I love magazines, which is why I am alarmed and dismayed by the fact that they’re doomed.
How do I know? I’ve read about it, of course. In magazines.
Not only that, but I process the incoming periodicals at the library where I work, which means I can actually see them dwindling before my eyes. What once were fat monthly issues are now alarmingly thin. Monthlies have increasingly resorted to publishing double issues. “New York,“ always my favorite weekly, now comes out every other week.
And once-loved titles are folding like crazy. “Gourmet!” “Ladies Home Journal!” Spin!” All gone.
Growing up in the 60s, who could have imagined a world without magazines? No “Life?” No “Look?” Unthinkable! Magazines helped teach us to read. And explained the world to us. The Kennedy assassination? The first moon walk? We watched them on TV. But magazines helped us understand.
My first “Highlights for Kids” subscription meant that finally, I was a real reader.
How on earth could I have filled my “Man From Uncle” scrapbook without “Tiger Beat?
And who can forget being old enough to subscribe to “Mad Magazine?” Now there was a milestone!
Growing up, I read my mother’s copies of “Redbook,” “Ladies Home Journal” and “McCalls“ and relished “Can this marriage be saved?” before I had any real idea of what a marriage actually was. And I snuck peaks at Dad’s copies of “Esquire,” especially their annual “Dubious Achievement Awards,“ issue, even though the contents, went, for the most part, right over my head.
As a teen, when I began to babysit? The first thing I did after the little darlings fell asleep was locate the hidden “Playboys” (usually in the bedside table, the closet, or the bathroom) and marvel at those amazing “girls next door.”
When I grew up, I looked forward to having my own “McCalls” subscription. (And, with any luck, my own “Playboy“-reading spouse.)
Some periodicals still manage to thrive. The last issue of “Vogue” was so big I could barely lift it, as fat with ads as the models within were skinny. (And so pungent with perfume ads you could smell it across the room.)
“People“ will endure. We’ll never grow tired of celebrity gossip. “Sports Illustrated” is still going strong. And “Martha Stewart Wedding” will undoubtedly be around as long as women dream of finding both Mr. Right and a fabulous gown to marry him in.
But “U.S. News and World Report?” “McCalls?“ “Newsweek?“ Gone.
I’m doing what I can to keep the magazine industry afloat. I subscribe to dozens. “Time.” “Entertainment Weekly.” “Rolling Stone.“ “Money.“ “Out.” “New York.” “The Funny Times.”
Others, I read at the library. “Travel & Leisure.” “More.” “Oprah.”
As a writer, I try to support literary magazines with my subscription dollars. (A recent find? “Teen One Story,” which features a new story for Young Adult readers in each issue.)
And my guilty pleasure? I may be a librarian and an intellectual, but I subscribe to “The National Enquirer.” I blame Avi and Winifred, my doves. “It’s pages are exactly the right size to line the birdcage!” I tell my friends. But the truth? I love my weekly fix of odd stories, health-related tips and juicy celebrity gossip.
Admittedly, I’m, by nature, rather retro. I’d rather walk than drive. I’d rather read a book than download it. And I don’t even own a smart phone. I’m a dodo, a dinosaur, the remnant of the world I grew up in, where what you read on a page had more cultural heft than what you watched on a screen.
Sure, I waste hours online, just like you do. And I love the instantaneous pop (and terrific writing) of my favorite websites.
But at the end of the day? I still want to turn pages.
Every issue that lands in my mailbox these days carries an ad for an app that can download hundreds of magazines onto your smart phone or computer screen. Is this the future of the magazine? Instead of the pleasure of turning a page, the ease of scanning a screen?
Maybe so. But try to explain that to my doves.
Image: Shutterstock/Radu Razvan