Saturday, April 1, 2006

WHY I SHOULDN'T READ THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE

Today is April first. I just finished reading the January 22nd issue of the New York Times Magazine. No joke. You do the math.

I am left with the feeling that I've been living on an alternate planet, one that I thought functioned adequately for my needs. Clearly, however, after reading the last page, it becomes obvious that my planet lacks the light, sound, varied textures and bright colors of the one in. . . THE MAGAZINE.  


My planet is a trip to Wal-Mart by comparison. On. . . THE MAGAZINE'S planet, everything matters more. Every word has greater meaning. Every drawing more impact. Every photo more nuance. Every headline requires more intelligence to plumb.

Even the Letters to the Editor seem to be written by more interesting, inspiring people. A graduate of West Point, stationed in Iraq, takes time from his task of preventing roadside bombs from turning his men into roadkill to sum up his well-argued premise with an interesting view of the plight of Muslims.  

UNLESS A STRONG, VISIONARY LEADER RESOLVES THE DISSONANCE BETWEEN THE REAL SOURCE OF THEIR SUFFERING [OTHER MUSLIMS] AND THEIR USUAL SCAPEGOATS [ISRAEL AND THE UNITED STATES], THE ARAB PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER.

Another letter taking issue with the writer of a discourse on recent developments in ART left me drowning in its wake:

TO REGARD THE HOOPLA SURROUNDING NEO RAUCH AND HIS STUPEFYING RETURN TO A QUASI SOCIALIST REALIST FIGURATIVE ART OF MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY AGO, AS ANYTHING MORE THAN A PASSING FANCY, IS NOT ONLY A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THE GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS MADE IN THE LAST CENTURY BUT ALSO A DISGRACE IN THE POSSIBLITIES INHERENT IN THE FUTURE OF PAINTING ITSELF.

I wanted to jump up and shout -- YOU BETCHA!! Before realizing I had no idea what anybody was talking about.

Finding a short essay on text messaging was a relief after the Letters to the Editor. It caught my eye because I finally got a cell phone last year and have the sore thumbs to go with it.  But this being. . . THE MAGAZINE, I should have known that their discussion of this shorthand communication would include a text messaged version of Paradise Lost sent between British scholars -- for no other reason than those wacky Brits can.
  
The reduction of one of the classics into twenty-first century minimalist communication is fascinating -- in a sign of the Apocalypse kind of way.


"Devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war. pd'off wiv god so corupts man [md by god] wiv apel, devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind."

I found myself having a flashback to the mid-sixties. After all these years. why did the mention of that ancient poem have to come back to haunt me like a recovered memory? In my defense, I aced my college course in Milton, which was English major code for "We will be reading Paradise Lost."

With all due respect to those people who have spent their entire professorial lives dissecting that endless drivel, I considered it a completely useless waste of words on the page, written by a mean-spirited old man. 

My "A" was achieved by cracking the professor's code: Figure out what he wants us to know for the exams. I chose to appeal to his vanity, remembering word for word details of what he said in class -- gleaned from the pages and pages of notes I took each lecture, not from any fascination I had for the subject, but to stem the tide of boredom. The night before the midterm and the final I simply went through Paradise Lost with my notes. And spit back what he said in my bluebook. I never actually read the poem. The best part was when the grad student who sat next to me leaned over to ask how I got an A and she only got an A-. 


See what reading. . . THE MAGAZINE can do to a person?  If I hadn't read that issue I probably wouldn't have had to think about Paradise Lost ever again.

I also wouldn't have remembered how much I longed to get into the course on Shakespeare's sonnets instead, which never seemed to be available when I could take it.

The professor who taught the sonnets also taught Shakespeare's plays. He toyed with me the day he took one of the sonnets and resuscitated the language on the page with an extraordinary and delightful interpretation. Just to give us a taste. I know my life would have taken a different direction, if only I could have studied the sonnets and never, ever heard of Paradise Lost.


But I digress.


7 comments:

screaminremo303 said...

Scientific American has the same effect on me. I read it, nonetheless.

jevanslink said...

Not me.  I finally just gave up.  Haaa.  Mrs. L

psychfun said...

Ha! I loved this one...but then I'm a professor so! HA! Obviously the first one had some Social Psychology. We were just talking about Scapegoats & Dissonance. Sounds like Charles Emerson Winchester III from M*A*S*H! Ha! These days students expect & need one to tell them what you need to know. Which gets very "spit back" like you mention. Some prof still just tell them the chapters & lecture & in fact will ask questions on the reading material you have not gone over in class to make sure you did read. One important skills is to figure out what is important in a passage or speak etc but you get better at it the longer you take classes I think, at least from my experience. Ha...someone mentioned Scientific America...they have Scientific American Mind also & that is fabulous! I just discussed it with my students. Some stuff will come back to haunt you. Your prof sometimes are right...you just might use this stuff later in life...ok, so some things more than others but...Ha!

dr1hguy said...

Mrs. Linklater -- Will this material be covered on the test?

thisismary said...

Hon?  The artsy fartsy stuff?  

"TO REGARD THE HOOPLA SURROUNDING NEO RAUCH ..."

Translation: real art is never representational.  Oh, yah the Dutch masters got away with it, but well, they were running from dinosaurs n stuff, so they didn't have time to be abstruse.  Sigh.

Oh, and that sonnet thingy?  Just last year I actually wrote a sonnet, an ode to my SUV; iambic pentameter rhymed Peoria with euphoria. Blasting someone on a message board who mocked my writing style.  Sonnets for spite. One of my finer moments.  Shakespeare's ghost cried.

Have I mentioned recently that I love your journal?

jevanslink said...

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the people who commnet in my journal?  Mrs. L

mombzbe said...

I used to know some Shakespearean sonnets, but the space they occupied in my brain was overtaken by the prose of Margaret Wise Brown.
"In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon..."
Anna :D