Tuesday, December 19, 2006


100 years ago, women were thrilled by Redbook magazine's romantic stories about dark and mysterious men, exotic perils from the orient, women in danger, sublimated passions and heaving bosoms. The stories were illustrated by marvelous pictures like these.

Often the heroine watched as powerful men struggled over her virtue, or were reduced to helpless tears by their love for her.

The pictures, like the stories, were often shrouded in fog which left room for the reader's imagination to fill in the details. I love these art noir drawings by Gayle Hoskins, Frank Street, E. Ward and Leone Bracker.

Today, Redbook has replaced illustrations with bright, clear photographs. The articles are in sharper focus as well. There's no ambiguity in titles like 35 Sexy Places to Touch Your Man, or Get In The Mood in 5 Minutes. Recently, Redbook provided instructions for sex in an airplane bathroom the way GM might describe maintenance on an internal combustion engine ("For maximum maneuverability, stand with one leg on the toilet with your man embracing you from behind.") Despite the new candor, Redbook's modern readers don't seem any closer to meaningful truths than their great grandmothers were 100 years ago.

I'm not sure whether it's better to have a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept or a fuzzy picture of a sharp concept. Choose your fog.