The Monday Media Diet with Megan Gibson
On Longform, How Long Gone, and Persepolis
Megan Gibson (MG) is a journalist and international editor at The New Statesman. She previously worked at Monocle. I have long enjoyed her work, and am happy to have her on the page today. Last week’s commentary about podcast mics and social media does not apply to the esteemed Monocle 24 ;) -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I am a journalist and the international editor at The New Statesman. Before that, I was the foreign editor at Monocle and a staff writer at Time. I started working in magazines in New York but I’ve lived in London for 11 years now (and am currently in the process of applying for dual citizenship). I’m originally from Canada but Brits always assume I’m American because of my accent. Except cab drivers. London cab drivers can somehow always tell that I’m Canadian.
Describe your media diet.
Unwieldy! I have digital subscriptions to The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and The New York Times, so I check their sites every morning and often throughout the day. I also regularly browse The Guardian, New York Mag, The Globe and Mail, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg, Politico and Gawker.
Then there’s the sites I try to check in on semi-regularly: the English versions of foreign papers, like Le Monde and El Pais; Hazlitt; The New Republic; The Nation; LRB; NYRB; The Diplomat; and War on the Rocks — though I only really began reading that last one after the war in Ukraine started. Basically I always have an insane number of tabs open.
At the moment I only have print subscriptions to The New Yorker and The New Statesman (gotta support the team), but I will buy the London Review of Books, The Gentlewoman, The Economist, Businessweek and Vanity Fair on the newsstand.
I also subscribe to way too many newsletters: I never read them all and I end up feeling guilty about it. But the ones I do open pretty consistently include Politico’s London Playbook, WaPo’s Today’s World View, Matt Levine’s Money Stuff, and The Monocle Minute. I also read Substacks by Adam Tooze, Edith Zimmerman, Lawrence and Sam Freedman, Meghan Daum, John Ganz, Lauren Collins, Mary Gaitskill, Alison Roman and Alicia Kennedy. Oh, and I also love Nathan Ma’s Furniture for All. (Though, full disclosure, I’m not a paying subscriber to any of these. Sorry guys!)
I’m flaky when it comes to podcasts but occasionally when I cook I’ll listen to an episode of Longform, How Long Gone, Know Your Enemy, Normal Gossip or Desert Island Discs. Because my husband is such a fan, I’ve also dipped into the Jokermen podcast — good stuff, like the Bob content!
I rely on Twitter for any news, features, theories, clips and gossip that I haven’t come across elsewhere. I know a lot of people say they hate it — which, fair enough — but mostly I think it’s great. I hope Elon doesn’t ruin it.
What’s the last great book you read?
My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley. It’s a quiet but totally devastating account of the narrator’s relationship with her parents, particularly her mother. It’s excruciating at times but also quite funny. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long time after I finished.
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What are you reading now?
I always have a few different things on the go, which I don’t recommend as a strategy; it’s the offline equivalent to having too many open tabs. I gravitate toward fiction, mostly, when I’m not reading for work. Right now I’m alternating between Annie Ernaux’s Happening (lol, I know! But better late than never, right?); Some Trick, Helen DeWitt’s short story collection; and Persepolis, a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi about her youth in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, which a colleague recommended. And I just finished Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson, which I really enjoyed. It’s a kind of literary thriller set in Los Angeles’s affluent art world — sort of a Talented Mr. Ripley meets Less Than Zero.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I skim the contents and then flip to the pieces by the writers I admire most or on the subjects I’m most interested in. After I’ve read those, I go back and flip through from front to back, looking at every page but usually only stopping when something grabs me. I love magazines but don’t feel obliged to read everything; for me, it’s more about whether the mix of pieces makes sense.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I struggled with this question most of all! But let’s say Gwendoline Riley. She is just staggeringly talented.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
I actually kinda hate apps. I don’t even love any of the famous ones, if I’m honest. I use about five on my phone with any regularity.
Plane or train?
I mean, I live in Europe so I sort of have to say train, don’t I? But I do love a long-haul flight.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Another impossible question but I will go with Helsinki. It’s just a gorgeous, accessible, cool city filled with the best things — saunas, amazing modernist architecture and fun dive bars. Go in the summer if you hate the cold. Stay at the St. George Hotel, have dinner at Sea Horse and go swimming in the outdoor sea pool in the harbour.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I am obsessed with literary and media rivalries (historical or contemporary). So when Vanity Fair recently published a wild piece about the not-overly-fond friendship between Joan Didion and Eve Babitz — featuring the very spiky letters EB wrote to JD in the 70s — I was hooked. In one letter Babitz suggests that Didion’s success and fame were only tolerated by men – including her own husband — because of her waif-like size. “Could you write what you write if you weren’t so tiny, Joan?” It’s the “Joan” there that kills me. Eve!
Anyway after I finished the piece, I read everything I could find online about Babitz’s career as well as her and Didion’s shared friends and acquaintances trying to create a more complete timeline of their relationship in my head. A very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. (MG)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Megan (MG)
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