Of Many Things

I’m probably the only person who has kept track, but I wish to announce - with a good measure of relief - that I have survived my first year on staff at America. I’m reminded of the promo line from the old Superman television show, describing our eponymous hero as "faster than a speeding bullet." I don’t mean that the year has literally flown, by any means. Rather, it seems as if I’ve been swept along on a supersonic jet that never stops for refueling! The pace of a weekly schedule, consistent deadlines, is a world away from the process of getting books published. But one adjusts.

What has been a real challenge is the return to life as a mass-transit commuter. It took me the better part of the first two months - after trial and error, watching how others "do" it, taking a wrong train home on day one, trying one of these and one of those (MetroCards, that is, in endless "variety") before finding which worked at the best price. Finally, I "arrived"; I’m a veteran commuter once again, a bus and subway rider like hundreds of thousands in the New York metropolitan area.

Advertisement

It’s funny, but no matter how many years one has been away, time (and people) seem to stand still. After I got back into the system, it was suddenly the same: the sights, the fights; the shoving, the crowding; the working, the drowsing; the CD’s, the cell phoneswell, maybe not the latter as much. Then there’s the entertainment. Musicians and singers still perform on many subway platforms. In recent weeks, though, commuters on my train have been soothed by the strains of Stravinsky (courtesy of a blind violinist). No one can call New Yorkers dull.

The occasional underground entertainment notwithstanding, being part of America’s editorial team, and having such an intellectually stimulating group with whom to work, is the best reason for returning to mass transit. Apart from the expected proofreading (which, though sometimes demanding, can also turn into an "Eye Spy" contest in house), editing assignments and weekly editorial meetings, there is the matter of booksboth those for review in the magazine and titles selected for the Catholic Book Club, which this office oversees in concert with the editors.

I think having spent a full year now at America qualifies me to give you the real scoop about working here. If not, please at least indulge me on my first anniversary. Presuming there is some interest among our readers for "lists"the best and worst - I offer below a sampling of each. I’ve deliberately not numbered the lists, because their ranking changes from day to day. Anyway, here goes:

The Worst

not being given enough magazine space for book reviews
old, very old building
cold, very cold building
not enough time to eat
the All Soul’s Day FLOOD (but that’s another column)
being reminded I have a New York accent
not being given enough space for book reviews (again)

The Best

the wit and wisdom of some wonderful Jesuits (I do know where my bread is buttered)
getting free copies of Dillard, Updike, Hampl, Wills, Hansen, Woodward, Szulc, Martyand that’s not even for starters
learning something new each day (my lifelong hobby)
advising young Jesuit book authors (just guess)
being able to laugh and be me
seeing erstwhile curmudgeons doing the same
receiving generous support
having fish in the lobby to talk to on a bad day
outstanding, overstocked reading/resource rooms
the wit and wisdom of those Jesuits (yes, again)

Now that I step back, I can see clearly how the scale is tipping. I’d say overall it’s been a good yeara very good year indeed.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018