I've never met Jane Pratt, but I have an idea of what she's like: direct, unabashed, and aggressive, with plenty of mojo.
I think this because that's how her magazine, not-at-all-modestly named Jane, presents itself, and part of its attraction is a refreshing honesty.
Take it's December fashion story, headlined, "Where you think you're going in that?" An auditor, a waitress, and an office administrator are given a nearly backless Comme des Garcons suit, green with outrigger frills, to wear for a day, to see how it will play in the Peoria parts of Manhattan.
Not surprisingly, they encounter snickers and even sympathy, because, of course, no one really dresses like that. And yet magazines devote space by the ream to such frocks, as if they're somehow connected to reality. Jane's story acknowledges that fashion matters, but doesn't get carried away.
I'm also guessing Jane is, oh, 37, although I think she's aiming for readers who are somewhat younger, and single. (It's a sure bet that I'm not in her target demographic - male, early 40s - which makes its appeal to someone like me all the more worth commenting on.) Accordingly, sex and dating are popular story topics.
For the former, there's "Why I Worked in Porn," in which a staff writer takes a turn in three phases of adult entertainment. It's a little gritty, but writer Gigi Guerra asks the right questions, and gets good answers.
For the latter, there's "I'll Take Him To Go," two dozen tricks for picking up cute guys. Stephanie Trong goes about her task without a whit of reserve, beginning with suggestion No. 1: "Ambush a guy on the street with a surprise flower, [but] skip roses: They send the message that you're interested in more than his body."
Jane definitely gets points for style, though it is not nearly perfect (another reflection, of course, of real life).
And then there is Trong's story: As best as I can tell, she never intended to date any of the many men she approached with her "I'm single, call me" T-shirts and placards, which is either a violation of journalistic ethics or just another example of a woman seeming to be available when she really isn't.
Who can you trust?
Misrepresentation plays a part in Boston magazine's December package on "Rude Boston," which maps our brusque landscape reasonably well, but stumbles when it tosses in ill manners not exclusive to Boston.
The story also lacks when it doesn't show the consequences if we don't lighten up, or suggest how that might be done.
Regardless, one story in the group is a must-read. It is "Rude Awakening," in which self-proclaimed civilian Dan Zevin and a friend bully their way through an evening at one of Boston's finer restaurants.
The idea is to be rude, annoying, even mean, to feel what its like to deliver such treatment, and to see whether it pays. And, according to Zevin, pay it does: They got lobster terrine and creme brulee for free, and other items knocked off the check. As a magazine article, it is entertainingly uproarious.
The problem is, I don't know whether to believe it. In fact, if not for a basic belief that Boston honors the journalistic tenet against passing off fiction as fact, I'd consider it too over the top, such as when he describes his cell phone's ringing for the ninth time.
The credibility issue, of course, arises on its own, in the story's opening lines. It is, Zevin says, all an act. He pushes around the owner, the maitre d', the busboy, and the waiter, whom he abuses and then stiffs, albeit with the silent vow that he'll come back next week and explain - and pay up (a chapter that goes unreported). But what about the patron with whom he had an altercation, or all the others whose evening was ruined, just for the sake of a story?
It's a great read, but cheapened by a lie. And that's if it's true.