Someone could go a long way toward telling the story of my life through its magazines: the Highlights my parents gave me, determined that my small self should be as entertained and enlightened as possible; my grandparents’ neatly collected Readers’ Digests, which I eagerly read until learning my freshman year in college that they were hopelessly bourgeois; the New Yorkers I loved and displayed in my graduate student apartment, the Vanity Fairs I loved and hid under the bed. Magazines tell the story of who I was supposed to be and who I wanted to be. Or perhaps they don't; how much of what the magazines meant to me is visible in the historical record? I didn't purchase all that I read, after all, nor did I read all that I purchased. A magazine I loved one year might embarrass me the next, and then find its way back into favor, my subscription all the while remaining unchanged. Magazines, in short, are both perplexing and promising subjects of analysis, with the question of how they create communities of readers posing perhaps the most promising and perplexing question of all.
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