|[a] Love RF|
I had learned a lot, but I was a high school sophomore who hadn't even bothered to get my driver's license yet (I didn't care about it at all until I turned seventeen). All I thought about was running, swimming, reading (a little), and politics. I went to school, did some homework, and got barely reasonable grades in what was at least a fairly ambitious program of math, science, humanities, and languages. Don't get the wrong idea. That was just dumb chance. I was drifting, and spent more time skipping out of classes to play golf or go running or play basketball than studying. In a fog of cluelessness reserved only for teenagers, I didn't fully comprehend the purpose of "homework." I missed a lot of school with barely defensible "colds," and watched more television than I can even begin to defend. Green Acres? Petticoat Junction? They were old even back then..and yet I somehow watched all of the episodes (instead of learning Latin or practicing the violin). I was a mess.
But then I fell in love.
Deeply. Head over heels. Seriously, this was cliché stuff..."in real." It was a high school love affair that blossomed, soured after college, and soared again in middle age. It is the stuff of (very long) dreams. The love is not over, by any means. And now I am teaching it.
|[b] Change RF|
If you care about writing—really want to excel and connect with readers
in a way that goes far beyond what people write in most newspapers,
magazines, and books—you need to read a magazine. If you read it every
week, and really think about the stories and articles in it, you will become
a much better writer than you ever imagined. You need to subscribe to
The New Yorker.
The what? That must be an "out east" thing.
|[c] Swing RF|
Somehow (and this was much more difficult than it would be today) I got the information I needed to subscribe to this magical, mysterious magazine. It was not possible just to type "The New Yorker" into Google...or Bing. Trust me (it was 1974). In any case, I worked with dad (who agreed with Mr. Fox, but was still somewhat bemused by the intensity of my subscriptional desires). We sent off the check and I waited.
For six- to eight-weeks.
|[d] Change RF|
I paddled in.
|[e] Tri RF|
It changed my life, and I was not the only one—not even the only teenager from Minnesota. Take a look at what Garrison Keillor had to say about The New Yorker twenty years before I ever heard of it. I fell in love with John McPhee, Calvin Trillin, Ved Mehta, and Roger Angell. Keillor, a few years my senior, had found other worthies. Both of us blushed at the ostentation in the magazine's advertisements; both of us (two decades apart) had no qualms. The payload was in the text, not the advertisements. It was terrific stuff, and we wanted more of it.
I’ve been reluctant to collect [these stories] in a book because
they were written in revolt against a [failed novel] and out of
admiration of a magazine, The New Yorker, which I first saw in
1956 in the Anoka Public Library. Our family subscribed to Reader’s
Digest, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, Boy’s Life, and
American Home. My people weren’t much for literature, and they
were dead set against conspicuous wealth, so a magazine in which
classy paragraphs marched down the aisle between columns of
diamond necklaces and French cognacs was not a magazine they
welcomed into their home. I was more easily dazzled than they and to
me The New Yorker was a fabulous sight, an immense glittering ocean
liner off the coast of Minnesota, and I loved to read it. I bought copies and
smuggled them home, though with a clear conscience, for what I most
admired was not the decor or the tone of the thing but rather the work
of some writers, particularly The New Yorker’s great infield of Thurber,
Liebling, Perelman and White.
They were my heroes: four older gentlemen, one blind, one fat, one
We'll have fun. It's also American history...and literature...in a way that you may never have considered. We're on to something here, and it will take us weeks and weeks (and probably years and years) to play it all out. Join me (and my first-year seminar class—they will graduate in 2016) for this series on The New Yorker and the World.
Just like that day (for me) in the autumn of 1974...it could change your life.
Click here for a thorough introduction to the course ("The New Yorker and the World—Course Descriptions").
Description a Description b Description c Description d Description e
Description f Description g Description h Description i Description j
|[f] You'll get there RF|
 Garrison Keillor, Happy to Be Here: Stories and Comic Pieces (New York: Atheneum, 1982), x-xi.
Keillor, Garrison. Happy to Be Here: Stories and Comic Pieces. New York: Atheneum, 1982.