12 Signs You’re Reading A Pretentious Literary Magazine

"11. Express your seething contempt for posturing, hypocrisy, listicles and irony, in that order."

John Quincy Adams once said, “I have to study politics and war so that my sons can study mathematics, commerce and agriculture, so their sons can study poetry, painting and music.” Well, he got his wish, because it looks like we’re in the age of his grandchildren. With the advent of a whole generation of posturing shut-ins and pretentious literary geniuses, the need to showcase one’s prowess, knowledge of subtext and blue curtains, Shakespeare, Hemingway and Woolf (and maybe genuine interest and talent too, but that’s not important right now) has taken over the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There’s a reason every nepotism baby decides to take up a career in the arts. You don’t see any famous people’s kids blazing a trail for plumbers, do you?

In this kind of environment it’s paramount to be wary of what you’re reading on the internet. What may seem like an innocent journal or creative writing website may just turn out to be one of those pretentious literary magazines full of phonies pretending they like expensive wine. But secretly, they love those fruity cocktails you wouldn’t poke with a fifty-foot pole (if you’re a connoisseur yourself we would recommend a raspberry daiquiri with just a twist of lime) and recreationally quote Plato. You need to be prepared not to fall into their carefully constructed snares, so here are 12 signs you must look out for.  After all, opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.

  1. There’s at least one piece on Satyajit Ray. They’ve stuffed in plentiful  cinematic jargon to let you know how clever they are.  
  2. You are asked to read ‘Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2022!’ lists while the editor’s attention span is nowhere to be found and their TBR pile gathers more dust. 
  3. Theoretically, they shed all need for social conventions and categories. They tout the destruction of hierarchies, prophecy the downfall of the pecking order, but still feel the need to put everything in columns. You know, to like, organise or whatever. How else can they curate and differentiate between things?
  4. They have a withering piece about how TikTok is killing creativity and turning everything into a commodity, inevitably getting distracted midway doom-scrolling through reels.
  5. They envision the magazine as a person. The spectrum ranges from manic pixie dream girl to sardonic vinyl record store owner, both agonising over being born in the wrong generation. Bonus points if they ‘reject’ social media whilst simultaneously voraciously craving validation from strangers on the internet. Basically, being the ‘not like other girls’ of publications.
  6. They believe it’s no longer enough to just do satire, but to gate keep it, own it, become it. 
  7. They call team meetings and collaborate on a polite but firm, researched but nonchalant response to “but print is, like, dying right?” Additionally, they try not to hire “critical thinkers”, if they call the team a family. 
  8. Name dropping the likes of Virginia Woolf, Dostoevsky, Calvino and others only to force their two remaining friends to hold another intervention for their sake. Hidden from prying eyes, their bookmark is currently stuck in a fourth rereading of ‘The Da Vinci Code’. 
  9. The duality of critically analyzing A24 films while secretly revering Akshay Kumar’s early 2000s comedy era. Of very publicly listening to Etta James, Coltrane, Holiday and making sure everyone knows how eclectic their music taste is and how modern artists just don’t compare to the greats. Yet  the new Doja Cat album lyrics are nothing less than a magic mantra.
  10. Writing off expensive coffee as a business expense if it’s the only thing getting them through incessant em-dashes and run on sentences. They make sure everyone hears them bemoan how they need their coffee every morning and how dead they feel without it at least thrice. 
  11. They express their seething contempt for posturing, hypocrisy,  listicles and irony, in that order.
  12. They indicate self-awareness to their readers so they don’t have to get rid of all pretense. Like publishing a “funny”, “self-aware” listicle about themselves. 
ALMA Staff
ALMA Staff

Our mascot writes all ALMA Staff pieces. ORI is whimsical and unpredictable; we've tried being friends with him and failed.