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The Happy Reader

The Happy Reader

In the lead up to this year’s Modern Magazine conference (just one week to go!) we’re inviting speakers from the line-up to introduce a spread from the most recent issue of their magazine. Today, The Happy Reader's editor-in-chief Seb Emina is taking us through one of his favorite spreads from issue seven.

At ModMag, Seb will be discussing the development of the magazine and how the editorial team work with Penguin to create it.


'The Happy Reader is a magazine for book lovers. It’s split into two halves. The first half is a long, in-depth, annotated conversation with a famous bookworm, and the second is just like a magazine, except where everything is in the orbit of a single “Book of the Season”.

‘In the current issue the interview is with the art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and the Book of the Season is Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.


‘Here’s a spread from the Mrs Dalloway section which I like, because it’s a moment when three very different stories collide. At the top right are the final lines of an article by Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his Mrs Dalloway-inspired book The Hours. I asked, on the off chance, if he'd write something for us about the first time he came across Woolf’s novel, and amazingly he said yes.

‘On the left is a carnation, the last in a series of portraits by Matthieu Lavanchy showing the different kinds of flower mentioned in Mrs Dalloway, each just frozen in focus as if to say ‘I’m a beautiful literary symbol’ with the blurry urban pomp of Westminster in the background.

‘And finally, below the headline WHAT THE CLOUDS SAY are the first words of an article about skywriting, that once-futuristic practice of writing ads in the sky with the exhaust from a light aircraft. I’m a bit obsessed with the scene where Woolf describes various people looking up, trying to work out what a plane is trying to write. This short essay by Canadian writer Harriet Alida Lye is a potted history of skywriting with a personal twist, and doesn't mention Mrs Dalloway at all, which makes it a quintessential Happy Reader piece: if you’ve read the book you’ll get it, you’ll know why it’s there, and if you haven’t you’ll enjoy reading about a laborious, retro-futuristic advertising method that you assume must have something to do with a book you may one day get round to picking up.’

Issue eight of The Happy Reader will be published in November.

Our Modern Magazine 2016 event is now sold out.

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