Thursday, August 18, 2011

Work in Progress: My Favorite Magazines

If it’s not a rule of life, it should be:  When you don’t know what to do, write a list.  So, here’s a list of magazines I love to read (in random order):

--The New Yorker.  I’ve been reading this magazine on and off (mostly on) since college.  I am often irritated by the novel chapters posing as short stories and by the imbalance of male vs. female writers.  Sometimes their articles go on TOO DAMN LONG.  I thought the cartoon contest was pandering (though now I love it).  The humor columns are rarely humorous.  And yet.  I can’t imagine my life without this magazine.  I imagine I’ll subscribe until the day I die.

--The Sun.  I’ve extolled the virtues of this literary magazine a zillion times, but just as a refresher:  I admire the moral fortitude and commitment that come together to produce  an ad-free monthly magazine for all these years.  I love the photographs.  I love that something always makes me cry, and usually more than one piece.  I love the Sunbeams, the letters to the editor where someone is always asking to cancel their subscription and someone else is noting how they can’t live without The Sun in their mailbox.  I love the personal and honest musings of the editor, Sy Safransky.   I love most of all “Readers Write,” filled with true, brave, inspiring, and sad stories from across the spectrum of humanity.

--Poets & Writers.  Another one I’ve been reading since forever.  Early on, this was the magazine that most made me feel like a “real” writer.

--Vogue.  I grew up with my mother glued to this magazine, and while it sometimes depresses me (everyone is so damn THIN and so damn GORGEOUS), I also find much beauty in an artfully arranged outfit, a well-designed accessory.  I’m happy to live in a world where sometimes something being pretty is achievement enough.

--Vanity Fair.  Actually, this is my husband’s magazine, but I always steal it so I can read the inevitable Kennedy/royals/rich people behaving badly article that’s a guilty pleasure.

--The Gettysburg Review.  I switch off among a number of different literary journals, but this one is a constant presence.  It’s handsomely designed, and I find that I equally admire the fiction, essays, and poetry.

--Washingtonian.  This is a great source for restaurant news in the DC area.  Not a magazine to read before dinner when you’re starving after a light lunch!

--The Writer’s Chronicle.  Published by AWP, another writing magazine.  The craft articles and interviews are top-notch.  I’ve picked up many tips to help my own work and stolen many techniques and ideas for the classroom.  Apparently the next issue will feature a new design…I’m eager to see it, as I’ve long despised the awkward, oversize tabloid format.

--Martha Stewart Living.  I’m not reading this one at present, but I’ll be back.  I think Vogue has replaced it for the time being, because what I love most about MS Living is how stunningly beautiful everything is.  If I could live in a magazine, this is the one I would choose.  I especially admire the articles about “collections,” and the full page pictures of, say, interesting toothpick holders from the 1960s or Depression era handkerchiefs.

--Gourmet.  I can’t let this go.  I cried when this magazine was abruptly folded in 2009. I’ve been through many other food magazines, and not one has produced reliably and consistently excellent recipes that work for me.  Cook’s Illustrated is the next-best in terms of good recipes, but it seems more limited and just a little too black-and-white.  I miss the photos in Gourmet.  What I especially miss is the Gourmet of the 1990s, before they obsessed about writing articles about organic farmers, the politics of food, and such, when there were just pages and pages of wonderful food, alternating with pages and pages of pictures of exotic locations where you could find different wonderful food.

I’m probably forgetting something that will arrive in the mail this afternoon.  Perhaps this is what I love most of all about magazines—and that the internet will not replace for me—that excitement of a magazine showing up at your house, and that growing urgency you feel as you stare at the cover—pondering all the promise of what’s inside—and you think, “I’ve got to read this right NOW.”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.