June 25, 2012

Why I read the LRB and the NYer

The London Review of Books is published fortnightly, The New Yorker weekly with a few double issues. I subscribe to the printed version of each which gives me electronic access to back issues.

As its title suggest the LRB consists largely of book reviews, though it does include occasional articles on contemporary issues/politics and a nod at a few art exhibitions. The reviews are long and discursive. Reviews of non-fiction books are often written by someone with extensive knowledge of the subject area. Writers of fiction reviews tend to be published writers or university teachers of literature.

So, LRB reviews are not necessarily an easy read, and a few defeat me altogether. Mostly, though, I am interested and stimulated and get an idea from the review about whether or not I want to read the book. I don’t make myself read every review to the end!

This New Yorker cover is by Bob Staake and is called "Spectrum of Light." 
The issue came out just after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

The New Yorker is not a literary magazine as such, though it has reviews, long, highly-researched articles about writers (as well as about sportspeople, politicians, dictators and any other category of people you can think of) and a short story in every issue. (And a lot more, I’m focusing here on the booky bits.) Again, I get pointers on what I want and don’t want to read. If I wanted a purely book-related magazine from the US, I’d get The New York Review of Books, but that I read from the Wellington Public Library shelves when I have time to spare in the library.

Both LRB and The New Yorker give me a sense of some slight connection to that big wide world of literature out there, and pander to my book-snobbery—that is, my wanting to know something about what is the “best” published writing, whatever that means. One of my other favourite kinds of reading is writing by writers about writing; not “how to” books so much as books about how they live as writers.

One final point about subscribing to these magazines—the cost per issue is about one fifth of the cost off a magazine stall, even with international postage.

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