I'm looking at my New Yorker bill for another year's subscription. Should I? I'm leaning no.
The New Yorker is arguably America's most prestigious mass-circulation magazine, a nod to metropolitan-centricity. I started reading it in the provinces, long ago, and the years I lived in New York I did not read it. It seemed edited for provincials, and now that I'm one again I've been subscribed. I wrote "edited" rather than "published" because it's an editors' publication. Possibly the world's finest editors work there, so much so that reading a favorite New Yorker writer elsewhere, one whose work overlapped mine and whom I frankly envied, and finding the writing ponderous I was cured of my envy.
Still, as with so many things, the thrill is if not gone going. I read the articles because they are literate and informative yet go down easy -- those editors! But I don't hunger for them and when I consume them they leave a part of me cold. Yes, I know, I'm old and all of this sounds too much like another scenario.
In my youth I read it because its New York vignettes were mouth-watering, literally when they were about food. But then I lived in New York and sated my appetites -- perhaps too many of them -- and, guess what, the writing was tastier than the experience. Food? Cities to the west have better. Art and culture? Can't beat New York, but why should I read about it when I could go get it?
I've published pieces in a few publications, but never The New Yorker, nor have I tried. However, I did help a friend get published -- I knew an editor and that helped secure a reading, though the writer got published on merit. And an artist whose work I'd commissioned for a much more modest magazine I edited eventually landed on the cover of The New Yorker. I'm proud of those.
What made me change my feelings to the point that when I finish posting this I may go on line and say no thanks? Perhaps it was the passing of John Updike, whose reviews I enjoyed tremendously -- I loved his review of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's last novel, which gave no indication whatsoever that it was such a review until the last two paragraphs or so, a cheeky maneuver Gabo himself had been known to pull off when he was writing reviews. I read Updike and thought: even if he started out as an anonymous staff writer by now what editor would dare challenge and reshape the great writer's piece?
So hasta la vista. Or hasta la online. As with The New York Times, that's where I may read this artifact from another era -- of my time, of the times and the customs -- from now on.