a jug of bread, a loaf of wine, and…the economist?

better homes and gardens magazine cover I read nearly all the time.  I’m either online reading stuff or I’ve got my face inside a book reading stuff or heck, I’m reading the back of the cereal box while I choke down my breakfast (not a morning person).   I like to read while I eat in particular, especially when I’m eating alone at a restaurant.  So I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying around a magazine or two so that I have something to read if I get a few minutes.  They are easier to carry than books and I don’t care much if they get dog-eared or messed up since they are just going in the recycle pile when I’m done with them.

It seems these days like there’s a magazine for every topic: body-building, horse breeding, travel, crafts of all sorts, science, pseudoscience, “man” stuff, women’s interest, architecture, sex, computers, gaming, gambling, fashion, art…the magazine counter at any reasonably sized bookstore can be pretty intimidating.  Fortunately, I tend to like a certain sort of magazine, so this narrows down my choices somewhat.  There are a very large number of mainstream magazines out there that I never look at: Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Vogue, etc.  I used to read Rolling Stone but it got boring, or maybe I just got old.   Time and Newsweek are both “News Lite”; the last time I picked one of these up (and they are interchangeable) it was barely readable.  Stuff like People and Us and Cosmopolitan and Oprah’s magazine don’t even impinge on my conscious awareness.

So, what’s in my carry-all these days?

The New Yorker:  I had a subscription to this magazine forever. Well, for at least a decade.  I eventually canceled it because I couldn’t keep up with it.  It comes out every week and frankly, it’s not compelling enough to keep up with on a weekly basis.  A hefty chunk of it is of interest mainly to people who live in or travel to New York City and it definitely aims itself at the self-satisfied, self-important “lit’rary” salon crowd.  The fiction is pretty uninteresting and the poetry is usually unreadable.  However, when it is good it is very, very good.   It publishes articles on just about everything and they can be quite compelling.  Very possibly the scariest thing I have ever read I read in The New Yorker (an article about an almost-outbreak of ebola ten miles from my house) and possibly the only article I have ever read about geology I read there as well (an unbelievably fascinating discussion of how California was made…geologically speaking).  The covers are fab…among my favorite was the one showing the Easter bunny crucified on a 1040 (I think Art Spiegelman did that one).  They get grief for their covers all the time.   The cartoons are also always good.  So yeah, if it’s on the magazine rack and the articles look like they might be interesting…I’ll pick up a copy.  I’m usually not disappointed.

My life as a New Yorker article:  The author, although appearing to write about me, would really be writing about him/herself and include as many arcane literary references as possible.  The article would be very long but say very little.

Score:  Meh.

Harper’s Magazine: Probably my favorite of the magazines I read regularly.  It’s a little easier to keep up with since it comes out monthly.  Although it is also a self-satisfied literary magazine focusing on art, culture, politics (with a very liberal slant), and the world in general, with a bit of fiction and a smattering of poetry, it manages to be an entirely different sort of read than The New Yorker.  I particularly enjoy the little bits and pieces from various sources they include in the front of the magazine and the end bit of random scientific findings from around the world.  The Harper’s Index, a collection of interestingly arranged statistics, is also always interesting.   While I am in almost complete agreement with this magazine’s strident liberal bent, I often find its political articles to be little more than ranting, although I used to love Lewis Lapham’s editorials; that man could really work up a righteous head of steam.  Again, another magazine I am rarely disappointed in; there is always something interesting to read and it is usually very well-written.

My life as a Harper’s Magazine article:  The author would applaud my liberal approach to social issues but chide me for my semi-conservative financial position; any literary references would be to my own poetry.

Score: Meh.

The Atlantic Monthly:  Sigh.  I miss Michael Kelly.  When he edited this magazine it was awesome.  These days, it’s just…okay.  Barely.   Sometimes it’s hard to finish it; I just can’t get that interested in the articles.   It’s less focused on art, literature, and culture, and more on politics, finance, and world events, and its editorial voice is more conservative.  When Kelly was alive I actually enjoyed this and looked forward to his columns.  Although I rarely agreed with his politics I very often found food for thought in them and, well, that man could write.  Although this mag is usually on my go-to list when browsing the racks at the local B&N, I’m not generally too unhappy if they don’t have it in stock that day.  The selection of topics has become pretty pedestrian and the writing style is just not that compelling.

My life as an  Atlantic Monthly article:  The author would applaud my sensible approach to fiscal issues but note disapprovingly that I was occasionally too liberal about things like guns, abortion, and god; there would be no literary references at all.

Score: Meh, trending to Fail.

Wired:  One day, out of the blue, Amazon offered me a subscription to this magazine free of charge for a year.  Why not?  So it comes to my door once a month and I try to read it.  Wired has been around a longish time for a computer/internet magazine, at least since the early 90’s (which is 20 years ago now…).  I think back in the day it was bleeding edge but these days it seems a little fusty.  After all it is still published on paper.  It’s chock full of artsy layouts, tiny fonts, weird color combinations, breathless reviews, breezy articles, up-to-now jargon, and techie tricks of the trade.  The design and layout choices can make the magazine physically strenuous to read; the editors clearly aren’t too concerned about their older readers with vision issues.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard it tries to seem “now”, it manages to mostly seem like yesterday’s news (probably that paper thing again).  Still, it usually has some interesting things in it for us non-techies and once in a while I learn something.  And it’s free.

My life as a Wired article: The contents of my powerbook would be very important.  Plus my iPod playlist.  The author would note approvingly that I played Pong as a child and have a raid-capable character in WoW.

Score: Meh.

Southern Living:  I used to live in the American South and sometimes I really miss it.   And so, when I can find it, I very often pick up the latest issue of Southern Living.   This isn’t really the sort of magazine you read; it’s the kind you page through, looking at all the pictures of fabulous Southern vacation spots you’d love to visit, beautiful old restored houses you’d die to own, serene sunny Southern gardens, and food to drool over.  That’s really why I buy it, for the recipes.  Unlike many other food focused magazines (Gourmet, I’m lookin’ at you) Southern Living manages to create recipes that are both really appetizing and actually cookable by someone who doesn’t have a fancy kitchen or arcane ingredients at her fingertips.  Of all the magazines I read this one would be the one I’d most likely get a subscription to.  It’s a quick read and almost always a keeper (at least as far as tearing out the recipes and house and garden design ideas).  It is also, and this is no small benefit, a magazine untouched by the strife of the world.   The articles are short, breezy, and happy.  It is, in a word, gracious.  One of my favorites.

My life as a Southern Living article:  In a sunny two page article, the author would make my home appear like a wonderful place to spend your vacation.  There would be one or two gorgeous pictures of my garden and they would include my favorite recipe and a photo of my cat.

Score:  W00t!

The Economist: I  read this magazine for the first time ever when I went to Boston in February.  The newsstand at the airport had a craptastic selection that day and whatever was on the cover of The Economist looked interesting so I picked up a copy and started reading it on the plane.  I’m hooked.  I’m not going to get a subscription because even though this mag is a very good read, it’s also a very dense one.  It comes out weekly and it takes me weeks to get through one issue.  But it is interesting.  Despite the name, it is not primarily focused on financial matters although there is often a good bit of economy-related content.   Mostly it is a “news of the world” sort of magazine and it covers news of interest across the globe.  The magazine is headquartered in London but maintains an extensive bureau in Washington DC and respectable in country reporters in much of the rest of the globe.  In some respects it’s sort of like a paper version of CNN International.  It makes no effort to entertain; it’s mission is to be informative.  I have no idea where it would fall in the British political spectrum but to an American used to partisan stridency even in the news media  it comes across as pretty middle of the road.   Each issue has brief summaries of current items from all over the world as well as more in depth articles on a theme.  The best part about the magazine is reading about the U.S. as a foreign country.   It gives a bit of perspective.

My life as an Economist article:  You would know everything important about me in a single well-written paragraph.  The fact that they are writing about me at all means I am somehow vital to the world.

Score:  W00t!

Vanity Fair:   I picked up the latest issue of Vanity Fair a couple of weeks ago when I decided to go out for lunch and forgot my issue of The Economist.  The 7-11 next to the restaurant had a pretty thin magazine selection and VF was about the best of the bunch.  This magazine reminds me of that old saying about Playboy:  “I read it for the articles.”   The articles in VF are pretty much there as a framework for the glorious, glossy fashion ads, some of which are contributed by very famous photographers.  I was 70 pages into the magazine before I hit an actual article of any sort.  Four pages in  however I was faced with an intensely homoerotic ad for Calvin Klein tighty-whities.  The magazine is a pretty easy read.  None of the articles are too challenging and any articles dealing with famous people are either positive brown-nosing or kick-em-while-they’re-down gloating (a recent article on the wives of Lehman Brothers executives, for instance).   It’s not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but the articles do cover a range of cultural, political, and topical issues, and the magazine has attracted controversy over some of its covers and photo spreads.  There’s a fair amount of society gossip; this magazine definitely wants you to know what stars it hangs out with.  Christopher Hitchens is a regular contributor; he writes a monthly column on whatever strikes  his fancy.  In the issue I picked up he took on the 10 commandments.   The magazine proved to be a better read than I expected it to be and I’d certainly pick it up again if I needed something light-ish to read.

My life as a Vanity Fair article: If I’m hot, the article will be positive; if I’m not the article will interview people who didn’t like me.  Whichever, there will be artistic photographs of me wearing fabulous clothes (or nothing at all!), hopefully taken by Annie Leibovitz.  My regular summers in Europe will be mentioned as will any glancing familiarity with rock stars and famous actors.

Score:  Meh.

Real Simple:  Real stupid.  Real expensive too.  Who knew simplifying your life could cost so much?  I read this one in the doctor’s office, and sometimes the deli when I stop in for lunch.  Otherwise, not at all.  Occasionally it has good recipes, but not as good as Southern Living.

My life as a Real Simple article:  There would be an in-depth exploration of how I organized my closets and how you, the reader, can buy, for a lot of money, the same organizing system.  Probably at Pottery Barn.

Score:  Fail.

And that’s what I’ll be reading this summer.  See you in the funny papers!

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~ by gun street girl on April 3, 2010.

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