10 January 2009

The Demise of Magazines

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I would come home at night, bone-weary and mentally exhausted, to find a stack of newly-arrived magazines waiting for my perusal. Victoria, Country Living, Country Home and others were dubbed "lifestyle, shelter or women's magazines," but to me and I suspect many others (and not only women!) they offered escape, inspiration and relaxation.

A red barn surrounded by countryside, a basket of flowers, an old maple bed dressed in lace and soft comforters drew us into the photographs and sent us to attics or antique stores or sheds in search of the perfect props to create that magic in our own lives. Some of the magazines - like Country Living - were born of a renewed interest in our collective past, spurred by America's bicentennial in 1976. I've always been a history buff, a genealogist and a lover of antiques and casual style, so these publications were a boon to my imagination - and my stress level.

I learned yesterday that Country Home is folding. Last week, I read that Cottage Living, a relative newcomer, will stop publication. Victoria magazine, the gracious and genteel creation of a thoughtful editor named Nancy Lindemeyer, folded in 2003 (when I need it most!) and came back last year, a pale shadow of its former literary self, published by another company that just doesn't seem to understand that the presentation must come from broad base of cultural knowledge that perhaps can only be possible with an editorial staff of a certain age and education level.

What will I read at night?

Oh, we've got hundreds of books on our shelves and two lovely libraries to serve us. I've purchased dozens of lovely coffee table books over the years. But the experience of turning a new page to some unexpected loveliness will be gone. I will still have Country Living to sooth me, but that too is a mere copy of its cozy self, the self that it was when the late Jo Northrup wrote "Simple Country Pleasures" (shades of Gladys Taber and Faith Baldwin!) and Bo Niles was on the editorial staff. (Read the magazines long enough and the editors and writers become your friends.)

I'll get by.

I think there is an upside to this. These publications, lovely as the were in their heyday of about 15 years ago, are similar to the glossy, high-fashion mags in that they often create unrealistic expectations of what our lives and homes should be like. I like fresh flowers in my office, but I'm afraid that they only make an appearance in my home two or three times a year. And my kitchen cupboards are never tidy, nor are my countertops. My coffee table and some of the chairs in my dining room are piled high with - what else? - magazines.

Maybe without these pretty friends to page through, I can come up with some lifestyle ideas of my own. Maybe, just maybe, my home will begin to reflect me, not some style editor's idea of who I should be.

Now to be fair, these magazines and others like them are descriptive rather than prescriptive. But really, don't you think they raise the bar just a little too high for the average person? I think they might.

Still, I will miss them. And - perhaps perversely - I miss the person I was when they meant so much to me at the end of a bad day: Eager, bright-eyed and looking for new ideas.

26 comments:

Farmgirl Cyn said...

I feel your pain, Mimi. I also heard that Mary Engelbreit's "Home Companion" is folding. Country Home has been an all-time favorite for many years. I will miss them all.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Is Home Companion folding? Wow. I heard they were seeking a new publisher. One of my dear friends loves that magazine.

Well, we've still got blogs...

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Though I'm trying to cut down on the amount of paper I'm consuming, I do miss the tactile quality of magazines and newspapers, especially at the end of the day when I finally have time to read them.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I am trying to do the same, Lydia, and have cut back on all but Food & WIne, France, France Today, Body & Soul and Country Living. But I miss them, having spent much of my career in the pubs field.

Debbie in CA : ) said...

Hello Mimi,

I, too, once thumbed through copious pages of fantasies and delight in Victoria, Cottage Living, etc. Slowly but surely I ended the subscriptions as they all seemed to run out of steam for me (and became larded with too many ads).

I have saved every issue of Victoria (from the premier issue) and re-read them occasionally, but have found the new Victoria flat and uninspiring. Blogs of real women with real homes have filled the void to some extent, but I miss the long and fragrant soaks in my tub with a magazine in hand (laptops just don't fill that niche). : )

toni said...

I think that after years spent with a magazine, we internalize the sense it imparts. I'd be surprised if the style of your home wouldn't have some of the feeling of those magazines - but they will be "Mimi-ized". And that (to borrow a phrase) is a good thing.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Debbie, how did you know that my magazines are all water logged? Yes, they did run out of steam - I guess we all do.

Here's to the renewal our new economy and our new way of life should give us!

Toni, I do agree, but I am afraid these magazines have made me feel woefully inadequate from time to time.

lady jicky said...

I loved Victoria and I would be paying twice the price you pay in the Us. I did not mind for it was wonderful and the articles on Paris were a special fav of mine. Oh the homes and the ads were fantastic and I couldn't buy the stuff - didn't matter , I still wanted to read and look . It was a visual delight. When it came back I have bought a few copies but.... . I do love "Traditional Home" - god I hope I have not given it the "kiss of death" ! its escapism that is not harmful and these sort of mags have given me so many ideas for my home and my pastel painting too. 'Mimi - are any of those "mens magazines" folding I wonder??? LOL

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Lady J, I do think Men's Vogue has folded. There are a few others, too. Also, I think Oprah's O at Home has bit the dust.

I really wish the new publisher would get Victoria up to speed with the old Victoria.

Kalyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I just deleted posts from a friend warning me of an incident of recipe lifting sans attribution. Thanks to that blogging friend.

OK, let's get back to the conversation. I just wanted to explain the deletion.

breadchick said...

Mimi,

I love Country Home and my mom starts pacing the floor when her monthly copy Cottage Living is expected.

But, like so many others have posted, this year I trimmed way back on my magazine subscriptions to both save money and not put so much in my recycle bin.

I also found that by the end of last year, I still about 1/3 of each of the six food magazines and two lifestyle magazines in the plastic wrapper! Not to mention the trade rags I have to read through every month.

So, while I will completely miss Country Living, I admit to being part of their demise by not renewing my subscription this year.

As to what I'm going to read on the airplanes and while sitting in the sun on the back porch this upcoming spring, summer and fall, I am going to do my best to start reading one of the hundreds of books I own but can never seem to find time to read and trying to keep up with my NYT subscription and the four cooking magazines I did renew.

Maybe now that I also canceled my cable tv to save money (and as protest to how expensive it is to have a cable subscription), I can find more time to do just that; especially after all I will get on my TV in about 3 weeks is fuzz!

lady jicky said...

I can see why Oprah's at Home is going/gone - expensive and thin!
Her O mag is still going OK here but its about double what you pay and it can be a bit too "preachy" for me sometimes. Alot of ads too. I would rather put those $$ to Traditional Home or Victoria .

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

BC, I agree totally with you. We've cut back on subscriptions for the very same reasons (and to save money for travel). I'd page through them and they'd pile up and then every 6 months or so I would have to do a massive purge.

If I could bring one back, it would be the old Victoria - that was the one that calmed me down after a busy day.

Lady J, I've never read Oprah's home magazine - I do think the market was glutted. I don't much like the preachy ones, either.

Counting Your Blessings said...

Well, I'm relieved to see that your counters aren't clear either =) I'm a little sad about some of the magazines that are leaving us. I love the blogs but I also love to curl up with a good magazine too.

Blessings.. Polly

Kristen said...

I didn't realize they were folding. Thank goodness we still have the net, although not always as good as curling up with a good magazine.
I got lost in this post, Mimi. Your writing style, as always, entrances me!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I agree, Polly, I love curling up at night with a magazine. I love the Internet but it is not the same somehow.

Kristen, thanks - you made my day! I will miss the wonderful recipes from those magazines that were elegant and country-style at the same time!

FJK said...

I know exactly what you mean -- I tend towards food mags I just heard via a tweet that gourmet mag is in trouble ....

You lean toward home porn instead of food porn, but it is the same feeling of fantasy, escape and possibility that charms/calms/calls me as well

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

FJK, I just heard that Gourmet might be in trouble yesterday - I like food porn, too. I hope not, because it is the best of the food books out there. I've been reading it off and on since I first ran across it in my boyfriends' house in Winnetka when I was 20.

Eileen said...

Oh no! I hadn't heard about Country Home. It has always been one of my favorites. I am so saddened every time I hear of another newspaper or magazine going under. Even tho' I spend a lot of time visiting blogs, I can't imagine life without magazines or newspapers.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Eileen, I agree. Of course, I spent a good portion of my worklife working in a pubs department of a PR department, or for a newspaper. I feel these publications are my friends. I got out about 18 months ago - not a minute too soon.

Anonymous said...

As Toni noted, I agree that some of the ideas we pick up from shelter or food mags become internalized over time. Recipes and clever trucs or tips are clipped and filed for "future use". There is indeed something about images on the printed page that a blog (tho I do)cannot match. I hope that the UK Country Living never expires, as I am refreshed by the writing and images. Hopefully the US shelter-press will be revived!

Penny said...

Lovely post. And I miss the Gourmet magazines of the past There was a beauty to the travel and food photography that is gone. That's why I have stacks dating back to the 60's.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Anon., I love the UK Country Living. It has more depth.

Penny, you are correct. I used to love reading my boyfriend's mothers Gourmets...

Janet said...

Amen to all of that. I have always quipped that I would have thee money to decorate if I hadn't spent it all on magazines to give me way too many ideas.

Janet @ Housepeepers

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Me, too, Janet. I nay have never said that but I have thought it...