My favorite magazine

20 November 2008
12:25 AM

While I was living in Chile and desperate for current material to read, I found an old issue of the New Yorker in my house. I had always ignored the magazine in the past because it looked boring compared to Time or Newsweek, I heard it was elitest, and the cartoons seemed dumb. After reading one issue I was hooked. The covers, the articles, the cartoons—it was like falling in love with a periodical. I conscripted my mom to begin sending me issues, an arrangement which delivered the most written words possible per U.S. Global Priority Mail package. Now that I’m back in school I barely have time to read, but the New Yorker is the one magazine that I still subscribe to.

The best thing I can say about the magazine is this: reading the New Yorker I learn fascinating things about subjects I had no idea were interesting. Anything can be interesting if it’s presented the right way and well written, and that’s what I get in my mailbox week after week. For example: a 10-pager on elevators, the way companies use Muzak to control atmosphere, a shoot-out over radio station turf wars, and how a woman was itching so badly that she scratched through her skull.

This week’s issue has a gem on “the secret lives of knives.” The first paragraph was enough to hook me. It introduces Bob Kramer, a Master Bladesmith, and describes how he received that title from the American Bladesmith Society:

“Kramer underwent five years of study, culminating in the manufacture, through hand-forging, of six knives. One of those was a roughly finished, fifteen-inch bowie knife, which Kramer had to use to accomplish four tasks, in this order: cut through an inch-thick piece of Manila rope in a single swipe; chop through a two-by-four, twice; place the blade on his forearm and, with the belly of the blade that had done all the chopping, shave a swath of arm hair; and, finally, lock the knife in a vise and permanently bend it ninety degrees.”

How could you stop reading after that? I can’t.