Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back Story: Reliving my teens in a digital age

On my new subscription to the New York Times Book Review

For as long as I can remember, my father was an avid newspaper reader. When I was ten in Woodhaven, Queens, he would send me out at night to walk the dog and pick up the early editions of the New York Daily News and the Herald-Tribune. He would give me a dime and let me keep the 2 cents change. Yes, the newspapers cost just 4 cents apiece. That would have been around 1954 or '55.

I'm not sure if the old man read the Times on his way to work back in those days. Reading that large format on the crowded subway would have been a tricky feat. I imagine he took the two tabloids from the night before and finished reading them on his way to the office. Later, however, when he commuted on the Long Island Rail Road, the New York Times was the paper of his choice. And there was always the Sunday Times. When we went away in the summer, he had to drive me and my two sisters to Sunday Mass at the local Catholic summer camp. He would drop us off and go to pick up the newspaper. After mass, we would find him parked outside, reading the Sunday Times in the car. It was his form of religion.

When I reached my teens, I started to take notice of the Times on Sundays. We had lived across the street from the Queensboro Public Library in Woodhaven and the old man had instilled in me a sense of the importance of reading. As a teenager, I wasn't interested in the news, but I took to reading the New York Times Magazine, the Entertainment Section and the Book Review. But, it was the New York Times Book Review that I looked forward to the most. It was my main intellectual endeavor throughout high school.

What I learned from the Book Review was multifaceted. I learned who were the important intellectuals of our time; I learned enough about books that I would never have time to read, so when I saw or heard reference to them elsewhere, I would be conversant about them; and I was provided with the information I needed to make my own reading choices.

Over the intervening years, I've lived in a lot of places where I didn't have easy access to the Times or the Book Review. And even when it was available I didn't always take advantage of the opportunities I had to read it. Of course, when I lived and worked in New York, my hands were perennially stained with newsprint from the Times. But in the twelve years I have lived in Ohio, except for reading the occasional article at, the Times and its Book Review, even though available right in Yellow Springs, have been absent from my life. Until now...

Flash forward some 50 years. Yesterday, I subscribed to an ebook edition of the New York Times Book Review. Each new week's edition will be downloaded automatically to my Reader Library on Saturday. If I can wait, I can grab a cup of coffee and open it up on a Sunday morning, just like the old days. Only no printer's ink...


No comments: