The New Yorker and I

Saw this New Yorker Subscriber statistics. I can¡¯t make much sense out of most of the items. But I found these interesting:

Women 43%
Men 44%

So what are the other 13%? Undecided?

Then there is ¡°Median Age 49¡±! What¡¯s up with that?!

I started subscribing to The New Yorker in my junior year of college. My reason was very simple. I wanted to read short stories. In China we had many literature periodicals that were published on a monthly or a quarterly bases. The paper and layout might be very low-quality, but I was sure to have my story-craving filled because those magazines had nothing but fictions in short or medium length and sometimes even full length novels. I can¡¯t find anything like it here on newsstands. I was baffled. Americans don¡¯t read fictions?

At the time I was taking English classes. Our textbook was a copy of ¡°Best Short Stories of blahblahblah¡±. One day I noticed at the end of a story, there was a magazine name indicating where it was originally published. So I got an idea. I browsed through the entire book and wrote down all the magazine names. It turned out The New Yorker published the most ¡°Best Short Stories of blahblahblah¡±! So I was all set. I put in my subscription, eagerly waiting for my fiction-quench ¡°pill¡± to arrive.

You can imagine how disappointed I was, when the first copy came in the mail and I found out the entire issue had all but ONE short story! Well, one was better than nothing. It is a weekly magazine, so at least I could get four stories a month. The cartoons also made it worth while.

Slowly I discovered the cinema review was rather entertaining. In addition to be my fiction-fix, it dubbed as my movie guide. After college, I started working as a consultant. One day I read somewhere that Bill Gates claimed The New Yorker to be his favorite airplane reading. I was flying almost weekly then, so I started packing a copy with me on each trip. Only then did I discover the in-depth personal profile, political commentaries, and lengthy report from foreign correspondence, etc. etc. Bill Gates was right. It was perfect for airplane trips. Plenty of variations and none too boring.

Nowadays I could easily finish two issues cover-to-cover on a coast-to-coast flight without feeling bored. In one issue, I could learn about US-Saudi relationships, new artist installment in the desert of Arizona, critique on an up-and-coming ballet company, a movie review, a fiction, a profile of G.W.Bush, and all mixed with plenty witty cartoons.

It has been almost ten-years since I sent in my first subscription check. I feel fortunate that I had stumbled on such a literary and well-written magazine. I could¡¯ve done much worse. [the shivers]

2 thoughts on “The New Yorker and I

  1. Thanks Yan, I’ll definitely check it out. Actually I forgot to mention. Later I found out there is a form of institution called public libraries that were everywhere. And Berkeley happened to have one of the best university libraries, too. Telegraph Ave. was also lined with all sorts of used-book stores. I’ve learnt to tolerate that musty smell of old books.

    So to be fair, Americans do read fictions. But they simply don’t read them from magazines. 🙂

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