I heard Bud Trillin before I read him. He spoke — performed what amounted to a standup routine, really — at the celebration of Yale’s tercentennial in New Haven in the Spring of 2001, and I was there to watch the gig. As a reader, I’ve been in catchup mode ever since.
It pains me to write, then, that his most recent piece, a funny and heartbreaking New Yorker memoir of his wife and muse, Alice, isn’t on the magazine’s website. This is one of the things about the New Yorker that absolutely infuriates me; for understandable and perfectly selfish copyright reasons, the magazine keeps some of its best writing offline and out of the hands and minds of an awful lot of people who should experience it but otherwise never will. Most of the time, my fury passes quickly. This time, I hope that someone scans the full text of the article and posts it somewhere. Copyright be damned. The piece is that good, and I can’t imagine that Bud Trillin, his employer aside, would care.
Meanwhile, and whether or not a digital version of “Alice, Off the Page” shows up online any time soon, go immediately to a store where fine magazines are sold and buy a copy of the March 27, 2006 issue. Turn to page 44, and savor two lives richly lived.
Yeah, Trillin is a mensch. I keep meaning to read “Remembering Denny,” which I heard him speak about on its book tour. But your assertion that a magazine ought to give away its best stuff for free rings hollow to me. Providing free samples is marketing, not charity, and a grocer need not hand out free samples of his or her best fruit. In fact, he or she is more likely to hand out samples of items that are superficially unappetizing to create a market where there was none. I guess the business model of magazines is complicated, because they sell copies and subscriptions and perhaps above all advertising. But it would be a stretch to assert without basis that they don’t need copyright to make it work. Maybe if UNESCO designates Trillin “World Heritage” we could argue for compulsory licensing of every two words he puts together. But the man does need to make a living.
MT, you miss the point entirely. It’s not an IP observation; it’s not a business model observation; it’s not a compulsory licensing observation; it’s not a market observation. This isn’t a post by a copyright lawyer; it’s a post by someone moved by what he read. No one is asserting that a magazine ought to give away its best stuff. “Copyright be damned” is a metaphor, OK? It’s a human (or humane) observation, that the article is spectacularly moving and should be distributed and read as widely as is humanly (or humanely) possible. Bud Trillin has a gift, and he’s given us a gift, and gifts — as Lewis Hyde argues — are fundamentally about humanity, not about money. Buy the magazine, borrow it at the library or from a friend, read what you can in blogs. But read the piece.
Whoops. Sorry. Thanks for the pointer. I share your admiration for the man.
amen. I hope to be able to find this moving piece somewhere on line in the future. I stumbled across your blog simply trying to find it online to send to someone.