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The New Yorker and me

April 11, 2019

If you had asked me when I was 21 what I thought the best job in the world would be, I would have said writing for The New Yorker.

I’m pretty sure the first book I bought in New York was Here at the New Yorker by Brendan Gill, followed quickly by The Years with Ross by James Thurber. (I thought I still had my copy of the latter, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside during one of my many trans-Atlantic and transcontinental moves. His fiction does remain on my bookshelves.)

I walked past the Algonquin Hotel many times, but never went in. What would be the point? It’s not as if Dorothy Parker would have been holding court at the Round Table. Instead I hoovered up everything she wrote.

I bloody loved The New Yorker. I bought it every week. There was a ritual. First, check out all the cartoons. Second, the theatre and film reviews. Third, Talk of the Town. Fourth, the articles (unless they really didn’t interest me at all.) Finally, the short story. (Many years later, after I’d had a couple of short stories published in UK magazines, I plucked up the courage to submit a story to The New Yorker. Somewhere I think I still might have the note I received from Roger Angel, the longtime fiction editor, complimenting my style, but declining that particular story. A note from the legendary Roger Angel, who’d obviously actually read the story! Not as exciting as an acceptance, but slightly thrilling nonetheless.)

When I was back in London, working as a journalist (alas, not for The New Yorker), I was thrilled when a friend back in North America bought me a subscription. The magazine was not sent air mail and arrived several weeks after publication, but that didn’t matter.

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I also, on a trip from London to New York, bought a poster version of this Saul Steinberg cover, which hung in the lounge of my Finchley Road flat for several years and travelled to a number of other flats before it fell to pieces.

Oh, yes, I loved New Yorker covers. I saved every single one of them. I even shipped them, with other important papers, when I moved from London to Toronto in the late 1980s. Inspired by the decoration of the ladies room in a funky restaurant, I used them to wallpaper the kitchen in my apartment.

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(Sorry, I don’t have a scanner, so this is a crap digital photo of an actual photo, but you get the idea.)

After I moved to Vancouver and got together with Mike, he bought me a subscription for Christmas one year. (I often had to go through his desk to find the latest edition.)

When, after several years back in London, I returned to Gabriola, I’d had my longest run without a New Yorker subscription. Offers had continued to come in my absence, but the subscription was by then quite expensive, so the offers were ignored. Then I received an offer Mike and I couldn’t refuse: a year of The New Yorker for $75. Now that was a deal. We subscribed.

Of course, when the renewal notice came, it was for the full amount, so we did not renew. Thus a pattern began. A couple of years or so after Mike’s sudden death in 2011, I received another $75 offer from The New Yorker. I renewed. These offers seem to come around every couple of years.

I’ve come to the conclusion that subscribing to The New Yorker is a bit like childbirth. In the immediate aftermath you swear never again, but after a year or so you can’t remember why you said that.

A couple of months ago I received one of the $75 offers. I sent a cheque off straightaway.

A week or so later, before the first magazine appeared, I watched this episode of The Good Place. It doesn’t matter if you know the show. Just imagine this being your fate in hell.

Yes, it’s happening again. An issue arriving before I’ve even opened the last one. How does this happen? I’m sure I used to be able to read this magazine from cover to cover in a week. Didn’t I?

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