Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there was a parlor game where you thought up unlikely combinations of writer, subject matter, and magazine. John Updike writing about dinosaurs for National Geographic might well have come up at some point, except that you can’t use it anymore: Updike actually has written the cover story for December’s Nat Geo issue, contemplating the weirdness of dinosaurs with more than a little awe.
In an interview on the magazine’s website, the author explains that his awe extended beyond the subject matter: “I have never written for the National Geographic and to me it is a very august publication. Every middle class home when I was growing up somewhere in it had a stack of these yellow back magazines that were somehow sacred. So the notion of appearing in a sacred volume like the bound Geographics slightly intimidated me.” His presence on the cover is just one of the magazine’s steps towards cultivating a more literary image; yesterday, editors unveiled a second round of A-list contributing writers, as David Quammen, Caroline Alexander, and Cynthia Gorney are joined on the masthead by Barry Lopez, Robert Draper and Mark Jenkins. Lopez writing for National Geographic? Throw in wolves, and you’ve got the exact opposite of that imaginary parlor game I mentioned above; in fact, you might just have the most perfect magazine article ever.