Friday, May 9, 2008

A Reader's Guide to Periodicals

Do you remember when library research included flipping through the Reader's Guide to Periodicals, hoping that once you found something slightly related to your proposed topic that the library actually (1. subscribed that periodical and (2. still had that issue? Everything's online now. Too bad for those who peruse the local media center (the PC term for libraries now, presumably because the "libra" refers to books, of which there are fewer and fewer to make room for the computers.) to skim the cartoons in the New Yorker or hoping to read Playboy for something more than the articles.

I am still drawn to magazines, especially for those occasions when my time is limited but I want to fill it--stoplights, restroom breaks, the doctor's office. My first magazine memory is, of course, the Reader's Digest. When I had just learned to write a few words, flipping through a copy of Reader's Digest at my grandmother's house I came across one of those annoying little insert cards, this one offering the opportunity of a subscription for myself and two or three of my friends. At the time, I thought of it as writing practice. I patiently wrote out my father's name and address, then my grandmother's, then my great grandmother's address.

Next I needed a little mailbox practice, so I walked out to the roadside, placed the little card inside, and raised the red flag. Not until I saw the postman pull up to the box, take out my little missile, and pull away did the read red flags go up. I knew I had to confess, so I went to Daddy. Softhearted Daddy. When I told him what I'd done, he struck a deal: he agreed to pay for all three subscriptions as long as I promised to administer the "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" quiz to him every month. As far as I know, he still subscribes, and when he gets twenty of twenty correct, he calls to compare scores.

I honestly think I can track my life changes by my magazine subscriptions. Through high school and into college, I was an avid reader of Seventeen. These were the years when Jean Shrimpton, then Twiggy graced the covers. I vividly remember the fiction. One story that still haunts me had a Kate Chopin-type twist at the end. I also remember an article about Allison, a girl who died at Ohio State in the incident memorialized in song. I still have some poems I copied from those pages--I never clipped my magazines back them. I do recall the ubiquitous ads for Mark Eden's bust developer (our generation's alternative to implants at seventeen, I suppose) and the hairpieces--falls and the "bippy tale.") I don't know what finally prompted me to discard the whole collection, but I wish I hadn't.

Next was my Bride magazine phase--a short one for a relatively brief courtship. These I passed along to a friend who threw them out around the same time she discarded the fiance. During my newlywed and young mother phase, I subscribed to Good Housekeeping (more for their fiction than the recipes) and House Beautiful. I boycotted Parents Magazine because of my mother's dependence on their movie ratings during my adolescence. (During this same phrase, I ever read some Danielle Steel, Harold Robbins, and Judith Krantz. There. I admitted it.)

In recent years, I've leaned more toward the New Yorker, although I could never make the finalist stage for writing cartoon captions. Even though I'm out of the secondary classroom, I still faithfully read NCTE's English Journal and serve as a peer reviewer of manuscripts. Probably my favorite magazine is Oxford American, "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing." It has survived a couple of near death experiences, finally moving from Oxford, MS, to Arkansas, but the writing is good. Even the brief bios of the monthly contributors make for a good read. Of course, the issue worth waiting for is the Music Issue with its accompanying CD--eclectic and decidedly not Top 40.

My reading recommendation today, though, especially for any of my English teaching friends is the June 2008 issue of The Atlantic. I just finished reading "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower" by "Professor X," an adjunct faculty member at a private college and community college somewhere in the northeastern United States. Having just finished turning in my grades and attendance records to complete my first year of full-time teaching at the community college, I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or cringe. Instead, I'll probably follow my usually instincts and photocopy the piece for anyone within reach.
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1 comment:

Frank 'n' Sandy said...

Hey, cuz! This is a Reading Autobiography!! I love it!

Sandy