When Bill Buford took over Granta magazine in 1979 it was a burned-out case, bankrupt and generally unread. Seven issues later he cut a deal with Penguin that gave the magazine access to a worldwide distribution network and a stable of big-name authors. And now, as Buford moves across the Atlantic to become fiction editor at The New Yorker, Granta is the most successful literary magazine in the world, selling over 75,000 copies every issue. A survey of some recent issues shows why. Granta 47, titled "Losers," is dedicated to "unmitigated public humiliation," and contains, with the exception of a shrill Martin Amis piece, some fascinating stuff: a piece on the U.S. National Spelling Bee, which produces about 9 million publicly humiliated losers every year; Susan J. Miller's memoir of her father, who shot heroin with Forties jazz greats when she was a kid; and reportage on Lonnie Dalton, a horribly abusive father from Rush Springs, Oklahoma, who was shot by his twelve- and fifteen-year-old sons. Granta 48 explores contemporary Africa with a roster of heavy-hitters, including Paul Theroux on teaching English in a Malawi leper colony, Nelson Mandela on the current African Renaissance, and Ryszard Kapuscinski on Ethiopia. As usual the photography is sublime, with a photo essay on Rwanda by Gilles Peress. But Buford's departure may turn out to be timely for Granta. There have been indications recently that he was losing his sense of direction. That long piece on British footballer Paul Gascoigne in #45, for example, reminds one of the sycophantic profiles now common in The New Yorker. And the quality of the writing in recent issues has suffered from the entropic effect characteristic of so many high-end magazines. Still, I don't plan to miss an issue and I'd recommend you don't either.