Digging out

Back when Orange Caligula was sworn in as President and we all realized how bad things were going to get, I signed back up for the full hard copy of the daily New York Times, and I revived my long-dormant subscription to The New Yorker. These publications, though far from perfect, needed to survive (and still do) so that our nation could somehow get through the crisis of democracy in which we are still mired, more than five years later. I was, and am, happy to chip in.

Getting reacquainted with The New Yorker has been a real pleasure. It's worth it for the covers and the Roz Chast cartoons alone, but of course, the consistently splendid writing really shines as well.

Now, I can't get through the whole issue every week, and I haven't been able to bring myself to throw the unread copies out, and so they've been forming a couple of piles in my home office. The slick paper is prone to sliding, and so you have to stack them up carefully or else you'll be picking them up off the floor. 

Lately I've been taking to tearing off and storing the cover art before placing each issue on the pile, which has made the whole setup look especially forlorn. The issues stare blankly at me, daring me to start reading.

But last week, as a work-avoidance mechanism, I decided to begin moving them along. I've been scanning quickly the table of contents of each week's edition, picking out anything that looks interesting, and then tearing out and stapling together the promising articles and art.

Left: full issues. Right: the choicest nuggets.

It feels like my old newspaper days. We called them "tear sheets." 

The rest of the weekly editions go into the round file. I thank them for their service.

It will take me a while to get through all the accumulated New Yorkers. But the blue recycling bin in the driveway is already starting to get heavy with a year or two's worth, and with any luck, by the end of the month those tall, slippery stacks of complete issues will be have been fully replaced by a crisp little pile of tear sheets. Which I will read with pleasure as I enjoy the cleared-out space.


  1. I stumbled onto the tear sheet system years ago out of desperation and I really found that it greatly increased the value of both the daily newspaper and weekly and monthly magazines (The Nation, Harpers, Mother Jones, and the Atlantic) greatly to let them season a bit before turning to them. After a month or two of seasoning (sometimes more), you can flip through a magazine or the papers and know with a lot more confidence which articles need to be read and which can be skipped without regret. I bought a couple of little tiny paper cutters, things that look like guitar picks but have a tiny metal tip that slices through a piece of paper quickly and cleanly. Then you end up with a small, pretty much ad-free pile of reading that’s pretty sure to be worth your time.


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