Friday, June 27, 2008

Not For Everyone

I took my first subscription to The New Yorker for a class when I was in my second year of college. Each week we were required to read the magazine cover to cover, summarize the content of the major articles, create a vocabulary list of words we were unfamiliar with and write a 2-5 page response paper based on something from the publication. In addition, we were two turn in two short human interest essays throughout the quarter and our final was a long piece--our own TNY-style article. The class was rigorous. (Can you say hyperbole?)

As much as the content was invigorating, challenging and exciting, the best part about it was that I began a friendship with the professor. A year later I was part of an honor society that hosted a dinner for our "Top Profs." She was the one I selected, an invitation which cemented our friendship for good. We began corresponding to one another: hers was the first letter I received when I arrived at our mission office in Australia. Some years later, her children started an honors scholarship in her name (she is the second from the left below), and though I was unable to make it to the dinner honoring her, my essay was one that was read as she was introduced.

You couldn't ask for a better correspondent. She is interested and prompt. Her letters are always sincere, packed with meaning and provocative. We have grown close over the years; including many personal visits during the two years we lived in Logan, where she is a long-time resident. Plantboy was actually her gardener for several weeks last year. After learning so much about him through our letters, she was so delighted to finally meet him and he saw in a moment why my friendship with her has meant so much.

So why this long tribute-post today when I really owe my dear friend a letter? Recently my TNY subscription lapsed, a thing my prof always chides me for. This common link gives us much to discuss and analyze. Admittedly, there have been times I've renewed it more out of wanting to please her than my own real desire: the magazine comes to often for me to keep up with properly, is often offensive (at least in part), makes no apology for its pretensions, and is liberal enough to make even my hair stand on end at times. (When it came with my forwarded mail while I was living with my parents it was almost the equivalent of allowing pornography in the house, from my dad's perspective.)

Having said this, however, when my few weeks passed without an issue, I genuinely missed it. I missed its familiarity. I missed turning the pages when I take a bath. I missed its provocative way of making me take a hard look at the world. I missed its biographies of people who, for good or ill, shape the world we live in. I even missed its dense critiques of new Broadway shows that I'll never see but often wish to. I mostly missed that inner dialogue in my head that I carry on with my professor. Hers is the voice that reminds me to think before I form an opinion; to understand before I judge.

And then my renewal issue showed up yesterday and I spent a happy hour this afternoon drinking cold grape juice and reading, forgetting for a few moments that this week has been primarily composed of dishes and laundry. I have linked it here and everything is posted on-line. I like the print form (bathtub and bedtime reading), but if you have some time today, get off the blogs and read about conservative Christians working harder on making consensus in the political arena, a personal history about a Black girl growing up in a racially divided Pennsylvania, a biography of the man whose money is driving the rejection of a separate Palestinian state, the medical musings of Dr. Gwande, or a short story by the brilliant Alice Munro. Some weeks I peruse and recycle within a few minutes. However, this week's issue, in my mind, represents the best writing in American journalism today.


Dickey said...

What an honor that she picked your essay...I have to admit when I go to my little local library I always browse the sale magazine section and can usually pick up The New Yorrker for ten cents (some faithful subscriber always brings the magazine in). I love your statement "To think before I form an opinion; to understand before I judge". I will think of you next time I happen to snag a New Yorker at my local library.

Z. Marie said...

I love the New Yorker for all of the same reasons, although I haven't read it regularly in years.

CaLM RAPIDS said...

A HUGE thank you for your comments on blogging. What a great help and perspective! (ps: I've never read The New Yorker):)

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I have a rather liberal friend who serves a similar function in my life. It bothers her to no end when people accept an idea without thinking about it, and one reason I feel driven to study and understand doctrine (both spiritual and political:) is that I suspect if I blindly accept what's comfortable without analyzing it I'll have to answer to her some day.

And God, too, no doubt.

Christie said...

Who doesn't love Hellen? She is dear and wonderful! He class pushed me to write well and read well -- loves that I still struggle to attain. P.S. Now I know where your in-depth analysis stems from. So nice to know we have yet another thing in common -- Hellen Cannon.

Ashlee said...

What an awesome professor! An outstanding teacher makes a lifelong impact. Isn't it sublimely wonderful to sit quietly and read something that makes you think? You're a gal after my own heart.

simple easy and quick said...

So what did you think about the Obama cover?