Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hey, Maybe The New Yorker Will....Nope. Maybe Tomorrow. Nada. Maybe Next Week.

Logically, my subscription to The New Yorker has been a long time coming. I discovered it while working at The Signal in my second year, for John Boston, eminent, funny, and important columnist. He was what kept The Signal alive, what gave it a true sense of community. After he left, it got worse. People with really no sense of the history of this valley or no interest in it began to inhabit the desks in the newsroom. Some weren't even locals, but then, in a valley of nearly 200,000, not every one of them are qualified newspaper writers. I admit that.

During the time I worked for John, I always eyed the bookshelves he had against the cubicle wall next to his desk. A lot of magazines. Writer's Digest, a few issues of Time Magazine, and a whole lot of New Yorkers. I'd never heard of it before this, but once I tucked into an issue, I loved it. I loved the expanse of culture within the pages, the goings-on in New York City I couldn't attend. I read about restaurants I probably wouldn't go to, Broadway shows that would probably be closed by the time I got there, jazz musicians who would likely be far from New York if I could attend some concert. I also loved the articles, detailed, thoroughly-researched pieces on whatever topic caught the fancy of the editors that week. It's still the only magazine to actually make me interested in the intricacies of finance and the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

Many times, he'd give me the issues he was done reading. I let too many sit around, never read them, but I just liked the feeling of them being there, especially the covers and the cartoons, though those have never been the only reasons I like The New Yorker. I remember one day, about two years ago, when my sister had been at College of the Canyons, and she'd always check the free magazine table at the library there at my persistent request. She came home that day with 42 issues in her backpack.

Any time I find old issues at the Valencia library, I buy them. 10 cents per magazine, 15 for a dollar. A good deal, until they pile up too fast for me to read then ditch.

About a year ago (I think), I decided to pay $179 for the Complete New Yorker Hard Drive, containing all the issues from 1925 to April 2007, bundled with an update disc that would put more issues into the drive, up to April 2008. Amazing stuff, with all the pages of every issue scanned in and a searchable database, along with the function of creating your own reading lists. About a month ago, nearly burned out on this book project (I have got to stop working on it every day, now that the manuscript deadline's been extended to April), I searched the database for "pinball," "Florida," "Mark Twain," and what I think were dozens of other terms related to my interests. It's an outstanding program which I wish I could spend more time on, if not for all the books I want to read, some New Yorker-related, such as Secret Ingredients, a compilation of food and drink-related writing.

You'd think these would be the reasons I decided to subscribe to The New Yorker. Certainly there was enough motivation. However, none of those were the reason for subscribing. It happened in June, when my mom, my sister, and I went with my dad on his middle school's 8th grade end-of-the-year trip to Disneyland. At that time, I didn't think of subscribing to The New Yorker, but recently, thinking back to that day, this is what made me do it:

The night before, I was debating whether to bring any books with me. Maybe "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in paperback, maybe "Cold Fire," my favorite Dean Koontz novel. But I thought of the risk of possibly losing the books. Not that the school buses to Disneyland were insecure. I remembered from the year before last how what you brought on the bus remained on the bus. But I still didn't want to take any chances, so I took two issues of The New Yorker with me. Coupled with the newspapers to be had from the copy room at my dad's school, there'd be enough reading material to tide me over until we got there, particularly because I hadn't been roped into being a chaperone this year. My sister was, though, but she didn't mind.

On the way to Anaheim, I flipped through the newspapers (The Daily News, Los Angeles Times), comics, TV listings, and an occasional article, finishing that in about 10 minutes. I opened one of the New Yorkers, from June 11, 2007 (their "Summer Fiction" issue) and hit upon an article that would sustain me until we got there. It was by D.T. Max, about the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the literary treasures stored there, as well as Tom Staley, current director of the center.

It may not seem like much reading when seen on the New Yorker website:

But in the magazine, there were pages and pages, and while reading, I re-read certain passages I liked, admiring the word usage and the story as well. D.T. Max pulls readers right into his story, never letting you go until you're done. And by the time I was done, we were nearing Disneyland. It wasn't so much that the article had taken away the obstacle of time for me in waiting to get to Disneyland, but that I didn't even entirely notice I was on the bus. I glanced out the window at the freeway, saw some cars turn on to the exits, but didn't pay as much attention as I usually do. I was inside this article, with Staley as he sought rare, prized writerly items, such as 130 letters Graham Greene had written to a foreign correspondent.

I want more of those experiences. I love my hard drive, I like the Digital Edition on the New Yorker website that allows me to peruse the latest issue while I wait impatiently for my first issue to arrive in the mail, but it's not a habit I could maintain. I know I can't get issues from 1925 at all, and that's fine. The New Yorker hard drive program's windows are big enough to envelope me in whatever article I'm reading. But I love the print edition because of that one article. I like holding the magazine, circling book titles that interest me, circling synopses of plays that interest me, source material that I want to seek out, hoping that it's in print. I don't anticipate much in the mail anymore, since I know what'll be in those Netflix envelopes, and I don't request many DVDs anymore from PR firms representing the studios and other DVD labels for reviewing. But this, I'm waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. I want my first issue to come in the mail already. For now, I hope the mailman will be careful with it when he puts it in the mailbox, but I want to open the mailbox already and find it there and experience that same excitement I had when I read that article on the bus. I know it's possible with The New Yorker. Really, anything's possible with The New Yorker.

Addendum: D.T. Max's article got me to the entrance of the parking garage at Disneyland. "Wildwood," Junot Diaz's short story in that issue, got me past the booths in one section of the garage (where the security people give the necessary parking passes), and out to the bus parking area, keeping me occupied until we parked and all the kids had gotten off the bus.