Friday, October 16, 2015
My First "New Yorker"
I bought my first New Yorker – the March 1, 1976 issue – at Atlantic News in Halifax. I remember the circumstances. I was twenty-four years old. I’d quit university and was working as a gas jockey at the Spring Garden Road Esso. After work one evening, I decided to drop into Atlantic News and check out the magazine section. Perhaps I was looking for a new Esquire. At that time, I was an Esquire fan. But on this occasion it was The New Yorker that caught my eye. Its cover showed a strange scene, a ladder-carrying mob storming a towering statueless plinth. I leafed through it. What dense, strange type! No photos, no illustrations. Perusing its contents, I stumbled on this sentence: “On his last night of leave, Wednesday, September 3, 1969, Michael Eugene Mullen worked until ten o’clock on his family’s farm – a hundred-and-twenty-acre tract five miles northwest of La Porte City, in Black Hawk County, Iowa.” It was the kind of Hemingwayesque sentence I relished (still do) – concrete, hard-edged, factual. It was the opening line of the first installment of C. D. B. Bryan’s Vietnam War chronicle “Friendly Fire.” I bought the issue (75¢), took it home, and read “Friendly Fire – I” straight through in one sitting. It struck me as brilliant. I bought the next two issues, devouring “Friendly Fire – II” and “Friendly Fire – III” (the final installment). In the process, I discovered another arresting aspect of the magazine – Pauline Kael’s movie reviews. I found her avid, urgent, irreverent style thrilling. From that time on, I was hooked on The New Yorker – what’s turned out to be a thirty-nine-year addiction with no end in sight. If anything, it’s getting more intense.