Monday, May 23, 2011

My New Yorker Year

This is the first paragraph of the letter the New Yorker sent to my house telling (not asking) me that they were renewing my subscription for another year at 120 dollars a pop: (note the punctuation)

Dear Adrian McKinty:

Thank you for subscribing to The New Yorker.  the best conversation you could imagine on art and technology.   Politics and personalities.   Film and theater.   Fiction and fashion.   Culture and commentary.

Brilliant, eh? The letter is signed by "Michael Spencer, for the New Yorker". I looked up "Michael Spencer" on Google and I discovered that he is a billionaire British businessman born in Kuala Lumpur, the owner of a spread betting firm (not sure what that is) called City Index and the former chairman of the Conservative Party. This can't be the same man, I thought, until I read that he went to Corpus Christi College Oxford where apparently anybody including Ed and David Miliband can get in with piss poor A level results as long as they are connected. Maybe explains his strange choices of grammar? Or perhaps he could be the Michael Spencer who is a professional surfer from Australia. This Michael Spencer lists his favourite word as "bob" and his least favourite word also as "bob". Hmmm. That could be our man too.
The New Yorker letter goes on to explain that I will be charged for another year "shortly" unless I "call the Customer Service Department at any time." (My italics.) I immediately called the CSD and after being informed that my call was going to cost a fortune because it was only toll free if you called from the US, I was then informed that the Customer Service Centre was closed. I called again an hour later and got the same magilla. I guess I'll keep calling until I get through because there's no way on God's green Earth I will ever get the New Yorker again. Most months I got two issues and they would come on the same day. Once six weeks went by without an issue and then I got three together. And like a reversal of that old Woody Allen joke in Annie Hall: these portions were small and inconsistent and the filling was terrible. Oh my God those articles, even the rare good ones (on Scientology for example) were easily 5-10,000 words too long. And the bad ones...Christ: long, ponderous, pointless and a little bit bonkers. Reading them is like actually listening to that twitchy guy on the 13 hour plane flight who arrives late and is wearing adult retainers and a big University of Oklahoma ring and ALWAYS sits next to you. 
I appreciate that like Saturday Night Live, the New Yorker has never been as good as people remember it being, but has it been this bad? Special venom most go to the editor who still thinks that Woody Allen is a funny prose writer and accepts every piece he submits. Even Woody Allen hates the comedy in the New Yorker. This editor also publishes a lot of "humour" pieces by Nora Ephron and Steve Martin and sometimes by writers under the age of 60.
Malcolm Gladwell made his appearance in several issues over the year telling us the bleedin obvious. There were articles about "fashion icons" and actors and of course I mustn't forget the New Yorker's pop music critic Sasha Frere Jones with her insightful looks at PJ Harvey and Bjork and Radiohead and other up and coming acts from 1990.

If I can't get through to Michael Spencer I am going to write him a letter:

Dear Michael Spencer:

Thank you for your letter.  hope the surfing/hedge fund business is going well.  Chicken and chiquitas.  Prisons and pensions.  Non sequitors and legal executors.

Please cancel my subscription to the New Yorker. I can in fact imagine better "conversations," than the ones I had the honour to eavesdrop on in the New Yorker. Most people's imaginations will stretch that far, unless, I suppose, you are in duress in a doctor's waiting room, are an in-bred nincompoop from the Upper East Side or Gwyneth Paltrow.

Adrian McKinty