Time for one thing: Time for the Times

An ode to relaxing with the Sunday New York Times

By Lori Leibovich
Published August 19, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

i try to read the newspaper every day, really I do. Some mornings, I get up in time to make a pot of coffee, take a long shower and sit for a while drinking in the day's news before I get caught up in work, errands, everything. Most days though, the paper gets stuffed in my bag. It pleads with me throughout the day, tightly folded and wrapped in rubber bands, desperate to be read. But it's usually bedtime before I have a chance to pull it out. I skim the already-old news, then fall asleep wondering why I pay for the subscription.

Like exercise, reading the newspaper thoroughly -- being current-events savvy -- makes me feel good. But I rarely get a chance to do it, except on Sunday, a day I try to leave untouched no matter how hectic my weekend becomes. I carve out a couple of hours each Sunday for myself and one of my significant others, the Sunday New York Times.

My Sunday Times arrives on Saturday night shortly after midnight. When I open up the royal blue plastic bag on Sunday, I feel something close to arousal, the intellectual kind, but thrilling just the same. I give the Times the once over before devouring each section individually, to see what I'm in for, what my time commitment to the paper will be for the day. Is there a cover story in the magazine that I want to read? Is a three-part series beginning in the front section? Then, I make my coffee, prepare my bagel or toast or oatmeal, place my provisions within arms reach and jump in. Sometimes I take the paper into bed, its dusty aroma invading my sheets, mixing with the stale scent of sleep. Sometimes I splay it across the kitchen table or the living room floor. Usually the Sunday paper and I end up on the couch, sections tossed here and there, crumpled newsprint amid throw pillows and a twisted afghan. (We have a very passionate relationship.)

I've learned that there are as many strategic ways of attacking the Sunday Times as there are people who read it. My stepfather heads for the Week in Review first because he needs to stew over old news before digesting the new stuff. One Boston couple I know is so obsessive about the Sunday crossword puzzle that they have a friend in New York fax the puzzle to them on Saturday night so they can get a head start. A broadcast journalist friend who breathes news throughout the week chucks the "serious" sections immediately and dives into the frivolous worlds of travel, the arts and the wedding pages.

Me, I've been devouring the Sunday Times the same way for years. First, I get rid of sports, business and travel. The first two for lack of interest, the third for lack of funds. I start with the front section, feeling that if I make it through the mountain of news and facts and data and analysis, I have earned my right to move on to the more indulgent sections. Next, the Week in Review, probably the most crucial section for Mothers Who Think and busy people in general, since it spins and summarizes the stories of the week and predicts trends that we are far too busy carpooling/earning a living/nursing/screaming to keep up with.

By the time I'm done with Arts, it's somewhere past midday and time to peel myself off the couch and do productive but mundane Sunday tasks like laundry, vacuuming and grocery shopping. My Times stride is thrown off -- temporarily. When I get back on track, it's usually bedtime, and I'm left with the parts of the paper that I call dessert -- the New York Times Book Review and the magazine.

Let's face it, Sunday nights suck. The work week looms, we usually catch up with faraway family and friends by phone (often depressing), we pay bills and create grand To-Do lists. It is a night of melancholy and dread. So when I finally ease into these last two sections, my mind craves language, not reportage, something that will lift me, or at the very least soothe. The His/Hers column used to do this, before it morphed into the very tepid "Lives" column. It used to be that the magazine was rife with thought-provoking pieces that sent me to sleep raw -- in a good way -- thinking deeply about someone or something that I actually cared about. But lately, the Times Magazine has less meat. (Remember when it was thick enough to actually look like a magazine? Remember when you couldn't mistake it for a coupon flyer?) But still, maybe once a month, a fabulous feature finds its way onto the cover and I nuzzle it under my chin gratefully. And the Book Review makes me feel smart by osmosis. It allows me to glimpse all of the books that I will never, ever, ever have time to read.

Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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