Open Letter to Publishers of The New Yorker

Dear Publishers,

I am writing to request a special type of subscription.  I’m willing to pay full price but please only send me every other issue.  The time commitment of a weekly New Yorker would be beyond my grasp and I don’t want to throw half of them out.  People Magazine, I can handle its weekly arrival.  I read it while my bread is toasting, then toss it, eager to dispose of the symbol of the pap my mind has grown accustomed to.

I know that your weekly magazines would begin to stack up on my bedside table, on the kitchen counter and in the TV room.  However, I would like to showcase one on the kitchen counter, a testament to the intellectual life that I abandoned when I stopped commuting to Chicago.  A single New Yorker might impress, but a stack would suggest a pretentious poser.

When I lived in Chicago thirty years ago, I didn’t feel the need to advertise any intellectual credentials.  A city address was enough.  This identity took a hit when I moved to the suburbs and became a commuter.  Every day for two hours I was enclosed in the humid, fetid confines of the subway car as it shuddered its way downtown.  The New Yorker was the perfect solution.  Immersed in its intellectual world, I could be willfully ignorant of the enormous man sitting thigh to thigh next to me.  His cavernous, freely flowing pores, visible nose hairs and yellowed armpits registered only a minor blip on my consciousness.  As the commuters thinned out, it never occurred to me to move.  Why would I, with the quirky entries in the Talk of the Town column to engross me?   I did not object to his bare thigh pressing more deliberately against mine as I absorbed the clever wit in the Shouts and Murmurs column.  When I stood up at my stop, I realized that the few others in the car were watching the two of us suspiciously.

The unexpected and appreciated benefit of my New York knowledge was the edge it gave me in the competitive world of cocktail banter with East coast friends.  I could discuss art openings, essays by John McPhee or comment on the cover artistry.  The veneer of my New York knowledge was an effective counterpunch to the East coast stereotype that I was a Midwestern hick.

Your magazine also equipped me with the eclectic vocabulary I needed to complete the New York Times crossword puzzle.  I learned crossword staples such as Erte (art deco designer) or Eero (Saarinen, architect of the TWA terminal at JFK) from reading your magazine.

My commuting hours evaporated when I began to “work from home.”  You might ask why I haven’t been able to carve out the necessary time to consume The New Yorker.  Shouldn’t I have more flexibility given the assumed efficiency of a home office?  However, I swapped out the forced idleness for discretionary idleness, and the two are very different.  Without discipline, my discretionary idleness quickly devolves to puttering.  Freed from the confines of a subway car, I can go get a cookie, maybe roll another ball of wool, check the mail, take a walk.  Puttering and contemplative reading are mutually exclusive.

The energy and time-suck of two toddlers made my discretionary idleness more precious.  If I wanted to languish in the grocery store and lean my head against the soothing, frosty doors of the freezer case, well that was my prerogative.  How many hours did I spend watching Sesame Street?  The show is praised for matching the flighty attention span of toddlers with its zippy vignettes, but I wonder about the consequences on parents who watch with their children.  I felt the steady ebb of my attention span.  The New Yorker slipped down my to-do list.  The fact that it was relegated to a “to-do” list reflected its fragile status.  The growing pile of magazines began to mock me.  Sadly I discontinued my subscription.  My husband gave me a subscription to People magazine, and I eagerly looked forward to its arrival every Friday.

My forties were not a time of personal growth, but I’m back now as a full-fledged empty nester, both front and back.  This is MY TIME and I want The New Yorker back in my life.  Well sort of.  What if I discover that too much time has passed, that I can’t handle a weekly magazine, that I can’t abandon the fine art of puttering, burnished to a high gloss over the past decade?

Oh, what the hell, bring it on.  Give me all of them.  I vow to crawl out from the quicksand grip of celebrity gossip.  I’ve canceled my People subscription.


Liza Blue


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