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G&PGuilt & Pleasure
Circulation: 5,300
Date of Birth: 2006
Frequency: Quarterly
Price: $8.95
Natural Habitat: A pricey Williamsburg loft, next to a half-eaten lox bagel and crumbling dog-eared books by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Safran Foer and Chuck Klosterman

Heeb
Circulation: 30,000
Date of Birth: 2001
Frequency: Quarterly
Price: $5.99
Natural Habitat: Jeremy Piven’s and Jared Kushner’s master bathrooms


By Adam Weinstein

<em>Heeb</em>It’s hard to underestimate hip America’s recent burning desire to join the tribe. Between Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Sacha Baron Cohen and that rabbi on The Learning Channel’s Shalom in the Home, hip Jewish role models have rarely been more chic. They emphasize a shared culture, not theology—and what a culture: nagging parents; a groovy, mysterious language; big gatherings on Friday nights; and an obsession with coffee and pastries. By those criteria, nearly every successful hipster is a child of Zion. And now the magazine industry is gunning for those young Jewish city-dwellers, with a pair of complementary quarterlies, Guilt & Pleasure and Heeb.

Guilt & Pleasure aspires to be the young urban Jew’s literary staple, a sort of The Believer or McSweeney’s for descendants of the Catskills set. It certainly bears a superficial resemblance to these lit mags: square, sturdy and thick, its many pages offer bright colors and print-heavy layouts in neat, logical packets that campily suggest socialist propaganda. A product of Reboot, a 4-year-old New York-based nonprofit that promotes Jewish cultural dialogue, G&P uses wit and introspection to prod its readership to “grapple with the questions of Jewish identity, community and meaning on its own terms.” With editorial advisors like Esquire editor-at-large A.J. Jacobs and the novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Gary Shteyngart, G&P boasts a lot of cultural muscle.

And yet, like their more gentile Believer brethren, G&P’s too-hip contributors navigate hazardous syntactical waters. Too hard to port, and their wit slips into showiness; too hard to starboard, and their introspection runs into solipsism. Take the magazine’s fall 2007 “Sound Issue,” which is stuffed silly with navel-gazing retrospectives on the music young Jews once loved. Aside from fascinating historical pieces on Tito Puente’s Hebrew colleagues—known as mamboniks—and the Jewish love affair with the Italian-American songstress Connie Francis, the entire issue indulges in a hipster first-person sensibility that restates the obvious as though Moses just brought it down the mountain. Successive contributors explain how they realized Frank Zappa wasn’t a god, Paul Simon’s Graceland wasn’t cool and Joni Mitchell’s music wasn’t good for a pick-me-up.

Between pages crammed with campy old posters and album covers, G&P spills much ink credulously accepting Bob Dylan’s self-professed role as the slayer of Tin Pan Alley pop music. Perhaps that story is meant to compensate for the inclusion of a ghastly offensive Seventies graphic novella titled The Ventures of Zimmerman, which portrays Dylan as a Shylock-like money-grubber. We get it, Guilt & Pleasure: You’re post-ideological, and you want to appropriate previous generations’ anti-Semitism with your snark, irony and celebration of aesthetic artifice. Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner did it first, and by erring on the side of entertainment, they managed to enlighten.

If G&P is the urban Jew’s McSweeney’s, Heeb is his Esquire. The brainchild of Jennifer Bleyer, a Columbia graduate and New York Times freelancer, Heeb humbly fancies itself as “a take-no-prisoners zine for the plugged-in and preached-out…a multi-media magnet to the young, urban and influential.” Unlike Guilt & Pleasure, Heeb is unapologetically slick in its presentation: thin and glossy, with proper front- and back-of-book sections that sport numerous photos and plenty of air around the text. Still, the magazine appreciates its own irony and delivers a surprising amount of substance that’s far more accessible than Guilt & Pleasure. Heeb’s winter 2007 “Goy Issue” puts a Semitic spin on the consumer-mag formula, interspersing punchy front-of-book recipes (“Nosh Pit”) and language lessons (“Heebonics”) with fashion spreads (“Aryans Have More Fun!”); a profile of actress Cheryl Hines (“The Accidental Shiksa”), who plays Larry David’s non-Jewish ex-wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm; and ads for games that Jewish frat boys didn’t know they needed, like “No-Limit Texas Dreidel.”

But look closer: There’s a serious discussion of faith and gender with Camille Paglia. A “SHeeb” profile of Mad Men’s Maggie Siff explores her television character’s manifold challenges as a Jewish woman in a macho Sixties ad agency. Don’t miss the explication of the “Shabbos goy,” the (usually paid) gentile who performs favors for observant Jews on the Sabbath. (But as you leaf through the stories, avert your gaze from the interceding “Heeb Guide to Strip Dreidel.”)

Heeb’s dual strengths are an overt irreverence—a “borscht-belt schtickiness,” as publisher Josh Neuman puts it (take the magazine’s title, an epithet that drew ire from the Anti-Defamation League)—and its focus on what Neuman calls “the inadvertently Jewish, the tangentially Jewish, the Jewish by side glance.” The magazine smartly uses gloss and glamour to slay the shibboleths of Jewish identity and wrest laughs from its readers. By contrast, Guilt & Pleasure—whose name is also a tip-off—is constrained by a pedantic fealty to traditional Jewish and hipster pretenses, a sort of “This American Diaspora Life.” Its diaspora barely reaches beyond the 212 area code.

 

 

 

 

 



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Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
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