How I Read The New Yorker (A Holiday Gift of Hubris)

Be free, my friends, from your stacks of New Yorker magazines!  No more need they pile up beside your bed or commode.  Unburden yourself of the guilt of vast swaths of the periodical unread! 

You have ONE WEEK to digest a New Yorker before the next one comes.  What you need is a process for finding and reading what's most important to you in any given issue and then the willingness to let the rest go. 

Of course you needn't take in the New Yorker in exactly the manner I do - I encourage you to find your own best practices - but, if you don't have a strategy already in place, I offer you mine as a jumping off point. 

Here's what I do:

Begin with the cover.  It's a piece of actual art that arrives in your hands every week and it's easy to overlook.  If you, like me, take pleasure in art, take that pleasure here and now with the cover.

Turn to the table of contents.  Go right to the bottom and note the title of that cover.  Hmmm. Interesting.  Next, from the top, scan the names of contributors (Tad Friend, Nick Paumgarten, Emily Nussbaum and Malcolm Gladwell are all must-reads for me).  Who wrote the fiction? What's the movie review?

Now begin the skim-through.  This involves paging through the magazine at a moderate pace to get a general overview.  On this first pass I read the short stuff: any arts notices that catch my eye, restaurant reviews that interest me, and all of the cartoons.  I also go ahead and read The Talk of the Town during this phase (I begin each essay to decide if I will continue, but rarely do I read them all) as well as Shouts and Murmurs. The skim-through ends with the caption contest on the back page. 

Now, I have a sense of the magazine.  I know what longer essays and articles are of greatest interest to me.  I usually continue my ramp-up with TV, Film and Theater reviews (always TV because: Emily Nussbaum; Film and TV depend on whats being reviewed) before diving into the meatiest stuff.  The real trick is to be honest with yourself about what you want to read.  Life is short, you are busy, and another New Yorker is right around the corner.  Read what moves you and recycle the rest. 

Voila!  Your New Yorker stack is diminished!  You are more relaxed and happy! 

Leave me a comment if you have your own way to read The New Yorker.  Or, if you try my way, let me know what you think! xo


Words to live by


Way back in February, I read a short essay by Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker about the magazine's move from Times Square down to the Financial Distrcit.  One passage, as he wrote about the difficulties of getting ready for the move has stuck with me:

The process felt a little like going through the belongings of a dead loved one, except that the dead loved one was you.  What was worth saving?  Not as much as you'd anticipated, once you got into the spirit of paperlessness.  Pile up those mine carts with fool's gold.  The thing that's worth keeping is the thing you do next. 

At the time, I was in the process of emptying - one way or another - and selling my childhood home.  His analogy wasn't an analogy for me.  When I found myself briefly crippled by grief or nostalgia (or both), overwhelmed by what felt like impossible decisions, I would repeat his words to myself - "The thing that's worth keeping is the thing you do next."  They helped me pull myself together; helped me move forward and feel pretty good about my decisions in the process.

We closed on the house in April (the single most horific experience of my life; real-estate is an ugly business) but I've found that Paumgarten's words continue to provide guidance.  

The thing that's worth keeping is the thing you do next. 

Okay.  Here we go.