Sunday, November 20, 2005

My life, on glossy paper

A few weeks ago, I ordered the complete 80 Years of the New Yorker on DVD. Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can find any New Yorker article or story and view it on RW's computer screen (not mine; my computer's too old).

Today, I sorted through my old New Yorker magazines.

I've been subscribing to the New Yorker more or less continuously since I moved to Seattle some fifteen years ago. The magazine is published weekly, which means approximately fifty issues a year. Which means that when I wrote in this space a few months ago that there were about three hundred old New Yorkers on my office floor, I was not exaggerating. On the contrary, I probably had about twice as many.

I do try to throw them out. I do! But it's hard. I've been thinking, as I sorted today, about why this should be. Yes, I'm a pack rat in general, and have a lot of trouble throwing anything away. Why is it?

And it's vaguely embarrassing. I mean, the New Yorker! So bourgeois, so not-edgy, so pretentiously literary in the most mainstream way. I mean, it's not like I have a stash of Hip Mama or Bitch or off our backs or anything groovy like that.

Part of it is the coolness factor (such as it is) of holding in my own hands the magazine that features, say, the original Susan Orlean article on orchids that was the basis for her book The Orchid Thief that was in turn the basis for the movie "Adaptation". When that magazine came to my house, there was no book, there was no movie with Meryl Streep playing a fictionalized version of Orlean, there was just this weird little article about a guy obsessed with orchids. And here it is, still, in a magazine file, having survived two or three moves and ended up here in this house with me. It'll probably stay in that magazine file for another fifty years, and then MG will have to recycle it when I die. Or maybe I should sell it on ebay? But the truth is, it probably isn't worth that much. And anyway, I don't want to sell it, I want to have it.

Ot the two-part series on Genie, the Wild Child, who was discovered at the age of 12, having never learned to talk after growing up in a horrifically abusive household. I remember when the second part of that article came out. I was living in a studio apartment, and I came downstairs to wait for a ride to somewhere, and I saw the magazine in my mailbox and clawed it open immediately to read that article while I waited. I don't remember where I was going or why I couldn't read it right away, but I remember the gasp of anticipation, seeing that the magazine was there and that I was going to find out what happened, as compelling as any soap opera or mystery novel.

Or that Adam Gopnik article about the birth of his second child, in Paris, that was published while RW was pregnant. Our actual drive to the hospital for MG's birth is all mixed up, in my mind, with Gopnik's discussion with his wife about how they'd have to get the taxi driver to make this special U-turn to go in the right direction to get to the maternity hospital. Our first ultrasound competes, in my memory, with the ultrasound where they saw their daughter, and the technician complimented them on her "allure." Even if I could pull the article up on a screen any time, how can I throw that issue out? It's like a letter from a college friend whose baby was born around the same time as ours.

Well. I did toss out a few hundred of the magazines. I only have about two bookshelves' worth left: maybe a hundred issues in all. And I feel lighter. If somehow they all disappeared, I'd be fine. But I can't bring myself to throw them all out with my own hands. They're like my paper self, somehow.


Blogger No Filter: The Book said...

I have the exact same problem with throwing away anything paper . my apartment suffers as a result ...

Getting the ones you really care about on a bookshelf is a great start though.

edmund davis

12:14 PM  
Blogger Udge said...

The New Yorker on DVD, brilliant, now I know what to ask my mother to buy me for Christmas!

I am surprised and disappointed that you worry about the non-edginess of the NY. It's not about edge, it's about good. Do you suppose that anyone would save 300 copies of e.g. The Face?

(I manage to throw out most of mine, there are only about 10 still wrapped waiting to be read, and maybe 50 that I am keeping to re-read after I die.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually REMEMBER that Adam Gopnik article about the U-turning taxi! I got New Yorkers stacked all over the house, a continuous bone of contention with my partner. "No wonder you haven't got anywhere to put your shoes. Your closet is full of New Yorkers." He would like me to get rid of them mostly because the carefully stacked ones are the ones I haven't actually read; those I tear the covers off and file the articles I want to save in an elaborate system that was designed to reduce some of the general oversupply of paper.

But the DVD! 80 YEARS' worth! hahahahahaha! Do you know how long it would take me to not read 80 years' worth of New Yorkers?!

incidentally, isn't it so cool watching your kid learn to read and write. Mark is doing this too just now. (he writes a lot of menus. "sbgettee" and "peazza" feature a lot.)

love, e wein

5:34 AM  

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