I am a magaholic.
How the addiction began I'm not exactly sure. But when I realized that I was subscribing to both Time and Newsweek, I was forced to admit that magazines were running my life. They sprawled in the halls of my house, they cluttered up the kitchen: back issues were found heaped in the bathtub.
One weekend, a stack of the glossy demons toppled down from a closet on an unsuspecting guest. Then and there I resolved to quit: Not until I could collar my craving for printed matter would I read another review.
In a frenzy of reform I began to jettison my journals. I dumped old copies of Ski America into the trunk of my Plymouth for better traction in the snow. I shredded leftover Organic Gardenings for the neighborhood compost heap. Money magazines were denoted to a local hospital for use in anesthetizing patients.
As the piles of periodicals subsided, I recalled how an otherwise upstanding citizen had fallen prey to a 19-subscription-a-year habit.
One should know to suspect anything that arrives in a plain brown wrapper, of course, but with that maiden issue of The New Yorker I was seduced. It wasn't the writing that romanced me: it was the cartoons and the classy ads. Who could resist the world of Booth characters and tropical vacations each week?
Then my brother, the resident radical of Madison, Wisconsin, and America's last living hippie, signed me up for The Progressive. Unable to face the sorry state of national affairs that each edition detailed, however, I simply stockpiled my copies in a corner of the bedroom.
My aunt in Chicago, a conservation activist who loves me dearly, delivered a double dose of downfall one Christmas: subscriptions to both National Wildlife and International Wildlife. I was powerless to stop the herds of endangered species that came crashing through my mail slot twice a month.
What I had envisioned as tranquil evenings keeping abreast of world events turned into bouts of hysteria at the sight of each new, slick cover, I gave up sleep, quit my bowling team, even sent my wife to Europe, but still I could not catch up. Before long I was on the receiving end of six weekly magazines, one biweekly, nine monthlies, two quarterlies and an annual -- a grand total of 455 issues per annum.
This was a Serious Reading Problem.
Saturday Review sabotaged my Saturdays. The specter of its unfinished double-crostic puzzle filled me with such built that I remained housebound the weekend long to complete it. My friends returned to work with beach tans: I came back with apartment pallor and the knowledge that "omphaloskepsis" is a 14-letter word for "contemplation of the navel."
Soon I was being picked up for loitering in physicians' waiting rooms. I had started missing work just to riffle away the hours at drugstore magazine racks.
But at the height of my habituation, I later learned, there were magaholics worse off than I. One colleague's dependence upon his perildical fix became so widely known that we held a weekly pool to guess the number of publications he had stashed in his office. The day before the man was fired, his secretary won $57 with her estimate of 113: she had hit it on the nose.
Luckily, I escaped his fate. By raw will I purged my urge for the printed word, but the throes of abstinence nearly overcame me. Scant seven hours after digesting my last Reader's Digest. I started to experience stomach cramps. With clinical detachment I observed myself foam at the mouth at the thought of thumbing a Sports Illustrated, yet somehow I held on.
Nowadays, I am happy to say, such spasms convulse me no more. I have forsworn Forbes, renounced Redbook, abjured Geo. And although I do admit to an occasional trembling of the hands whenever I pass an airport bookstore, most of my withdrawal symptoms seem to have receded for good. I have kicked the habit.
With the episode safely behind me, I can at last devote myself to life's more productive pastimes. There is a garage full of newspapers out there just waiting to have their discount coupons clipped. I'd better get to work right away.