Saturday, January 30, 2016

How To Read The New Yorker (or any other magazine)

You think that this doesn't apply to you, and maybe it doesn't.  In this digital age, maybe you no longer subscribe to any magazines and so the whole concept is now foreign to you.  But I'll bet you still have at least a couple of straggler magazines coming to your house.  Maybe they were Christmas gifts.

Me, I've got 4 cooking magazines, my formerly-college-aged daughter's ongoing subscription to Entertainment Weekly, and all of the "house and home" magazines my wife gets coming to my house.  Plus The New Yorker.

The New Yorker, along with The Atlantic Monthly, is, arguably, the finest large subscription magazine being published in America today.  I have no idea how large that subscription base is, but I do know that I jumped back in this year, and have not regretted that for a second.  Like those Atlantic readers, anyone who reads The New Yorker is better informed from a political, artistic, literary, cultural perspective than those who don't read.  But it's become a challenge.

The New Yorker comes every single week of the year, except when they double up for special issues, and if you don't read, the next issue will jab you with guilt when you open your mailbox.

My advice is this:

1.  Read the magazine back to front.  I learned this from Entertainment Weekly, where I discovered that I often wanted to see the reviews most.  The fluff was in the front.  In The New Yorker, it's the specific-to-New-York stuff that's in the front.  If you are lucky enough to live there, more power to you, but if you're not, those items about plays, performances, restaurants, and "About Town" are reading luxuries for someone with more time than I have.

2.  Read the magazine in one sitting.  Get it and commit to it, probably the sooner after it has arrived, the better.

3.  Remind yourself that you don't have to read a magazine cover to cover for it to be worth your while.  If the movie review is too esoteric, skip it.  Same with the books.  The short story may not grab you.  You may not understand the poem(s).  Maybe only one of the feature stories connects with you.  But in my experience through several subscriptions to The New Yorker, this never happens all at once.  Even a majority of these things have never happened in a single issue.

4.  Plus, there are the cartoons.  Just working through the cartoons and illustrations is a worthy endeavor, worth a chuckle, a knock on the side of the head epiphany, an irony more sophisticated than your own, a show the cartoon to someone else moment.

5.  The single reading of the magazine is not meant for the bathroom, even for the most glacier-like of us in terms of bowel movements.  No, it's a commitment of a singular sort, a kind of old fashioned "I'm going to take 45-60 minutes to sit down and read a magazine.  Sitting on a seat with a hole in the middle of it for that long will give you a serious case of hemorrhoids.

After some time away from them, I'm glad to be back to living with magazines.  But the last piece of advice is about when you're finished.  Magazines don't keep, even though people like me and my wife want to keep them.  Oh, they'll be happy to stay with you, but they'll pile up in bookcases, shelves, baskets, and bathrooms once you tell yourself that you plan to read them again.  But you won't.  The news is stale, the initiative has been undermined by the next week's visit to the mailbox, and you don't have the time.  Recycle them!

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