Saturday, January 17, 2015
We still subscribe to a few magazines--the New Yorker, The Nation, Entertainment Weekly (I know, I know--but how else do I remain relevant?), the New York Review of Books, Harper's. We used to have more of them coming in the house: Atlantic, New Republic, Newsweek, TV Guide, Down Beat (!!!), and others I can't at the moment recall. Oh, yes ... there were some years when my older brother gave us gift subscriptions to People--again, for the relevance reason.
When I was growing up, magazines were a great help to me when I was bored (which, in adolescence, was often--i.e., when I was not at baseball practice or making out or thinking about making out). Our family subscribed to Life, Saturday Review, Time (later, changing politically, Dad started taking U. S. News & World Report), Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, Opera News (for my older brother). Many an idle hour I filled with them. (I'd even look at Opera News now and then, principally to try to figure out what on earth my brother liked about it. BTW: My brother later did some writing for that magazine.) But I did not peruse the religious publications my parents subscribed to--Christian Century and some others I've forgotten. I was already damned--and I knew it.
And at the little Hiram School, our little library was up in the front of the study hall room; I would burn some study hall hours not by doing homework but by reading magazines we did not take at home--Boys' Life (only when I was in junior high, mind you), Look, Collier's, Saturday Evening Post (some good cartoons!), National Geographic (guess which photos I was interested in--photos that were often torn out very early in the month--not by me but by Horny Upperclassmen who were certainly not as interested in anthropology as they were in ... well ... you know?). But even Saturday Evening Post occasionally had a naughty story by naughty John O'Hara. (Literature, you know? Love it.)
My Osborn grandparents took Reader's Digest, which I always enjoyed. The jokes. The puzzles. The (short!) articles. Even the features--like the vocabulary quiz (which perplexed me: Are these really words?). They also subscribed to a pile of religious periodicals (Grandpa was a preacher and seminary professor), and I would only rarely look at them. (Front Rank was one of them, I think?) They had no pictures, no jokes (oh, maybe a cartoon I didn't understand), and certainly none of the virtues and possibilities of National Geographic.
Nowadays, of course, magazines are falling alongside the leaves of fallen newspapers. Newsweek is pretty much gone. Life, Look, the Post--all gone. Other magazines survived by becoming sharply focused, by targeting specific demographics--like Red Ryder BB Gun News (not real--but you get the idea).
I subscribe now to Atlantic online, but when it pops up on my Kindle each month, I find I don't really read it--or even look at it--very often. It's just not the same.
I'd rather be fifteen, slumped sullenly on the couch, paging through oversized Life in search of a feature on primitive tribes of women. Or Marilyn Monroe. Whatever.