Pile of unread New Yorkers

Photo by Melissa Flores Anderson

Eight Ways to Use The New Yorkers Piling Up Around Your House

Melissa Flores Anderson

You got the subscription when you were applying for grad school in journalism. That first year, you read each issue religiously, often on Sundays when you had nothing to do but sleep in until 10 a.m. and sit around on the crappy futon from Ikea that filled the living room of your studio apartment. You read the issues from front cover to back, only skipping the theater reviews and sometimes the book reviews. You loved all the pieces by Ian Frazier, Seymour Hersh and that doctor Atul Gawande.

But that was 18 years ago and while you are now up at 5 a.m. daily, it is nearly impossible to read more than a paragraph with a five-year-old dive bombing you awake each morning. Your days are stuffed with a dreaded commute, work into the evening hours, and kid birthday parties nine weekends out of 10. When you have a moment alone, usually in the laundry room as you swap wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, all you want to do is watch five minutes of Funny or Die videos.

So those New Yorker issues have been piling up for nearly two decades, spilling off the bookshelves and stacking up in closets, in the kitchen pantry, and now they threaten to invade your husband’s sacred garage workspace.

Here are eight suggestions of ways to use them:

1. Room divider – you and your husband share an office on days when you work from home, and the constant Zoom meetings can be a distraction. You don’t really want to hear his data team feuding with the programmers while you are trying to put together a 2022-23 budget plan for water conservation outreach. Stack up those New Yorkers into a makeshift cubicle wall. They will deaden the noise and you won’t have to see his look of exasperation when you start making clicking noises with your tongue to distract yourself from the boredom of another spreadsheet.

2. Coasters – you never lived anywhere that you needed coasters before, but now the house has materials that are damaged by water, heat, sunlight, dust, and cold. Sometimes you wonder if even a light breeze will damage that hardwood table and floors and those granite countertops. You never have enough coasters. Glue a bunch of New Yorkers together, borrow your husband’s jigsaw and cut them into 3.25”x3.25” squares. You’ll have a set of six coasters – mix ’em up for abstract art or next time you have guests, put them all out and let them reconstruct the covers like a puzzle.

3. Fort material— your kid has turned every available pillow, blanket, towel, bedsheet and chair into a fort in the living room, the loft, and the dining room. Offer up a few piles of New Yorkers to fortify the walls. Use some duct tape to keep the piles from toppling. You have enough to build a fort, a castle, a skyscraper maybe, as an ode to the magazine’s namesake. The kid is the main reason you can’t read these anymore so why not put them to better use?

4. Found words— you’ve been in a writing slump lately. You could use something to get the creative juices flowing so cut out some of those 100,000 words in any given issue and use them for found poetry and prose. Let’s be honest. How else are you ever going to get something published in The New Yorker?

5. Art project fodder—Speaking of cutting things, your kid is obsessed with scissors and glue sticks at the moment. He has been cutting up construction paper, fliers, books, basically any paper he can reach, and gluing it back together. Hand over those New Yorkers for the next art session. At least it’s not something you will miss, like that signed copy of a book by David Sedaris you picked up at a reading in 2012, back when you still did things on weeknights beside sit on the couch and eat Ben & Jerry’s.

6. Rodent bedding—your husband is allergic to cats so as a compromise you have two guinea pigs. They are constantly in need of fresh bedding and that shit sells for $15 a bag. You never remember when you are low and have to run out at 9 p.m. at night (the one exception to weeknight activity above) when the habitat starts to reek like vegetables going bad. Just shred those New Yorkers, and instant bedding. Worried the ink might not be safe for animals? Your kid’s been breathing in scraps from his art project cuttings and his fort for weeks, and he’s just fine.

7. Kindling—when it’s time to barbecue, you can never find a newspaper to stick in the charcoal chimney. No one reads print anymore. Not even a former journalist like you. Rip out those pages and light them on fire next time you have carne asada or marinated chicken to throw on the grill. It could be the most erudite meal you ever make.

8. Compost—if all else fails, remember that old Bible bit—earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Shred a few of those New Yorkers to toss in the family compost bin. There is some sweet harmony to knowing that all those trees used for printing them could turn into rich soil to grow your heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants.

The one thing you absolutely cannot do is cancel your subscription because, well, you still want to BE the kind of person who reads The New Yorker. And when your Harvard MBA coworker (the one who actually got a Fulbright Fellowship that you coveted as an undergrad) mentions the latest article by Sonia Shah on free-range lab mice, you want to be able to say, “Oh yes, I have that at home, but haven’t quite gotten to it yet.”

Melissa Flores Anderson is a Latinx Californian whose creative work has been published in Maudlin House, The Write Launch and Rejection Letters, among others. She was nominated for Best of the Net for CNF. She is a reader/editor for Roi Fainéant Press

Twitter: @melissacuisine 

Instagram: @theirishmonths