A New Yorker reads the New Yorker via husband 2014.08.27


It always seems ironic to me that my small-town-raised husband subscribes to the “New Yorker” magazine, while, I, who grew up in the Bronx, usually have very little interest in it and rarely crack open its pages. 

Maybe it’s because it arrives every single week, thick with stories and poems and cartoons, and I know I couldn’t possibly keep up with its contents. But mostly, the articles are way too long, I’m not a big fan of poetry, and the cartoons aren’t always all that funny...or I’m not smart enough to get the humor. 

And then there’s the 20-plus pages of “Goings On About Town” which covers the week’s noteworthy theatre, night life, classical music, movies, dance, art shows in museums, libraries and galleries, and whatever quirky other things might be going on—such as the FreeTown Produce Festival a year and a half ago which featured a “blackpot supper” of gumbo and other one-pot regional delicacies from a Cajun chef, classes in Cajun accordion, and a square dance with musicians from North Carolina. It’s just a 20-plus page painful reminder that it’s been so long since I’ve been back home partaking in that culture.

I don’t know if I ever knew how David got involved with the “New Yorker.” I wondered if he thought it was an instruction book for figuring out how my brain works. 

“When did you start reading it?” I ask.

“When I lived in Oregon I went to the library and read years and years of it. I took home decades of them.”

He doesn’t remember when he first learned about the magazine.

“Was it Case Hall?” I ask. I had an advisor in college who papered an entire wall with New Yorker covers. “Was she your advisor, too?”

David lived in Case Hall at Michigan State University years before I did—we were fellow drop-outs of the rigorous James Madison College which was housed there. But, no, he doesn’t recall a wall of “New Yorker” covers.

When David reads the “New Yorker” he often stops and shows me the cartoons. Sometimes he’ll rip out one or two and pass them across the kitchen table as we eat dinner. Yes, I know, it’s not polite to read while you eat. But the kids are gone now, we both love to read and we have so little free time in which to do it. We talk as we read, reciting particularly interesting passages every now and then, so it’s not like we’re ignoring each other.

He used to save all his old “New Yorkers,” but in the last few years after completing an issue, he began tearing out articles he thinks someone would enjoy reading. Then he tosses the remainder of the issue toward the recycling basket. I sit between him and the basket so I’m always bending over retrieving his misses. Sometimes he throws a magazine and it hits the metal sign hanging near the basket. The sign, a cutout of a waitress holding a tray of milkshakes, and a balloon bubble above saying, “OK, toots, what’ll it be?”  jingles.

“It makes a nice noise,” he says.

“Yeah, it jingles,” I say.

“It’s more of a jangle,” he replies.

This past Sunday night he was dipping into his stash of past issues and ripped out a cartoon he thought I might like. It showed a scene at a funeral home with a matryoshka doll leading the funeral service in front of an audience of matryoshka dolls. A portrait of the deceased, a male matryoshka doll, and a series of coffins, one atop the other, each smaller than the one below it, are behind her.

You know those nesting dolls sets, right? They start with a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same kind inside, which has another figure inside of it, and so on. They’re a popular fixture with the grandkids. David’s mom brought them back from a trip to eastern Europe, one set each for Rosie and Maddie.

The cartoon instantly makes me laugh—and reminds me this is the best way to read the “New Yorker”—a very condensed version of what David feeds me. Tastier than blackpot supper from a Cajun chef, I’m sure.