The Last Magazine
By Michael Hastings
(Blue Rider Press, Hardcover, 9780399169946, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
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The year is 2002. Weekly newsmagazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is a twenty-two- year-old intern at The Magazine, wet behind the ears, the only one in the office who’s actually read his coworker’s books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position, and he’s figured out just whom to impress: Nishant Patel, the international editor, and Sanders Berman, managing editor, both vying for the job of editor in chief. While Berman and Nishant try to one-up each other pontificating on cable news, A. E. Peoriathe one reporter seemingly doing any workis having a career crisis. He’s just returned from Chad, where, instead of the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile phone outsourcing, which they think is more relevant. And then, suddenly, the United States invades Iraqand all hell breaks loose. As Hastings loses his naïveté about the journalism game, he must choose where his loyalties liewith the men at The Magazine who can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.
The Last Magazine is the debut novel from Michael Hastings, discovered in his files after his untimely death in June 2013. Informed by his own journalistic experiences, it is wickedly funny, sharp, and fast-paced: a great book about print journalism’s last glory days, and a compelling first novel from one of America’s most treasured reporters.
Michael Hastings was a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and a correspondent at large for BuzzFeed. Before that he worked for Newsweek, where he rose to prominence covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the recipient of the 2010 George Polk Award for his Rolling Stone magazine story The Runaway General. Hastings was the author of three books, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, Panic 2012, and The Operators. He died in 2013, and was posthumously honored with the Norman Mailer Award for Emerging Journalist.
When Michael Hastings died, he was known as a reporter. The Last Magazine, just published posthumously, proves him a novelist as well. NPR's Rachel Martin discusses it with his widow, Elise Jordan. More at NPR.org
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“Even from the grave Mr. Hastings has demonstrated anew an ability to reframe the debate. The novel….reads as vivid archaeology that reveals much about the present moment… The milieu of the book paints a picture of a treehouse where like minds connive and look for an opening. But far below them, there is the sound of sawing – steady and implacable. The tree will fall….Remarkable.”—David Carr, The New York Times
“Scathing, funny, rollicking.”—The Barnes and Noble Review
“Frenetic and darkly funny.” – Rolling Stone
“Terrifyingly funny ….entrancing, compelling.” – Shelf Awareness
“The Last Magazine is tender and brutal, worldly and inbred, high-minded and gross, smartly rendered and rough around the edges — and quite often hilarious…The Last Magazine is the funniest, most savage takedown of the American news media since Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, by his hero Hunter S. Thompson.”—James Rosen, The Washington Post
“[The Last Magazine] is fast and funny and humane. When I put it down, it called to be picked up again.” –Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“What makes this novel work—really, I can’t think of a better little tome to take to the beach—is that it’s just so much fun, so wicked, so amusing, and so brilliantly observed. The caricatures of people living and dead (career-wise) are only part of its charm. I haven’t read a better send-up of hackery since the last time I dove into Evelyn Waugh’s 1938 classic Scoop.”—Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast
“As a provocative piece of thinly fictionalized nonfiction, [The Last Magazine] is a posthumous mission accomplished…Hastings’s book is a message in a bottle that has belatedly washed up on shore to force us to remember how we landed where we are now.”—Frank Rich, New York Magazine
“That voice. That witty, subversive voice we thought we'd lost, is back for one last romp. Hastings decodes the culture even more incisively in fiction, with wild bursts of imaginative mischief. So damn funny.”—Dave Cullen, New York Times bestselling author of Columbine
“[Hastings’] keen eye for the creatures of the New York media universe focuses on the fabricated lifestyles of that world's desperate inhabitants. Here, no one is immune….The suffering amid the insufferable is comic gold, and Hastings had no time for heroes. The world he created is filled with lost boys stamping their feet for validation. This could be the perfect summer bro comedy. Paging Judd Apatow!”—Mark Guarino, Chicago Tribune
“A convincing account of the perils of war - and of the journalistic wars of an institution under siege from New Media…. The Last Magazine remains a loving account of a profession Hastings believed was honorable and tried to honor. Only the guilty have something to fear.” –Paul Wilner, San Francisco Chronicle
“Surely Michael Hastings would have savored the taste of revenge had he lived to see his first novel, The Last Magazine published…The humor throughout is searing….entertaining.”—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News
The promise of this remarkable novel will never be fulfilled because it is that saddest of literary phenomena—the brilliant but posthumous first novel. Hastings, former Rolling Stone journalist and author of the memoir I Lost My Love in Baghdad (2008), was killed when his automobile crashed in June 2013. Here, in an apparently completed novel found in Hastings’ files after his death, the protagonist “Michael Hastings” is an intern at The Magazine, a newsweekly, and author Hastings has keen and considerable insight into the functioning of a Time-like periodical between 2002 and 2005, Iraq to Katrina. War reporter A. E. Peoria, who has been to Iraq (and elsewhere) for the magazine and is equal parts Neil Sheehan and Hunter Thompson, is the novel’s focus. The scenes of war are graphic and horrifying, and those of sex every bit as graphic and pretty horrifying themselves. Peoria has read his Conrad and Graham Greene, and Hastings, the novelist, reminds one at times of the early Robert Stone. There is an interesting twist, although with its development, the book jumps the tracks a bit. Nonetheless, this is powerful, sharp, often funny, and very compelling reading.
Hastings (The Operators, 2012, etc.) was one hell of a journalist, covering wars and geopolitical strife for venues like Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed. As it turns out, he would have made a fine novelist had he not died in a car accident in 2013. This “secret” novel was resurrected from his files by his widow, Elise Jordan; it’s a messy, caustic and very funny satire. His protagonist is a young journalist also named Mike Hastings, who has just landed his first job at The Magazine in the dying days of traditional journalism. In wry metacommentary scattered throughout the text, the character Mike—who claims he's the one writing this book—reflects on just what it is he's writing. "Maybe I'm talking genres, and maybe the genre is corporate betrayal," he says. "Including the big decision that the entire media world is so interested in: Who and what is left standing?" Hastings, the author, tells the story of how Mike makes the journey from ambitious young man to cynical hack partially by showing us Mike's new friend A.E. Peoria, a classic old-school journalist who fuels his brilliant war reporting with alcohol and drugs and transvestite hookers. In the crevasse between his sanitary cubicle and Peoria’s lewd adventures, our hero is also tracking the war of career strategy between his managing editor, Sanders Berman, and the international editor, Nishant Patel, whose favor Mike is carefully currying. Hastings chooses the start of the Iraq War to disrupt Mike's burgeoning career path. "There's war in the backdrop, looming and distant and not real for most of these characters, myself included," Mike says. In a way, the book reflects Hastings' career arc, from unpaid intern at Newsweek to becoming one of the essential war correspondents of his generation. A ribald comedy about doing time in the trenches and the bitter choices that integrity demands.