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What to do with all the magazines


VANCOUVER – The latest quandary is whether to keep or throw out (actually, recycle) the several thousand magazines I’ve socked away over the last decade and a half.

Two closets in the basement suite I’ve converted into my office/library contain the said periodicals. I’ve kept them on some optimistic notion that I’d refer to them one day for research or occasional recreational reading. I haven’t done either in some time, and I realise they’ve outlived their usefulness. Yet, I find myself hesitant to throw them out. I have an irrational fear that very soon after carting them off to the dump, I’ll desperately and urgently need to look up a hackneyed joke in a Fotheringham column in the back of an old issue of Maclean’s.

The home office though cozy and cluttered is not untidy. It isn’t a place you’d soon see on one of those cable television programs featuring the excess of the hoarder species. It’s cluttered, but it’s not unmanageable. There are no seven-foot high stacks of papers filling the floor. I make occasional efforts to keep it tidy, and it’s in one of those fits of organising the chaos that I’m faced with the conundrum of what to do with the magazines.

There was a flood in the basement a year ago, and as a result the entire home office, books, furniture, DVDs, and papers had to be stored away while the floor was being replaced. I thought then, that once moved back in, I would tackle the issue of the magazines. It had been some time since I last looked at them and a year or so before that, that I started organising them. A task I might add, that remains unfinished. So it’s been one year at least, and at last time to do something.

The internet and various clippings services online have made magazines irrelevant. I have Maclean’s organised by year in cardboard holders I had bought from the local office supply chain. They’re unread much like the hundreds of Entertainment Weekly’s and other entertainment magazines I’d either bought bust out retail when I cared what shows made the Nielsen top ten that week, or which forgotten actor was due to make a guest spot on ER or Touched By An Angel. In the TMZ-world we live in, the internet makes it easier and faster to find out what reason this week Charlie Sheen is in the hospital, or how much money CBS is making every day he’s in rehab.

But I find it hard parting with the Entertainment Weekly’s that are over a decade old. See they were all bought in high school, when I’d have to juggle my meagre allowance and scrimp and save five bucks a week in order to get the latest issue. Magazines are still notoriously high in price. Take for example the latest issue of Canadian Business that sits on my desk. Retail, a bi-monthly issue is six bucks on the newsstand. To throw away six bucks after a cursory read through seems excessive, and nostalgically speaking the high school kid for whom five bucks was back then a big deal, would be rather angry his magazines were now resigned to the dump.

I once asked Rona Maynard [1], a former magazine editor herself, whether she still subscribed to magazines. She said no, but that she would pick up magazines occasionally and usually for in-flight reading. And invariably, she’d never keep them. I find this self-control remarkable.

If journalism is the first draft of history, magazines historically would be in that class after newspapers and before books. The beginnings of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring were found in the New Yorker, a magazine which featured the genesis of many books, including Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s perhaps why my magazines lingered longer than newsprint. No one keeps newspapers piled up, unless you like seeing paper turn from grey to yellow.

One of my less than desirable personality traits is that which indulges in the excessive collection of stuff, need they be magazines, DVDs or books. DVDs are a bit more expensive to procure than magazines, and magazines don’t cost as much as a book. So, as I find myself in need of more book and DVD shelf space, I’m willing to do away with my magazines. There’s that little bit of me that is getting heart sore thinking of the waste over the years, not to mention the regret I’ll likely feel if I ever needed them. But I figure I’ll get over it, thanks to Google.

Therefore today, I’ve taken a decision, a bit of a minor step for the moment. And that’s to issue a bit of clemency to the shiny printed matter in my cupboards: two months. If between now and two months hence, I do not refer to the said magazines, grab one for some spare reading, research, or even touch them, they’ll get tossed. Two months, after a whole year after the flood is a good sort of statute of limitation. It’s the end of the line for my magazines. I swear.