New Yorker days are upon us, and by “us,” I mean me, and by “days,” I mean weeks, and by New Yorker, I mean that time of year after all the planning and teaching and grading have happily receded when I can finally gather up the baskets full of issues, the piles beside the bed, the stray one or two beside the tub, and have a go at them all at once.
Yes, I know, I should read them weekly, but I never do, so come we now to New Yorker days. A happy time. I check the movie reviews, then scan the table of contents and make my cuts: past political battles, gone; celebrity profiles, usually gone; and I confess, short stories, gone (rare is the one I will stop to read–kudos to you, Julian Barnes; you always get my attention!). But then there are the must reads. Jeffrey Toobin is always interesting on major and minor legal cases, Calvin Trillin always funny, Malcolm Gladwell intriguing and irritating all at once. I want to argue with him about his conclusions, but I always learn something. Most of all, Atul Gawande! If people say they would listen to a great actor read the telephone book, I would read a telephone book written by Dr. Gawande. He writes so sensibly about medicine and health care.
I throw out the issues with nothing of interest (would that there were more of those!). Then, for issues with only a single article of interest, I rip out the one piece and toss the rest. Finally, I stack up the issues with multiple stories, and then, I plow through the whole lot, gorging for days.
A great issue of the New Yorker is like a finely crafted meal. A meaty center with soupçon of tang and wit on the side: Tina Fey, anyone? One summer, the best work I read out of all the stacks of books I tackled was a long New Yorker piece about leeches. Made my whole summer. Useful too in the fall when we tackled The Canterbury Tales and researched apothecaries and barber surgeons.
So many words, so little time, so much to learn. How does the New Yorker do it every week?