Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Learning To Read

I'm a magazine addict. I think my number of subscriptions is at its lowest in ages, but I still can't get through a bookstore without picking up a magazine. Having recently subscribed to the New Yorker again after a long hiatus, I'm having to force myself to be economic about my magazine reading time. Some obsessive compulsive part of me makes me feel like I have to read the whole magazine, cover to cover, in order. Any magazine I pick up. The articles I'm dying to read acting as a reward for sludging through everything that comes before. So I'm having to force myself to start with the things that sound interesting. Today I allowed myself to jump straight to the New Yorker review of "I Hate Sarah Marshall", then to the Jonathan Franzen piece - skipping right over all the letters to the editor and NYC arts listings I've always read, or at least skimmed. For me this is as momentous an occasion as when I decided that I didn't have to read all the comic strips on the funnies page; that it was okay to just admit that Cathy is in no way funny and I could care less about the adventures of Brenda Starr and it is okay to just skip right on over to Boondocks or Dilbert or whatever passes for comic strips in these post Bloom County / Calvin and Hobbes days. Baby steps.

It's this same controlling sense of order that I caught myself in at Whole Foods today. I had selected a sandwich for lunch and put it in my basket. Then, perusing the sushi case, I decided I'd rather have some sashimi. Rather than put the sashimi in my basket right then, my brain told me I needed to walk back over the sandwich case, put the sandwich away, then come back to the sashimi case for my new selection. It wasn't forgetfulness - I didn't just forget to put the sashimi in my basket; it was some deeply ingrained directive.

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