Why I read the New Yorker

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

While I read at least 52 books every year, I also make time to read The New Yorker magazine (and it’s no small task!) Read on to learn why…

I was in my early 20s when I saw the New Yorker for the first time. Initially, I was nonplussed.

It was dull looking. The articles were long (as many as 19 pages or more!) and seldom relieved by more than a single photo. The columns were narrow, like ones in newspapers. And the listings! Pages and pages of “Goings On About Town.” Could one town conceivably have so many pieces of theatre, art exhibits and jazz concerts showing at the same time? I was exactly 30 before I went to Manhattan and discovered that, indeed, it could.

Sadly, I was so put off by the magazine’s appearance I didn’t read even a single article. It was my eventual visit to the city that finally turned me into a New Yorker magazine zealot.

My sister-in-law now gives my family a subscription each year for Christmas. It’s both a gift and a massive commitment. Each issue contains what is likely a month’s worth of reading material –- and yet the damn thing comes out every week. There are five so-called “special issues” which cover two weeks but which contain almost double the material.

Riding Vancouver rapid transit (the Canada Line) yesterday, I was stopped by the person sitting beside me. She’d noticed that we were both reading the New Yorker. “I can barely keep up with it,” she said. She sounded like a mother complaining about how much her teenage son eats -– both proud and appalled at the same time.

I feel the same way, but I have three let’s call them “survival” strategies:

1) I will not turn reading the New Yorker into a chore. I read what I feel like and in the order I feel like. This is a bit like turning my house into a doctor’s waiting room, but I’m okay with that.

2) I refuse to engage my normal zest for completion. I allow myself to give away issues, before finishing them, without feeling the least bit guilty. (Well, as long as my husband will let me!)

3) I don’t read any stories about war. This is idiosyncratic to be sure (and the ban doesn’t apply to my other media habits) but I’ve never enjoyed stories about war and I’m determined to enjoy the New Yorker.

The writing is superb. Joan Didion, Steve Martin, Atul Gawande, Adam Gopnik, John Lahr, Susan Orlean and Malcolm Gladwell have engaged me, amused me and occasionally outraged me.

Even authors unknown to me, such as Julia Ioffe, can captivate me with their words. Here is a sentence I loved that she wrote in the April 4th issue.

“The Russian edition of Esquire recently calculated that one road in Sochi [home of the Winter Olympics for 2014] cost so much that it could just as well have been paved with, say, nine inches of foie gras or three and a half inches of Louis Vuitton handbags.”

Do you have as much difficulty with numbers as I do? If so, you’ll understand why I adore that image of a road being paved with nine inches of foie gras. It illustrates the sheer wantonness of the number. Yes, of course, full credit must go to Esquire Magazine. But Ioffe deserves kudos for re-using it and in such a stylish way. (I love her little fillip with the word “say.”)

Here is another recent sentence I liked, in a story written by Ian Parker on British Parliamentarian Rory Stewart. “His name seems nude without a ‘Sir’ in front of it.” And here is yet another by Nancy Franklin: “For one thing, the show was going to be on TLC, whose initials used to stand for The Learning Channel but which I like to call The Leering Channel.”

If you are looking for interesting ideas, superb writing and a rollicking good reading time, check out the New Yorker magazine. And if you don’t have a sister-in-law who’s willing to give you a subscription, try your local library. It’s well worth the effort.

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