How To Read the New Yorker

When I visit friends, I often notice unread stacks mail, catalogs and New Yorker magazines. Subscribing seems aspirational – as if just the subscription confers membership in an intellectual and intelligentsia strata that requires a certain amount of time and effort to join.

Little do they realize that everyone really has time to read the New Yorker – all it takes is a little time management. Here’s how I manage it:


Your husband brings in the new issue with the mail. He hands it to you, back cover folded back, and his thumb pointing to the “create a caption cartoon” on the back page.

“What do you think?” He says. Sometimes he offers his own ideas.

As you take the magazine from him, let your eyes drift down to the cartoon in the lower right corner. If they picked the caption you liked, tell yourself, “I win” – otherwise, you can say, “I don’t like that one as much.”

Then let your eyes drift to the cartoon in the lower left corner, read the three finalist captions and compare them to the caption you came up with. Then, like House Hunters, pick the one that you like best and then the one that you think will actually win because people are so stupid.

Finally look at this week’s cartoon. If an idea hits you right away, declare it the best idea in the world – and announce that you would enter it if you weren’t too busy with your important New York life. If you can’t come up with a caption within 60 seconds, decide thinking about the cartoon isn’t worth the effort and move on. (You can always creep back later and think some more when no one is watching.)


Pick up the magazine and begin flipping pages from the back to the front, reading only the cartoons. Note any articles that you might want to read later (or definitely don’t want to read later). Give yourself bonus points if you fold down the corners of the pages to find them quickly later (note: if you do this, make sure you unfold the corners throughout the week so your husband thinks you actually read them).

If you like a cartoon, snap a picture of it and share with friends.

Skip over any multi-panel cartoons, especially the ones in color that take up a whole page. Reading the handwriting is annoying and they probably won’t be funny anyway.


Check out the movie reviews in the back pages. Read other short articles that follow after the Fiction piece.

Never read the Fiction piece.

Look at the short book reviews listed in the sidebar – but only for the non-fiction titles.


You love poetry so start to read the poetry piece.

When you become bored and your attention drifts, drag it back.

You love poetry, so skip the rest of the analysis to just read the actual poetry – easy because the format makes them stand out. Then try to read the paragraph under the excerpt to see if you like the excerpt any better.

If you wonder why you love poetry so much, keep it to yourself. (Then read some Shel Silverstein when no one is looking.)


If there are longer articles of interest to you, skip to those and read them in one sitting, usually while your husband is trying to talk to you or is waiting for the bathroom.

(If you skim over them until they show up in one of your newsfeeds online and you wonder how you missed them, don’t let anyone know that you read them online.)


Flip to the front cover. If you get it right away, declare it clever.

Otherwise, gaze at it out of the corner of your eye while waiting for it to make sense. Is this about Donald Trump again? Or is this some clever New York thing that you still won’t get after living here for over 30 years because you just don’t move in those circles? Or do you just have early-onset Alzheimer’s?

“How clever!” Say it with delight.


Check out the restaurant review – do they serve vegetarian? It doesn’t sound like it… Are they going to make you put your own food together? Don’t bother.

Sidebar restaurant review – hmm, interesting. Oh, Brooklyn? Well, never mind…

Something catches your eye in The Talk of the Town. Start to read but lose interest when they start namedropping.

Shouts and Murmurs! You have a vague memory of once loving Shouts and Murmurs. Now you read it and wonder what you liked about it. So mean-spirited. Sad. Oh, this one’s not bad…


One last flip through the whole thing, desperately searching for something you want to read. Goings on about Town – nope. Is that a cartoon you missed? Oh, an ad pretending to be a cartoon.

You hear my husband’s key in the door and drop the New Yorker in the recycling bin because you will not become one of those pretentious people with stacks of unread New Yorkers lying about the place.

All it takes is a little discipline.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s