggers must have learned a lot from producing this magazine -- the first issue of McSweeney's appeared a year later, and it seems like every Eggers project since has been a big publishing success story. He's made a huge contribution to revitalizing the San Francisco literary scene. The cultural memes present in Might, somewhat refined in Eggers's subsequent projects, have proliferated very widely. This issue contains poignant photos of gay men with their female prom dates -- images evocative both of the draw of pop culture and of its ultimate failure to satisfy -- and a Ted Rall piece about Sherwood Anderson. E-mail me at jameswarner@identitytheory.com if you'd like me to send you this magazine, and I'll throw in my copy of Investigating Science With Nails by Laurence B. White, Jr. Best sentence from Laurence B. White, Jr's author bio:

"Besides his ability to use an ordinary nail to explain the mystery of magnetism, Laurence B. White, Jr. is also a master builder of paper architecture and a serious collector of rubber bands."

Opening paragraph of Investigating Science With Nails:

"Everyone lives in a different world. This is what makes life so interesting. It is why some people become butchers, others become barbers, or teachers, or scientists. We all learn about the things that interest us most and we build our own personal world around them."

4 thoughts on “Periodicals of Yesteryear: the Last Issue of Might”

  1. Anyone else in favor of an Inside Story Time Dave Eggers appreciation event? We could all wear flannel and be quietly amusing, slightly introverted, brilliant, and unshaven.
    In 2004 at the first Litquake event I ever attended, I was mistaken for Dave by someone. I wonder if she still believes that Dave is a devout member of the Church of India Pale Ale…
    As for science with nails, magnetism is the most interesting force under which we are constantly influenced. Since the magnetic force is exerted perpendicular to the direction of a charge’s motion, it can’t do work. And so, it is very three-dimensional and confusing.
    Interesting tidbit: Magnetism was the first force successfully subject to a unified field theory. In 1870s, following the work of Faraday and Ampere, James (Maxwell, not Warner) unified electricity and magnetism. This set the stage for Einstein’s special relativity – it’s “easy to show” (which means that any sophomore math/engineering/physics major ought to be able to demonstrate) a contradiction in Newton’s relativity by calculating the force on a charge observed in both a reference frame at rest and one at a speed near that of light in vacuum.
    Fun question: Which of the four forces (in decreasing order of strength: Strong nuclear, electromagnetic, weak nuclear, gravity) is the most prevalent in our human existence?

  2. Ransom, I remember sticking out my thumb and using the other fingers to determine the direction of the current..
    my guess is that the answer to your question has something to do with the unified theory.

    I’m yet to read anything by Eggers..

  3. Olga recalls the greatness of the right hand rule – Biot-Savart and/or Ampere’s gift to left handed humans who can hold onto their pencil while determining the direction of the magnetic field – thumb along the current, fingers twirl in direction of magnetic field.

  4. Hah! Reminds me of the greatest Dr. Spaceman (Thirty Rock) quote ever: “Medicine is NOT a science!” Lovely!

    James, did you rob poor Pete Mulvihill? Your living room can attest to it…

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