There are about twelve thousand magazines published in the United States. On the average, each American spends 79 hours a year reading them, which means we spend a lot of time waiting to see doctors. Most magazine categories are quite small and specialized. While there are 558 general interest periodicals, 795 devoted to business, and 876 for the medical professions, there are only 35 about furniture, 20 about packaging, 25 about country and western living, and 7 especially for bakers. With so much diversity in both consumer and professional subject matter, I thought it might be fun to see what's on the covers of a representative group of magazines these days. So I headed out to my local mega-bookstore where the whole back wall is papered with a wide array.
Along the way I had to sidestep displays devoted to books for idiots and dummies. I've never understood this publishing craze. In fact, I'd be embarrassed to carry one of these titles to the cash register. Yet they must be successful because they multiply like mosquitoes in pond scum. The ad copy proclaims: "References for the Rest of Us" and "#1 Choice for Millions of Readers." And we know that advertising never lies. I did find it interesting that the Complete Idiot's Guides were sitting next to the Pokemon stuff and Ken Blanchard's inspirational works, while the books for dummies were adjacent to the biographies of Hillary Clinton and Jr. Bush and a bunch of books about NASCAR.
Oprah Winfrey's face on a poster welcomed me to the magazine section. She's plugging her new rag with the motto: "I believe you're here to live your life with passion." Celebrities like Oprah are one ploy to sell magazines. A quick glance revealed cover stories like "Kim Basinger - The Private Torment of Hollywood's Blonde Bombshell" and "Whitney's Troubled Times." "Julia Roberts Talks Trash" while "Michael Douglas Wants to Save the World." He's not the president; he just plays one in the movies. Meanwhile, Paul Newman is "Still in the Fast Lane" and numerous others head to "Divorce Court for the Rich and Famous."
Imaginary riches are a good shill too. One cover reads "Buy His Stock" and another "Three Rich Amigos." Find out "Who Wants to Be a Billionaire" and "Who Owns the Knowledge Economy." You can find "Sensational Designs" for a new house, decorate with "New Age Elegance" or if you prefer, bid on one of "Christie's Great Estates." Actually, the articles on "Vintage Decorating" and "Plastic and Canvas" sound more like places I've lived.
But greed doesn't sell as well as lust. Learn about "Hot Hair and Cool Makeup" so you can "Snag the Ultimate Boyfriend." "Lure Your Island Lover with Our Sexy Secrets", "Weapons, Sex Toys, and Slave Units," and your very own "Awesome Abs, Arms, Butt, and Legs." Enjoy a "Fantasy Workout - Erotic Training Photos with Women from Your Dreams." Develop habits like "Getting Married at 20, 30, 40."
"Sex, Sex, Sex - Is That All You Ever Think About?" Not really. You have to save a little mental effort for paranoia. You've got to "Get Those Pimples Off Your Face," conquer the "10 Threats to Your Beauty," and survive "Penis Shrinking Panics and Other Mass Hysterias." Bob Dole tried to warn you about that one.
After my tour of the magazine racks, somehow the Complete Idiot's Guides didn't look so bad.