Column - A cure for magazine mania?
Magazines are threatening to take over my life. They remind me of those devilish "Tribbles," a species of sinister "dust bunnies" that invaded the Star Trek spaceship.
It is a never-ending battle to keep up with the magazines that keep arriving in the mailbox. It's always nice to get a new magazine, smelling of shiny paper and ink, tucked away in the mailbox. Back home, I throw out junk mail. Then, at the kitchen table, I open those nasty surprises called bills, read a letter or two and then - cup of coffee at my side - I peruse that latest magazine.
Just today, the latest New Yorker arrived, a cartoon of President Barack Obama on the cover. I puzzled over it but didn't "get" it, which often happens with New Yorker cartoons. My brother-in-law always says I don't "get" most of them because I live in Rice, not New York City. By which I think he means I'm a country bumpkin, not a city sophisticate.
Anyway, as I do every week, I flip through the magazine pages, then settle on the Table of Contents. The following stream of thought is typical:
"Oh, good, there's a film review of Due Date and one of Four Lions. Have to read them right away. Here's a piece called 'Downtown Daughter: A young director puts her loft life on screen.' Sounds good. Have to read that. Here's one called 'A Deadly Misdiagnosis: Why millions of people die from TB.' Sounds depressing, but, well, guess I better read it. Then there's 'Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place.' Naw! Don't care for his music. Good, won't have to read that."
Except for the film reviews, I usually don't get around to reading what I'd hoped to read. I go through the same ritual, almost daily, with TIME magazine, Smithsonian magazine, AARP magazine, Cook's magazine and Archaeology magazine. Sometimes I "dog-ear" the stories I intend to read.
Then come the stacks. One by one, the stacks of magazines get taller and taller until some are leaning precariously like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When house-cleaning, which isn't too often, I neatly re-stack the magazines by name and sometimes even by date so I can read the oldest ones first, in order, if I ever get around to reading them.
When company comes over, especially for dinner, I have to clean off the big kitchen table. I hurriedly re-stack the magazines and put them in a corner of my office/library or - if there's no more room in there - somewhere else. After months and years of this magazine hoarding and re-stacking, there are virtual mountains of magazines here, there and everywhere.
"Some rainy Sunday I'm going to sit down and read them all," I vow. And, now and then, I actually do spend the better part of a day doing just that - reading magazines. Trouble is, the stacks don't seem to get any smaller as my eyesight gets worse.
Last summer, during a rare cleaning spree, I determined to banish all magazines. I went through the stacks, one at a time, flipping magazines into big garbage bags. It was, however, a form of mental torture because I kept seeing magazines I really did want to read. I even remembered particular articles I'd meant to read but never did.
"Enough of this compulsive magazine behavior!" I said, and into the garbage bags they went - plop, plop, flop. Then I dumped the bags in the dumpster. Yes, I know, I should've recycled them, but I knew by the time I got around to that, I would have had time to reconsider. Then, squirming with unread-magazine guilt, I would have emptied the bags one by one and re-stacked them yet again.
Now, after that ruthless cleaning frenzy, the stacks are once again getting higher and higher, looming crookedly on the kitchen table.
If only there was a cure for magazine mania. My brother-in-law insists there is a cure.
"It's called a house fire," he said.