Oversized magazines intimidate me. Not because they dwarf my 4'2", 195-pound frame, nor because they tend to traffic in the froufrou, the hoity and the toity, mind you. No, it's because any mag too large to be rolled up and shoved in my back pocket usually includes enough filler to render plowing through a single issue a weekend-long exercise. Hence I rarely read any of the oversize glossies unless they're presented to me as part of an ultimatum ("Gotham or beets--it's one or the other.").

As in buffet selections and matters of the heart, my instincts are usually spot-on about stuff like this. While I understand why a certain type of status-obsessed person would positively adore Gotham, it doesn't do much for me. The vacant smiles of the party pix, the unrepentant snobbery, the throw-out-last-year's-wardrobe exhortations... not my scene, dude.

Poring over page after page of dimly-lit party photos, in fact, gives me a palpable sense of relief that I'm rarely invited to events where admission is contingent on wearing pants. I can't lie, though: I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall at the "media launch of the Kohler DTV Digital Thermostatic Showering Valve" bash, featured in the Summer Gotham. Them bathroom-accessory heiresses sure know how to party.

Except for the aforementioned NYC event pix--reproduced in such middling quality as to make me suspect that the mag's photo folk aren't yet familiar with the notion of digital imaging--it's hard to knock Gotham for its looks. Each meaty page boasts the luster of a prom-night bouffant, plus the feature/fashion photography ranks with anything in GQ or Harper's Bazaar. The fonts are as distinctive as the Yankee Stadium façade; the design/layout is considerably cleaner than a Port Authority latrine.

Too, I find most of the editorial content harmless enough. The Q&As, with NY-area luminaries ranging from Karl Lagerfeld to Augusten Burroughs to Sandra Bernhard, crackle with energy (and props to the individual who smartly recognized that no Q&A, except perhaps one with Thomas Pynchon, merits more than a page or two of space). Just about everything sheltered under the "Estate of Mind" umbrella works as well, especially the real-estate dish and the apartment-porn glimpses inside domiciles that are much, much, much nicer than anything I'll ever call home.

I just can't get past Gotham's surprisingly dippy tone and its worship at the altar of cheap puns and cliches. Notations on the table-of-contents page include "white is the new black" and "the lobster roll--sounds like it could be a funky new dance move." Get it? Get it?

The otherwise smart Matt Dillon feature begins with the pronouncement that "Matt Dillon is everywhere--and you won't hear us complaining"; the piece on some rich cad identifies him as "the native Gothamite who's making quite the fashion statement on Union Square." Unless Gotham has chick-mag aspirations, it ought to keep the coy banter to a minimum. The publication has Park Avenue in its crosshairs, but such language and flat wit reeks of Roosevelt Field.

Some edgier fare would represent a massive step forward, even if the possibility of a high-society exposé would likely prompt bony trophy wives to duck and cover. If you're going to feature New York's most prominent criminal defense attorneys, for instance, you've gotta push them to spill the beans on something, anything more compelling than their most memorable clients.

There's no chance Gotham will ever wander down that road, and probably with good reason: its core audience has little interest in Spy/Gawker derision nor in New Yorker-ish cogitation . That's why, as a fan of all of the above, I won't be spending too many hours with Gotham anytime soon. But that's just me. For a coffee-table accoutrement, you could do a lot worse.

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