Life in the Long Tail


In the opening pages of The Enthusiast (Harper Collins), the novel's protagonist, Henry Bay, meets his first love: a kite-powered go-kart. Then he discovers Kite Buggy magazine. "In retrospect," says Bay, "of course there was a magazine; there's a magazine as soon as five people find a new way to hurt themselves."

Our hero goes on explore the wild world of hobbyist publications, parachuting in to scribble some copy for Row! ("The Coxswain That Comes in Your Mailbox") or rewrite an article about hip lock during calving for Country Ways. He guides others to that "once-only Eden" of "your first copy of a magazine about your first enthusiasm," a calling that requires him to move to new nowheresvilles every few months. Charlie Haas' debut novel is a reminder that long before obscure Hindi films and out-of-print mountaineering books were available at Netflix and Amazon, the "long tail" of ready access to delightful obscurities was alive and well in America.