I Failed My ‘New Yorker’ Subscription

I didn’t think it’d be easy, but I didn’t know it’d be impossible

1200x800 Failed New Yorker Subscription Man Repeller-8690

“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.

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  • Mut@leni

    Love this! I “discovered” the New Yorker in loving piles around my cosmopolitan best friend’s apartment – when I left Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for Windhoek (Namibia) I decided to subscribe. That was 7 years ago… and still going strong. No pressure… I read what I like and for a while I donated read copies to my favourite cafe. Now each week – on a Thursday when I take my daughter to piano lessons – I have a dedicated New Yorker hour where I lounge at the music conservatory and read my NY’er. And I always read magazines back to front so I get all the good bits first (cartoons, film reviews)!

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    Ha, this is me with National Geographic. I’ve fallen behind now several YEARS but I still somehow convince myself I will get back into reading them all cover-to-cover….I guess I just have to pick back up with the recent one and worry less about how behind I am.

  • tmm16

    “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.”

    Maybe a tad cynical but tbh, very grounding words. I try to remember this and not let it discourage me, but push me to work harder.

  • kitmcc

    I can so relate to that feeling of having so many interesting topics to bring up when I’ve been a diligent reader! It’s so satisfying … so why oh why do we stop?! I recently did a trial New Yorker subscription with the same hopes for myself! Fail from the beginning here. I aspire to it but obviously not enough. I’ve attempted to stop all subscriptions due to the terrible guilt of unread stacks (of interesting conversation starters)!

  • joan

    Same same

  • I had never wanted to comment “SAME” in anything as much as I wanted to do it in this article. I’ve had the Nov 21, 2016 open in a page about Philippine’s president for three months. And now I have accumulated a pile of unread ones that keeps on growing.

    It really can’t be done, unless you want to stop reading books and blogs and having a life.

    • Adrianna

      I couldn’t get into that article either

  • Linda

    Honestly, I just flip through to read the caricatures unless there is something that seriously catches my eye…

  • Jennifer

    omg I’m so glad I’m not alone in this the new yorker failure. me too, Vivienne, me too.

  • Adrianna

    I had never heard of “longform journalism” or magazines such as The New Yorker when I started college in 2007. I still remember how excited I was when I subscribed to the New Yorker in 2010. This was before I listened to podcasts or NPR. I constantly accumulated dozens (literally dozens) of books on a wide range of topics I was casually interested in.

    As you can imagine, I have quite the backlog at home, and over time I’ve forced myself to recycle issues more readily. You just have to accept and embrace the fact that you won’t read every single article.

  • I just finished a fantastic article from an issue of The New Yorker about Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony…aaaaaand I have about 3 more unopened ones on my coffee table.

    S/O to my partners in Fail. <3

  • Caitlin Crow

    this is me with the Sunday New York Times. you’d think a week would be long enough to get through all pertinent sections plus magazine plus crossword plus occasional style/design supplements, but alas. luckily I recently heard Naval Ravikant’s interview on the Knowledge podcast (he covers “reading shame”among many other topics), and now i’m letting myself off the hook a bit.

  • lateshift

    This this this. Is it possible for an inanimate object to look judgey? because my New Yorkers do. (Guilt multiplier: my grandparents were subscribers since the 1920s – !! – and always read ALL of them…)

    • moinmoin

      They may have read ALL of them but they also had less distractions- no twitter, fb, insta, snap, wiki, netflix, amazon… Don’t feel guilty – juggling modern life is a mental feat. If you only had records, tapes, radio and newspapers you’d have time and the capacity to finish ALL of them too!

  • Maria

    lol same. I (try to) read The New Yorker on my way to class but then forget about it

  • Alex M. Frankel

    It’s better to just be a digital subscriber and read occasional articles on the site. I doubt even old-time magazines were meant to be read cover to cover. Unfortunately, magazines have not made the digital transition as smoothly as newspapers. TIME is awful now and The New Yorker online is still not a smooth experience.