People were asking me the other week what I, professional magazinternet writer, think is a good magazine. And the truth is that while all the magazines that pay me money are badass, I prefer reading stuff a la carte, through RSS, without the tyranny of a front-of-the-book or a backpage-filler or a charticle or everything else that goes toward your $4.95 cover price. Except for one magazine. One magazine I rarely ever read. But love. Every time. For nearly ten years. The London Spectator.

It’s true that I’m neither British nor a Tory. But the sensibility of the Spectator is more like that of a cult. At least a cult that’s probably insufferable in the U.K. but makes so much sense to an unfamiliar American audience that doesn’t have to contend with all that fraught English class nonsense. Basically, here in Washington, and in New York before that, I don’t know what’s a British cliche. There’s me fronting with Waugh and Amis I and McEwan and Amis II and Barnes and shit, but the truth is, I can’t tell if Spectator writers are phoning it in, repeating all the old moves of earlier generations of British scribes handed down again and again. All I know is: that extremely wry sensibility, that engagement-with-detachment-in-alternate grafs — either it doesn’t lose its crunch or I can’t tell when it’s oversaturated. Tally ho.

Also, I remember the Spectator in the Petronella Wyatt days. Reader, I would murder you and spend the rest of my life in a Turkish prison (I’d wait to murder you until you went on a Turkish vacation) for one night with that woman. My days of falling in love with women writers began when I was 19 and read about her penning her column after she took so many downers that all she could write was OH GOD on a nearby cocktail napkin.

Today I bought the Spectator in the Connecticut Avenue foreign-magazine shop near the Windy offices where I go to kill time between deadlines. I haven’t read it in at least 18 months. And what did I see advertised on its cover? A piece by my friend Reihan Salam. I’ve resented Reihan many times over the six years we’ve known each other, but never so much as right now. Why not me, Spectator editors? Haven’t I earned this? You need to put it in my face like that?

I ended up sending Reihan a series of emails that referenced Petronella. They were so filthy he begged me to stop.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman