Friday, April 03, 2009
Sometimes with reading, you just have the need for a transitory, non-commitment read that’s the equivalent of a one-night-stand. In one of those moods, I was in front of the magazine racks at the bookstore, and it came to me that there’s a magazine for everything. No matter what your interest, some publisher has it covered. Then, after that observation, I lapsed into a glassy-eyed comatose state much like a movie flashback, and I mentally reviewed my past flings with various magazines.
The first that I recall, and they say that you always remember your first, was that early feminist, Little Lulu. Technically Lulu was a comic and not a magazine, but I had a subscription and it arrived each month in the mailbox, just like a magazine. It came rolled in a plain brown wrapper, with my name and address imprinted on the wrapping in a purplish lettering that must have been applied with some now defunct, high tech method of the mid-1900’s.
Maturing in my tastes, I moved on to American Girl, the publication of the Girl Scouts of America. My memory of it isn’t the articles, but of coveting various items of advertised Girl Scout paraphernalia.
About that same time, my Mother must have subscribed to McCall’s magazine, because I eagerly waited for its arrival since it contained a page of Betsy McCall paper dolls. (OK; you’re getting the picture that I was destined for consumerism, but wait, it’s gonna get a lot worse.)
An odd straying from my usual path was Progressive Farmer. The fact that we were urbanites having this delivered to our house—bet we were the only ones on the block—never struck me as peculiar; I just wanted to throw myself on the couch and read the page of jokes and anecdotes.
Back to my “type,” I found Glamour magazine. My mother commented that there was nothing in it but ads, but I wanted to look at ads; I wanted to see what was out there in the world. And she wasn’t quite right; there also was the “do’s and don’ts” page and the eagerly read “Jake, a Man’s Opinion.” (I had no brothers and wanted to see what those creatures were thinking.)
Then came Redbook—great fiction—and a few years of Time where I avidly followed the political upheavals of the day.
Following that, for years, I consolidated the political and the consumerist by reading Vanity Fair. Sadly though, the day came, and I had known that it would, when I no longer recognized the people or names on the cover. Time to move along.
So now, magazines that come into our home are The Oxford American: the Southern Magazine of Good Writing, Garden and Gun, interesting and printed on the highest quality stock of any magazine that I ever have seen in my life; The American Math Monthly, (Larry’s, not mine); The Reflector, the publication of the Sons and Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen, (mine, I confess); and Units, the trade publication of the multi-family housing industry. See, there is a magazine for everything!
Remember the periodicals room at the library? Nobody much says “periodicals” anymore. We just say “magazine” and that’s probably accurate since the word “periodical” included newspapers and they’re disappearing as fast as that technology that printed my name and address on the Little Lulu wrapper.
But what about the word “magazine?” (Do you too remember Western movies where there was a bunker-type building with a crudely lettered sign on the side facing the camera? It was the “Powder Magazine” and it usually blew up at a strategic time.) I was ruminating aloud about these seemingly unrelated uses of the word, and my friend, the author, N. J. McIver, enlightened me. Seems that it comes from an Arabic word meaning “storehouse.” The man is a wonder! And the whole thing makes sense if you think of the periodical as being a storehouse of information about its particular focus.
Then, shortly after that, I heard Garrison Keillor comment on “Prairie Home Companion,” “If you’re curious about something, look at a magazine.” Magazines, however transitory our affairs with them, truly must be storehouses of information. A good thing to pick up!