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The magic of The New Yorker
Jai Arjun Singh |
November 09, 2005
Maths can be depressing for more than the usual reasons. I've just finished calculating that, at my current reading speed (and allowing for four hours of honest work per day and the occasional social call), it would take me around 178 years, give or take a few months, to finish reading the 8-DVD set of The Complete New Yorker.
Eight thin discs, which you could comfortably fit in a small chappati bowl at home with space left over (not that I'm suggesting you try): that's all it takes to remind you of your mortality. But enough faux-philosophising -- let me try to sell you on my latest prize acquisition.
What is it?
Eighty years (February 1925-February 2005) of one of the world's great magazines -- every page presented exactly as it was printed. That's 4,109 issues (the magazine being a weekly), or half a million pages. Spread, like I said, over eight fully searchable DVD-ROMs.
There's far, far more in these pages than can be conveyed in this limited space, but The New Yorker has been a second home to some of the leading writers of the century -- starting from Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker in the 1920s through Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, John Updike, Sylvia Plath, James Thurber and innumerable others down to the present day.
Here you'll find short works of fiction (many of which were subsequently enlarged -- take a piece titled Slight rebellion off Madison by J D Salinger, featuring a kid named Holden Caulfield!) as well as humour pieces, cartoons and reportage. My favourite read at the moment: 23 years of film reviews by the great Pauline Kael, a critic I disagree with 80 percent of the time but still love reading.
Initially, I was perplexed by the decision to include 'everything' on the discs -- including the listings and full-page advertisements. But trawling the DVDs, I realise the value of this decision.
The New Yorker is a cultural record of most of the past century, and even the advertisements provide invaluable glimpses of changing times and ideologies. Do spend some time on them (start with some of the wartime advertisements from the issues published between 1939 and 1945).
How does it work?
Insert disc 1 into your DVD drive and follow the instructions for installation. An icon will be generated on your desktop; clicking this will open the search archive with a complete list of magazine issues. You don't need to have a disc in use while you're searching, but if you want to see a specific magazine page you'll have to insert the relevant disc for that year.
DVD-ROM drive, 750 MB hard drive space, 1024 x 768 screen resolution, Windows 2000 or XP/ Mac OS X 10.3 and higher
Though there is a print-out facility, you can't copy text, which is frustrating if you've just stumbled on a literary gem (which you will, again and again) and want to instantly e-mail the text to your friends.
Also, if, like me, you find it difficult to read for long hours on a computer screen, there might be an adjustment problem. But don't make a big deal about it. Be practical -- remember, even in the unlikely event that you could lay your hands on all the issues in hardcopy form, they probably wouldn't fit in your room even if you stacked them from floor to ceiling!(The Complete New Yorker can be ordered from Amazon.com -- $100 plus shipping -- but if you're lucky you'll find it available for less at a bookstore in your city. I got mine for $78, or Rs 3,600 — less than the cost of a meal for five at most Delhi restaurants.)