Reader's Digest: More With-it Than Ever...

"The Digest's new editor, Christopher Wilcox, has been doing his best to run more socially aware, with-it articles."

--The New York Observer

It's a goal to which all magazines aspire, but only a few ever truly earn the sought-after label of with-it, that lucky confluence of subject, perspective, presumption, and timeliness that's almost always the product of spontaneous combustion rather than careful manufacture. When it happens, as it's happening now at Reader's Digest, other publications invariably try to reverse-engineer the process - but that's an undertaking that's as improbable as making cows from leather jackets and hamburgers. Better merely to applaud the achievement:

Me Tarzan, You Backscratcher
At first glance, a psoriatic doorjamb frotteur's revelation about "What Men Secretly Love About Marriage" comes off as the rationale underlying a '70s era divorce. But this is the age of the Promise Keepers, where old-style cartoon sexism has a Biblical mandate, and concubinish, lotion-slathering helpmeets are, once again, with-it: "Every winter my skin got dry and itchy, particularly on my back - and so I'd 'treat' the situation by rubbing against a doorjamb. Now, [my wife] rubs lotions onto my back. She's the lotion queen."

Seemingly Mundane, Actually With-it
"The joy of life is made up of obscure and seemingly mundane victories that give us our small satisfactions." True, this marginally Quotable Quote from Billy Joel lacks the Zeitgeist-defining hummability that has made him the in-crowd's default troubador for nearly 30 years. But try declaiming it over and over in a weary star monotone while listening to the not-so-angry, not-so-young composer's most recent lyric-free melodies, and you've got a totally with-it tone-poem.

A lesser author, in penning a paean to sitcom-style camraderie called "What Friends Are For," would have chosen a far more topical duo as celebrity analogue for her and her own best pal. In forsaking Monica and Rachel for several stock retro-reference twosomes, however, author Dianne Hales adds an offhand, not-trying-too-hard element to her piece, giving it that languid, with-it feel: "In the nine years since, Rhonda and I have played Ethel to each other's Lucy, Rhoda to each other's Mary, Laverne to each other's Shirley."

-- G. Beato

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