Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stop Me Before I Subscribe Again!

"Hi, my name is David, and I'm a magaholic..."

Those are my first words to students in my second-year magazine writing class. It's just a cheeky way of acknowledging my passion for the subject and my hope that some of them will come to share my obsession with magazines by semester's end.

But recently, I've been wondering (and so has my Canada Post deliverywoman, I suspect) if my fondness isn’t more of a sickness. A month ago, I’d been reading Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a book about addiction, the author’s medical practice in the Downtown Eastside, and—oddly enough—his own “addiction” to buying classical CDs. (He says he is no way equating his Mozart collection, a habit that cost him eight grand one week, with mainlining heroin, but still...)

My love of magazines is the closest I’ve ever come (and hopefully ever will) to an addictive personality trait. I grew up around magazines (my parents both subscribed to several), and began getting my own from as early as I can remember: Chickadee, Owl, The Electric Company, dozens of Marvel comic books. That was followed by magazines to match every strange teenage hobby or interest I developed: Dragon (during my spotty-faced D&D years), Circus (my spotty-faced heavy-metal era), Soldier of Fortune (my, uh, weird obsession with mercenaries phase), Outside (my discovery of outdoor adventure, or at least reading about it).

If I am to admit I’ve got a problem, I’ve got to first come clean about its extent. Herewith, the magazines that enter my house every month.

Magazines I subscribe to:

  • Bicycling (see below)
  • Harper’s (my longest-running subscription at more than 20 years)
  • Maclean’s (Canada’s chattering class may hate Ken Whyte’s politics, but he’s an editorial genius and turned around this once-moribund newsweekly; plus, it runs the hilarious Scott Feschuk)
  • The Atlantic (I haven’t got my first issue but was suckered into an impulse sub by a “professional deal”)
  • Chatelaine and Today’s Parent (I get these for my wife, and flip through both)
  • Maisonneuve (the little mag that could, out of Montreal)
  • The New York Times Magazine (the main reason I get the Sunday Times, which was even better when they also published Key and Play magazines)
  • National Geographic (how else will my children inherit an attic full of moldy Nat Geos?)

Magazine’s I’m subscribed to (there’s a difference):

  • The New Yorker (world’s best birthday present—thanks to my father in law for renewing annually)
  • Sports Illustrated (from my sister in law—does that make them both enablers?)
  • The Torch (from UVic) and Queen’s Alumni Review

Magazines I get for free as a contributor:

  • explore
  • 2 Magazine
  • Financial Post Business
  • British Columbia (my wife works there)

Local magazines I pick up for free:

  • Monday (sadly, more of a conventional alt-newsweekly than a true magazine after rounds of freelance cutbacks)
  • Focus (a strong arts and politics monthly)
  • Boulevard (I don’t always grab it but know several of the columnists)
  • Wavelength (for kayakers...and I’m not really a kayaker!)

Magazines that my father in law brings for me whenever he visits:

  • Toronto Life and The Walrus (which I used to have subs for)
  • The Literary Review of Canada (a bit wonkish, but otherwise decent book coverage)

Magazines that fall out of the newspaper and that I flip through:

  • Driven, Sharp, Douglas, Western Living, Report on Business

In-flight magazines that I take home when any sane person leaves them in the seat pocket:

  • Up! and EnRoute (Canada is lucky to have not one but two in-flight mags that run more than just boring travel bumph)

I’ve likely missed some in there, and I haven’t mentioned the many magazines that I once subscribed to, or my impulse buys of individual issues at grocery stores and airports, or my large collection of obscure, international or regional magazines, or the online-only magazines I browse, or the magazines I think I should subscribe to or wish I could justify, or the books I buy that are about magazines or that anthologize magazine stories...

Of course, there is no way—even if I didn’t have a full-time job and two small kids—that I’d ever have the time to read every issue of every magazine I get. (So, yes, my habit has an environmental cost, too.)

So you tell me: fondness or sickness?

1 comment:

richard said...

You could only read this pile if you were wildly coked up. Addiction? Hmm -- kind of hard to hide from those close to you, and if you get your employer to cover most of the costs, well, I don't see much harm.

Wait, was that the sound of a tree falling just for you?