- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

March heralds spring’s beginning, and this year brings an added bonus with Easter coming early at month’s end.

To that end, U.S. News & World Report’s periodic collectors’ edition, with the cover story “Secrets of the Da Vinci Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Bestselling Novel,” arrives just in time for this major Christian observance.

Tomorrow will mark the 102nd week that author Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list, ranking at the top of the roster or pretty close to it.

The novel’s plot centers on the notion that Jesus married a nice upper-class Jewish girl named Mary Magdalene. They had children, and he appointed her — not Peter — to carry on his mission in the world. The Holy Grail, so long sought by King Arthur and sundry knights, contains Mary Magdalene’s bones and supposedly lies under the I.M. Pei pyramid in the Louvre. (Yes, the book’s a mega best seller in France, and the Louvre hasn’t had so many visitors since it opened to the public more than a century ago.)

U.S. News & World Report’s “Unauthorized Guide” of Mr. Brown’s tome is, visually, a sumptuous piece of work. The text, however, consists largely of excerpts from another best seller, “Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code,” edited by Dan Burstein.

After reading it, you’re left with the feeling that you have just flipped through one huge promotion for “The Da Vinci Code” or for the upcoming film, scheduled to begin production shortly in Paris.

The special edition will remain on newsstands through June 7.

Harper’s , in its March edition, is featuring “AWOL in America: When Desertion Is the Only Option,” by Kathy Dobie.

Miss Dobie, author of “The Only Girl in the Car,” leaves you with the feeling that soldiers have a pretty rough time of it — and we’re not talking about duty in Iraq.

She quotes a letter from a new recruit describing his unhappy day-to-day life in the barracks. “You can hear people trying to make sure no one hears them cry under their covers,” Miss Dobie’s piece quotes the soldier as saying.

By day three, the young recruit tells his drill sergeant that the military is not for him. “For whatever reason, I’m not willing to kill,” he says in the story. He soon begins making plans to get himself out.

Miss Dobie writes that though the Army may have examined the problem of the individual soldier, it hasn’t taken a good look at itself. She concludes with a quote from a young soldier who has gone AWOL: “The military is a bunch of lies.”

Having just celebrated its 90th anniversary, the New Republic on its Feb. 28 cover showcased a group of distinguished Democrats of the past. The men are depicted raising their champagne glasses as a saw is working its way around the ground beneath their feet.

The headline? “To Liberalism! Embattled … and Essential.”

Editor Peter Beinart (currently on leave) writes in his TRB column that liberals should stop complaining about President Bush’s democratic rhetoric not being supported by his foreign policy — and start trying to match it with rhetoric of their own.

Editor in Chief Martin Peretz also weighs in under the ironic headline, “Not Much Left.”

He’s deeply disturbed that no truly influential liberal mind is to be found in our culture. “Whose books and articles are read and passed around?” he asks.

He answers his own question by writing, “There’s no one, really.”

The Public Interest, that worthy and distinguished quarterly founded some 40 years ago by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glaser, the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and sociologist Daniel Bell, will publish its final issue next month. The District-based publication will feature a story by Mr. Kristol discussing its past and why now is the time to say farewell.

It seems like only yesterday that the late Mr. Moynihan, a close personal friend of my late husband, author Richard Grenier, and mine, bounded into the living room of our Paris home exclaiming, “Irving, Nate and I are starting up a new magazine. We’re calling it the Public Interest.”

Speaking of Washington-based political periodicals, the Weekly Standard (edited by William Kristol, son of Irving Kristol) welcomes a new Books & Arts editor.

Philip Terzian, former newspaperman, critic and one-time assistant editor at the New Republic, succeeds Joseph (Jody) Bottum.

After seven years with the Weekly Standard, Mr. Bottum is off to New York to become the editor in chief of that splendid monthly First Things, succeeding its founder, the Rev. Richard Neuhaus.

Suede, a joint publication of Essence and Time magazines, has been shelved temporarily after just four issues.

The magazine, geared toward young women of color, offered an attractive mix of fashion spreads and features — including an interesting story on new U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat.

Suede will offer an April edition, but no date has been given for its return.

“The magazine is smart, exciting and provocative,” Ed Lewis, chairman and chief executive officer of Essence Communications, said in a statement released Feb. 23. “However, although some of our most talented people have been working on Suede, it has become clear that more time and resources would be needed to further develop this brand.

“This decision will give us the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate the concept and its place in the market,” Mr. Lewis said.

Suede debuted on newsstands in September.

The April Atlantic has a lengthy cover story (26 pages) titled “Host,” by novelist David Foster Wallace.

The story — touted on the cover as taking a look “deep, deep, deep into the mercenary world of take-no-prisoners political talk radio” — is somewhat unusual in its presentation, with the author’s footnotes and comments running throughout.

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