Saturday, October 23, 2021


 In A.O. Scott's review of the movie "The French Dispatch", which appeared in yesterday's New York Times, there is a passing reference to

... Harold Ross and William Shawn, the men who together and sequentially established The New Yorker as a pinnacle of middlebrow sophistication in the decades before and after World War II.

I don't often see The New Yorker, and won't vouch for the loft of its brow. Yet I wonder what the height of The New York Times's brow is.  High, upper-middle? And I wonder whether and how I would recognize a highbrow publication if I saw one. Perhaps the sign would be one that it left me muttering "It's very hard to be up to you intellectual lads", like Flann O'Brien's The Plain People of Ireland.


  1. Wikipedia to the rescue: The term middlebrow describes easily accessible art, usually literature, and the people who use the arts to acquire culture and "class" (social prestige). First used in the British satire magazine Punch in 1925, the term middlebrow is the intermediary "brow" descriptor between highbrow and lowbrow, which are terms derived from the pseudo-science of phrenology.[1]
    Hmm … shouldn’t all writing be accessible? If it isn’t, why bother?

    1. I understand the general notion. Sorting any particular work or publication into one of three slots can be tricky, and often enough unrewarding.

      Presumably one writes to be read. Accessibility is accessibility to a particular audience, though. I'm sure that physicists find The Journal of Physics accessible, and I'm sure I wouldn't. Of course, for what are called humane letters one should be able to trace the matter under discussion back to everyday concerns, without resort to formal technique, I think.

  2. This is highly amusing, whether or not it is high brow..