With all due respect to Jerry Saltz, Hendrik Hertzberg, Christopher Hitchens, and James Walcott, Stephen Marche should emerge from Monday’s National Magazine Awards with an arched trophy.Esquire‘s “A Thousand Words About Our Culture” columnist is nominated for an Ellie in the Columns & Commentary section, and he should win despite the formidable competition.*
The Canadian scholar and novelist’s eloquent, evocative prose does not tackle the most weighty subjects — unless you are of the opinion that pop culture equals life — but he takes them on beautifully.
May’s “59 Questions About Lady Gaga” is a perfect example. Marche covers ground previously tackled by thousands of writers, but uses his knowledge of history and deep thoughts about the State of The World to bring a new angle — at least on that is unfamiliar to the Esquire audience — to a tired subject. (Why did we all laugh at Björk when she wore a swan but cheered Gaga when she wore Kermits?… Isn’t it telling of the millennials that even their most radical pop star, their rock ‘n’ roll monster, is fundamentally a pleaser?)
Marche at his best, which is frequent, packs remarkable subtlety and sophistication into his thousand words.
In addition to starring in David Granger‘s stable, Marche writes frequently for the National Post and outlets such as The Globe and Mail.
He has also penned two novels, 2005’s Raymond and Hannah and Shining at the Bottom of the Sea (2007).
Marche’s third book, How Shakespeare Changed Everyhing, comes out May 10. A.J. Jacobs, a fellow Esquire scribe, blurbed the work, and his words provide a nice synopsis of Marche’s abilities: “This is a wonderful book about seeing the world through Shakespeare-tinted glasses. You’ll never look at the food court, Justin Beiber — or, for that matter, the English language — the same way again.”
Marche makes his readers see the world differently. He makes pop culture resonant far beyond meat dresses. You cannot ask for more.
*For the record, our money is on Hitchens to walk away with the award on Monday night.