New York Magazine cover stories that purport to capture and explain some element of our current zeitgeist are not to be taken seriously. Just to be clear. Only people hermetically sealed in bubbles of Manhattan privilege would even labor under the delusion that such works of artful fiction were meant to be "believed," in a literal sense. Still—it is bothersome that they continue to be foisted upon the public. Why not just publish a collection of knock-knock jokes, instead? They'd contain more wisdom.

The underlying problem with New York's cover story today, about Xanax, is that it masquerades as something new, something especially of the moment, as if Xanax use has just now reached the cultural peak at which it becomes suitable for a work of splashy zeitgeist journalism. This is, of course, theoretically possible—there could, for example, have been a massive explosion in Xanax prescriptions in the past year among the wealthy, educated New Yorkers that make up New York Magazine's version of a meaningful "New York today." This sort of information, placed up high in the story, would indicate that the story is about something real.

But this is New York Magazine, the self-sustaining fantasyland of design porn, real estate fellatio, and food fetishism, so of course instead of such proof we get firsthand examples of the author's friends and references to current pop songs and vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless meditations on the "global and abstract... situational anxiety" that allegedly haunts this generation as it has no other, and how things sure have changed since Elizabeth Wurtzel was partying in Soho. And how about those hard statistics about the upper crust's slide into benzodiazepine dependence, which would justify this whole airy undertaking in such glossy pages?

Though benzos have come to signify the frantic overwhelmed-ness of the professional elites (they were discovered in the autopsies of both Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger), SAMHSA says the person likeliest to abuse the drugs is a white man between the ages of 18 and 34 who is addicted to another substance-alcohol, heroin, painkillers-and is unemployed.

Huh. So Xanax is... more or less like every other drug, zeitgeistily speaking. Can't wait until the New York Magazine editors' friends get big into meth. More vivacious copy, at least.

[New York]