The Monthly got the full treatment at its launch in Melbourne last night. Morry Schwartz, silver-haired property developer and founder of Black Inc and Quarterly Essay, told several hundred people at the GPO that he’d founded the mag out of “New Yorker” envy, which is setting the bar pretty high, but word is he’s prepared to back it for the five years it will take to break even.
After a speech by the Chaser boys poking fun at publishing failures, Morry was looking quite pleased with himself, bouncing on his feet like Willy Wonka. “I think we’ve got all the right people here,” he said. By which he must have meant the usual bunch of freeloaders who, like Crikey, were hanging out for free drinks as much as the chance to take a squiz at Morry’s latest ambition.
The history of Australian publishing is littered with well-intentioned attempts to create an independent highbrow title – The National Times, The Independent Monthly, The Eye, The Republican, The Unicorn – and you’ve got to work hard to supress the urge to wonder whether in a few years time all the speeches will have a hollow ring. But the consensus last night was that The Monthly had made a promising start. The layout isn’t too flashy; the writing is crisp and clear without being pompous. Even editor Christian Ryan appears to have a way with words.
Here at Crikey, we’ll be rooting for it.