Saturday, January 20, 2007

Magazine Mafia

Twice in the last 6 months, I've received letters from magazines threatening to turn me over to collection agencies. In said letters, they insist that I had indicated that I'd like to continue my subscription, and that they had sent the issues "in good faith." Thus, I now owe them for another year of the magazine. Have I ever contacted these companies to tell them to continue my subscription? No. What gives?

It is the case that I order what could be considered an obnoxious number of magazines--a couple of weeklies, a bunch of monthlies. We have an old fashioned mailbox at our house: the postman drops the mail into the box on the outside, and it slides down a chute into the inside of the house (not so smart for insulation). At certain times of the month, our box gets clogged with magazines, and I have to go outside to try to shove them down and through the chute. This problem, however, I lay entirely at the foot of the postman--why can't he just leave them on the porch?! Obviously, my excessive consumption isn't the issue!

I'm sure that my obsession with magazines began as I was writing my dissertation. To my mind, if you work on contemporary culture studies, magazines are a significant way to track phenomena in certain popluations/markets. And if you want to "prove" that such a phenomenon is widespread, then you need lots of evidence. [It occurs to me that this has changed significantly; now I spend far more time on the web...] My grad school pals were writing on James Joyce and Gramsci and reading The New Yorker. I was writing on "Asian American Shoes" (someday, someone's ACTUALLY going to write that diss) and I was reading Vogue, Elle, and W to track a couture market, and Glamour, Marie Claire, and Cosmo to track a more popular market. [For the record, Elle has the best book reviews.] At that time, my version of giddy over-consumption was to go the bookstore and buy all of them in a big pile. This was largely the graduate school equivalent of rolling naked in a pile of hundred dollar bills. Clearly, this got ridiculously expensive after awhile--hence, the subscriptions.

I'm not kidding myself; I fully realize that I'm rationalizing magazine-reading as academic work. To a certain extent, it's the kind of reading I do to fully relax: I don't have to read with a pen in hand. At the same time, I have files full of articles and ads that I've pulled that relate to projects that I'm mulling over. Perhaps it's both work and vacation simultaneously.

If, however, Vogue is going to place a horsehead in my bed rather than allow me to let my subscription to lapse, I may have to reconsider my research agenda. Does anyone know how to call off the wiseguys (in stilettos) before they make me an offer I can't refuse?

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