by , Jul 12, 2007, 2:47 PM
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It's been a crudball week for magazines here in the U. S. of A., with Jane euthanized pre-menopause and Cocktail Weekly cut off before last call... hell, before first call. So in deference to my screwed-over publishing brethren -- we shall overcoommmmmme somedaaaaaaaaay -- I decided to turn my attention to the other side of the pond and a U.K. magazine, Tatler, that I see on just about every U.S. newsstand.

Tatler's multitasking will come as a bit of a shock to readers used to neatly organized, topically trim titles. Though it bills itself as a society publication, Tatler includes every women's-mag staple and then some. Books, beauty, fashion, relationships, films, restaurants, travel, celebrity... It's exhausting, frankly.

On the other hand, Tatler goes about its business with a palpable sense of joy. Unlike many U.S. all-in-one women's mags, Tatler realizes that its purpose is to entertain, rather than enlighten. For the most part, it keeps its content light: rankings of society sisters, a bit on Twister house parties, mathematical analyses (seriously) of the faces of Kate Moss and other pop tarts. It introduces its sections in a refreshingly straightforward manner ("we bring you the looks to wear now") and spurns the practiced snobbery of most similar titles by including cheap puns in its section headers ("Social Eyes"... say it out loud, it'll come to you eventually).

Tatler looks a little different as well. Rather than the thematically rigid product or fashion spreads we're accustomed to ("must-have toe accessories," etc.), the mag doesn't hesitate to include a diverse range of items on a given page. One boasts, among other items, a pink sapphire bracelet, a metallic bikini, a python-skin handbag and a casual summer dress. None of these spreads feel cluttered, however, and Tatler still goes the high-falutin' route from time to time, most memorably in a shot of an asymmetrical stack of black and white shoes and handbags.

I love the writing, even as I rarely have the slightest idea what Tatler is talking about (this might say something about my cross-cultural literacy). Take the following lead for the automobiles column: "Men in uniforms really tickle my pickle. Not just any old uniform -- hotel porters, traffic wardens and Starbucks baristas hardly set the pants on fire with lust. Or Beefeaters. Good Lord, can you imagine? 'I'll wash down a couple of Viagra with my gin and poke you with my big stick.'" It goes on like this for four paragraphs, finally mentioning the Land Rover Defender in the fifth. The "Poor Little Rich Girl" and "Seven-Year Itch" columns are similarly non-linear, nonsensical and velly, velly English.

I wish this playful tone found its way into the longer celeb features. The mag positively genuflects before Emma "Hermione" Watson, presenting her as a cross between Jodie Foster and Dagny Taggart, and fawns similarly over photographer Tim Jefferies (added demerits for the obvious "Big Shot" headline). "Confessions of an ex It Girl" reads more briskly, perhaps owing to my lack of familiarity with its flighty subject, Lady Victoria Hervey.

The mag also jumps on the "Toxic Bachelors" bandwagon with a one-page quiz for guys. Good news, ladies: I seem to have passed muster. I instantly recognized one of the entries as a trick question: "Your date for the night has a fabulously short minidress on. Do you: a) Insist she doesn't wear any knickers ('knickers' is British funny-talk for 'panties'); b) Ask if she's wearing any knickers; or c) Tell her she has the greatest legs you've ever seen." Come on -- the obvious answer is "d) Get really intimidated and pull a nearby fire alarm." You can't pull a fast one on me. No sir.

Tatler should stay far, far away from even middleweight fare, though. Taking Daryl Hannah seriously as an "eco-queen" doesn't help anybody, least of all the reader. Then there's the report on London's "superclass," which reveals that rich people have more money and buy more things than slightly less rich people. Hello, Pulitzer committee.

Still, it's easy to see why Tatler has generated more than a cult audience on these shores. Simply put, it's a lot of fun. Any number of U.S. women's mags could serve to adopt its breezy tone.


Published by: Tatler Publishing Co. (a Condé Nast subsidiary)
Frequency: Monthly, plus 10 guides/supplements banded to the main issue
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