- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005

Many people may be anticipating vacations or getting children off to summer camp as we head into August, but in the world of magazines, the focus is on preparing youngsters for their return to school and fashion gurus decreeing what kind of pretty woollies women should buy for the cooler weather ahead.

This doesn’t mean, mind you, that there aren’t plenty of interesting magazines for you to toss into your tote bag for a leisurely read as you head off to the mountains or the beach. For starters, consider placing the Atlantic’s Fiction Issue 2005 at the top of your pile of “must-reads.”

The venerable magazine is moving its base of operations from Boston to the District (the spirit of one-time celebrated novelist and editor William Dean Howells is, no doubt, wailing from beyond the grave) — and apparently fiction will no longer be a regular monthly feature.

Included in the special issue are short stories by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, probably the author known to the largest number of readers, as well as other celebrated writers — from National Book Award finalists to those who have had their works published in various magazines, among them the New Yorker, Missouri Review and the Southwest Review.

The quality of the writing is pretty good, and it will make for some good summertime reading. Curiously, in the story “*BD* 11 1 86,” Miss Oates seems to have been channeling novelist Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and the recently released film “The Island.” Both deal with the consequences of cloning.

The special edition also features a number of essays, including “Writers and Mentors” by Rick Moody, “Moral Fiction” by Mary Gordon and “The Perils of Literary Success” by Curtis Sittenfeld. You’ll also find eight brief snippets from the Atlantic archives — ranging from Charles Dickens on Stardom (from April 1877) to Vladimir Nabokov on Chekhov (from August 1981) both of which liven the issue considerably.

The Atlantic’s Fiction Issue 2005 will remain on sale until mid-October — thereby (presumably) giving the staff sufficient time to settle into Washington and its ways.

• • •

If you’re still in the market for some good reading, check out the August issue of Outside, a magazine that consistently has won prizes for its features and inclusion of high-quality literature.

Although this edition includes the feature “Where to Live Now: 18 Perfect Towns That Have It All (Hip, Smart & Packed With Adventure),” you may prefer reading “Deep Trouble” — a harrowing account that’s aptly described by the cover line: “The incredible story of Dave Shaw — trapped at the bottom of a dark underwater cave, tangled up with a dead body, and running out of time …”

After turning to page 58, you’ll soon discover what happens next at the pitch-black bottom of one of the world’s deepest underwater caves, in South Africa. Author Tim Zimmerman really knows how to deliver the goods. It’s an exciting read that’s well worth your time. You won’t be sorry.

The issue also has some breathtaking photo spreads — including one of a surfer coming down a gigantic wave at Monterey Peninsula’s Ghost Tree, a massive deep-water break off the 18th hole at Pebble Beach in California — and another featuring photos for the story on the nation’s 18 perfect towns. It’s an appealing display that showcases America at its best.

While thumbing through all the delights this issue has to offer, don’t overlook a feature titled simply “The Book.”

Author Patrick Symmes tracks down the sources for the “Book” — described by Outside as “a legendary global compendium of tips, tirades, and travelers’ wisdom” for young people from Israel seeking a respite from the tensions of their homeland. Most of these travelers, age 22 on average, have some rugged, mandatory military service behind them and are simply seeking adventure. The “Book” can be found in Africa, Asia, South America.

These young Israelis “have absorbed the ethic of global tramping with ferocity. Go far, stay long, see deep,” Mr. Symmes writes. Also, as the story’s first sentence intriguingly states: “You can’t buy [the Book] in any store, can’t send away for it online, can’t meet the author (there are thousands), and you probably won’t be able to read it if you do find it, since much of it is written in Hebrew.”

Outside can charge up your spirit for adventure. Reading this issue is almost as exhilarating as actually hitting the road yourself.

• • •

The August Elle also plays on your imagination but, perhaps, is keyed more to vanity than a craving for the open road. One story, “430 Ways to Reinvent Your Look,” is sure to pique your curiosity, as will the August cover girl, pop star and actress Jessica Simpson — whose reinvented look makes her virtually unrecognizable.

With all due respect to Miss Simpson, her look up to now has been a wee bit on — how shall we put it? — the tacky side. Here, photographed by Gilles Bensimon, Elle’s publication director, the star of the new film “The Dukes of Hazzard” is a class act with minor but exceedingly effective modifications in her makeup. The transformation, in fact, is worthy of a spread in Vogue.

Who would have thought?

• • •

Hearst, the publishers of Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Good Housekeeping, among others, is introducing a brand-new weekly, Quick & Simple. The magazine, due on newsstands Tuesday, appears to be geared toward simplifying life, food preparation, health, home maintenance and style — all universal concerns for today’s woman.

You trust, however, that potential buyers won’t get it confused with the admirable Time-Life monthly Real Simple, which addresses most of the same issues. At any rate, here’s a hearty welcome and a wish for success as Quick & Simple joins the growing ranks of lifestyle publications.

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