February 21, 2009

There is no getting away from it: I am addicted to magazines. Political magazines, music magazines, poetry magazines, and any magazine that is not unworthy of its own weight in adverts (which I suppose cuts out almost all glossy ‘women’s’ magazines, whose adverts support an amazing number of models and photographers). If ever I am called upon to make a train journey (which still seems an improbable luxury, like having a chauffeur), I am in danger of emptying my wallet on the station before I struggle to the barrier, possibly past it, and on to the platform.

I put this down, just a bit, to the fact that my school used to take Life, the National Geographic, and possibly (am I imagining this? Had it not gone out of circulation by then?) Picture Post. And The Illustrated London News. (The latter expired only about four years ago, by which time it had long been a quarterly. Its first edition – no, I did not read it – was in 1842. It contained an article on the war in Afghanistan. Ring any bells?) So much work used to go into making Life good to look at (as against its sober-suited sibling, Time), and there are stories that I can still remember from its pages. One of them – I am guessing this was about 1965 – concerned a man who could look into the lens of a camera, tell you what he was thinking, and produce an image on the film of his thought. I often wonder what became of this man: whether he was exposed as a charlatan, or toured the Earth, or carried on snapping his thoughts in a cruel and forgetful world.

One inevitable consequence of buying magazines is that you are regularly tempted to crank up your habit, since any given magazine is likelier than not to belong to a ‘stable’ of such magazines, and to arrive stuffed with adverts and offers for its mates, usually lock-in direct debits for five-year commitments. To get to your magazine of choice, you have to fight through plastic, and fend off a fan of inserts. After a particularly large delivery, I can usually fill the bin.

The downside of magaholia is that you have no time to eat, drink, or talk to anyone. To get the material read, you have to go to bed three hours early, and start in on the articles (especially if you’re in receipt of the New Yorker, most of the articles in which could easily be published as a moderately heavy paperback). You walk around refreshed and informed, and in possession of a very large number of free CDs or DVDs. You also have no friends to speak of, or to, about the many insights of which you are in possession.

Yes, it’s an anti-social disease. And if you have a disease, what do you do? That’s right: you go to the doctor’s to see if he or she can sort it all out, and send you home with a bag of prescription drugs, something to make you cancel your subs without side-effects. It is always best to arrive early for the doctor, for who knows, he or she might not be running late. And if you have to wait a bit, well, there’s always that stash of magazines in the ante-room…