Few notes about the goings-on here at Commentary. With this issue, we are inaugurating two new features. The first, which begins on page 15, includes the first readers’ contest in our history. We’re calling it Enter Laughing, and its subject is the Jewish joke—that biting, ironic, deflating, sophisticated, and complex anecdote, with its patented sly reversal at the end. Every month in Enter Laughing, Joseph Epstein, who needs no introduction to Commentary’s readers, is going to offer up a joke, told in his own fashion—and then he is going to ask you to play Talmudist and explain its meaning. The winner’s answer will be published in the subsequent issue.
If you turn to the back page, you will see our second new feature, Press Man, a monthly dissection of the workings of the American media. Its author is Andrew Ferguson—senior editor at the Weekly Standard, author of the indelible American chronicle Land of Lincoln,and perhaps the most percipient analyst of the writing, editing, and newsgathering profession there is.
• From pages 5 to 8 this month, you’ll find a Commentary first—a photo spread. On January 11, we threw an 80th-Birthday Roast for Commentary’s editor of 35 years and author for nearly 60, Norman Podhoretz, at the Plaza Hotel in New York. The evening was a benefit for Commentary Inc., the nonprofit corporation that owns and operates this institution. The uncommon wit and high good humor displayed by the evening’s eight speakers—in order of appearance, Roger Hertog, Charles Krauthammer, James Q. Wilson, Mark Steyn, George Weigel, William J. Bennett, Henry A. Kissinger, and Jackie Mason—made for a delightful and unforgettable occasion.
Perhaps the most unusual moment of the evening came when a white-haired gentleman popped up in the audience to declare that he was “T. Coddington Voorhees VI” and a friend of Norman Podhoretz’s for 70 years. He said he had met Norman in the 1930s and that, “despite our differences in outlook and foreskins,” he had decided, “By Jove, commie or not, I like the cut of this Hebrew lad’s jib.”
Later in life, the white-haired gentleman related, “We became ardent anti-Communists. And when the Left became anti-anti-Communist, we became anti-anti-anti-Communists. And each time the cognoscenti tossed another ‘anti’ into the ante, we said, ‘Okay, smart guy, we’ll see your lousy anti and raise you one.’”
Only after the audience had finished laughing was it revealed that the white-haired gentleman was the actor and raconteur Orson Bean, performing, brilliantly and generously, a glorious monologue written by the nonpareil Internet humorist Iowahawk.
• We are getting ready for the first Commentary Conference of Ideas, our weeklong gathering aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator in Alaska from August 4 through August 11. The Navigator is a relatively small and intimate craft, with only 490 cabins, and the ship is selling out quickly. Now is the time to act because we might not be able to accommodate anyone else. Details about the cruise can be found on page 4.
• Sometime this month, we should be debuting a new design for CommentaryMagazine.com, which will more closely integrate our propulsive and ever-changing blog with the homepage. Our traffic has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few months, and we are now listed among the top 100 blogs by Technorati. If you are a subscriber and have not yet registered to take advantage of the special features available to you, please take a moment to do so. You need only your subscription number, which appears on the mailing label attached to the cover.
And speaking of that mailing label, did you know that it was designed to be easily removed? If you’re annoyed by it, all you have to do is pull on one end and it will lift up and away.
And to answer your unspoken question: Yes, it was my Oedipal fantasy made flesh.