“You won’t be able to do it,” they told me.
“You’ll fail after a few weeks.”
“I haven’t done that since the ‘80s.”
But I was resolved. I was going to do it. I’d gotten my grubby little hands on a New Yorker subscription and I was going to read every last page of every last one. There would be no forgotten pile of uncreased magazines on my coffee table. Mine would be folded and ripped and circled and emailed and shown off to every other person on the L train as if to say: “Yeah, I read. So what?”
And I did. I felt smarter than I’d ever felt before. At parties, my small-talk game was beyond my wildest dreams. Instead of asking if people had seen the most recent Real Housewives of New York, I was like, “What do you guys think about Theranos?”
My friends started hating me a little bit. I couldn’t stop. I was committed to being a cool in-the-know New Yorker, except all I did was read the The New Yorker. All I wanted to talk about was what it would’ve been like to be a child rodeo star and I almost started watching Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback.
And then, one day in November, another one of those fat issues dropped on my figurative doorstep. I’d just gotten home from a long day; it had taken me the better part of a week to get through a profile of Kenneth Lonergan and I had just finished it on the crowded subway train. I cracked the cover of the new issue and started to read as I made myself a sad sandwich. I was deflated but still committed. When I finished the sandwich I turned the page to reveal, “The Political Scene.” It was an article about Wall Street. I couldn’t go on.
I kept the magazine turned to that page for weeks, poised and ready for the moment I felt like reading it. I never did. Every week, when a new magazine showed up, I placed it underneath the offending, face-up page. When the pile grew too high, I moved a couple to my coffee table. I liked how they looked there, so I arranged them in a fan and put my coffee mug on top.
We all think we’re special until we realize we’re not. I knew better people had failed — people who got up earlier, stayed up later, tried harder. But it took a good old New Yorker try for me to admit I couldn’t do it myself. Why didn’t you just read the sections you wanted to read, I asked myself, before placing another pristine edition on my coffee table.
Photo by Edith Young.