Thursday, July 26, 2007

My New Yorker Conundrum

At some point in early 2006, I stopped reading The New Yorker.

Let me clarify. I stopped reading The New Yorker cover to cover, as I had religiously for at least a good ten years, perhaps more.

I remember being aware of the magazine in high school. Perhaps my mother had a subscription and I read her copies. Maybe I scanned them in the library at Iolani. The day I graduated from high school, in 1985, I gave myself 10 years to have a poem published in The New Yorker's hallowed pages.

I stopped writing profusely from '86 to '92. There were poems, but they were not regular emissions. I published a few in local college lit mags, but that was it.

In '92, I started writing more, and started sending out submissions. I was three years from my deadline of New Yorker publication. I was wise enough to understand that it was not a reasonable goal. I read the poetry in the magazine and knew, I wasn't writing at that level.

But I was a reader and I managed to read and write and even absorb some books as well.

In 2005, things changed. BillyBlog was born, which may or may not have mattered, but I also became addicted to the New York Times crossword puzzles, especially the Sunday magazine puzzle.

That beast was what I brought with me on the trains, the designated place for my New Yorker consumption. And then there was the Shul's book club, which started around the same time as BillyBlog. By 2006, my New Yorkers began to go unread.

So last November, when my subscription threatened to run out on me, I renewed, blindly. Despite the stockpile of back issues that went uncracked.

I admired their covers, but often didn't even check their tables of contents.

I stopped bringing the Sunday puzzle on the train with me. This explains the explosion of novel consumption I faced at the end of June. I am beginning to reassert my right to read The New Yorker, albeit sporadically and fleetingly. Of late, I have been referencing notable pieces (like here).

It is my goal to get through this stockpile, and I will let the readers of BillyBlog know how I am doing, on occasion.

Or, at least, tell you when I read something interesting, or particularly good.

For example, I am currently reading the May 21, 2007 issue.

I just read a fascinating article ("Walking the Wall" by Peter Hessler) about the Great Wall of China, which dispels my preconceptions of the structure. Namely, that it is one big, long wall. Sure, there are sections of Wall that are big and long, but there are multiple structures that make up the Idea of the Great Wall.

Additional notes from Peter Hessler here via National Geographic:

The Great Wall is not a single construction but a series of defensive walls built sporadically by a succession of rulers—at a monumental cost in human toil, injury, and death. The exact combined length of its sections remains unknown.
I also read a short story called "A Beneficiary" by Nadine Gordimer in this issue.

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