Why I'm Not Renewing My Subscription to Entertainment Weekly

I've been reading Entertainment Weekly since it first came to newsstands when I was a teenager. I didn't have a job, but I dedicated a significant amount of my allowance for a subscription. Because it was awesome. The photos, the articles—I ate it all up. I have many issues of the magazine stockpiled in my collection, and many more were sacrificed to be cut up for my scrapbooks. And while there have been lapses in my subscriptions (lack of funds, too many moves), I've more or less been a consistent subscriber. But we received our renewal notice in the mail yesterday, and I'm thinking I won't be renewing.

Why now? After I've stuck it out through many EW changes in format and tone? The bottom line is that I find less and less in each issue that I actually want to read. The stuff they cover just doesn't interest me. I flip past article after article and can finish the magazine in roughly an hour, whereas it used to be that I curled up with it every Friday evening to read it cover-to-cover and still sometimes fell asleep before I could finish.

This might say more about me than about EW. Maybe I'm just old and EW is looking for that hot, hip young audience. (Sorry to break it to you, Eebz, but those kids don't read magazines; they're all online.) Maybe I've outgrown it, or maybe I'm just too much in the minority when it comes to my entertainment tastes. (For example, I don't watch reality television and couldn't give a rat's ass about Twilight.) Or it's just as likely that I can glean the things I want to know from the Internet. I can follow my favorite shows and musicians that way . . . Though I do miss all the nice pictures.

Meanwhile, I don't visit EW.com much, either. In part because they don't cover much of what I like, and in part because I dislike the format of the site itself, which I find busy and somewhat irritating. They also seemed to have struggled in finding quality writing in recent years, which is kind of a shame since there was a time when I used to think being a writer for EW would be just about the Best. Thing. Ever. But with so many media outlets now—a sea of them as opposed to the pool there used to be—the cream that rises to the top also sort of floats away in various directions.

A few months ago, my parents shipped me one of many boxes of my old stuff they'd had in storage, and there were many old issues of EW included. My husband and I took the time to flip through a few, and he said to me: "Remember when EW was good?" Yeah, I do, even if the memory is faded. And that's why I won't be renewing my subscription now.



Okay, so I decided to try a free trial of BookSwim. They bill themselves as a way to "rent" books the way you do movies from Netflix. One could easily ask, "Isn't that what a library is for?" And the answer would be: yes, yes it is. BUT . . . BookSwim delivers to your door. So no pesky driving or walking or taking the bus--whatever it is you, personally, do to get to your local library.

It's a good idea in theory, but I found the execution lacking. Maybe BookSwim is still getting its sea legs. For one thing, their inventory is not very broad. A lot of what I looked for they didn't have. And the one book at the top of my "pool" (as they call your queue) was never available. Even when I was supposed to be able to guarantee it. In an age when I can go online to my local library's site and request books and see where I place on the waiting list for books, BookSwim comes up a little short.

Maybe it works better for college kids wanting to "rent" textbooks instead of buying them. I wouldn't know, since I've been out of grad school for a decade now. But maybe BookSwim has some great storehouse of college textbooks somewhere; they just don't have much by way of "regular" titles. Yet. I would like to think it's coming, that they're building on what they have or something. But there are difficulties. Imagine trying to retain enough books for several thousand people to borrow--from anywhere in the U.S. and with no return due date. Tricky.

Also, the books I did receive were not in very good condition. Worse than what you'd expect from very old library books.

My free trial is coming to an end, and I'll be canceling my subscription. It's back to my public library for me.


Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Robert Harris (novel, screenplay), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
R.P. Films, 2010
PG-13; 128 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


I had been meaning to see this one for a while. The premise wasn't all that catchy: a ghost writer is hired to spruce of the memoirs of an ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain. But all the reviews I read were remarkably good, and I usually enjoy Ewan McGregor, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. And I'm glad I did. As my husband pointed out, they don't really make suspense movies like The Ghost Writer any more. There's something very old school about it; maybe it has to do with Polanski and Harris, who are themselves somewhat old guard. But the tone of the film, the lighting and such, is all very well done. Never mind that I had it more or less sorted out at the halfway mark; it was still enjoyable to watch play out.

The Ghost Writer isn't perfect. It has the distinct feeling of having been cut down from something fattier (the novel, one supposes). Sometimes that's good, but in this case one almost wants the added flavor of the fat, metaphorically speaking. I was left satisfied but still thinking a few deeper insights into the characters might have been nice. In the end it only serves to whet my appetite for the novel, which I hadn't ever considered reading, but now I might, if only to feel like I got a full meal.


Movie Review: Atonement

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightly, Saorsie Ronan
Directed By: Joe Wright
Written By: Ian McEwan (novel), Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Universal, 2007 (limited release)
R; 123 minutes
2 stars (out of 5)


I realize I'm really late on this one. I recall trying to read an Ian McEwan novel--can't remember which--some years ago and being bored to tears within a handful of pages. So I didn't finish it and I never tried another. This one fact should have tipped me off about this movie, but it was so widely well received, I felt it deserved a chance. So one night when my husband was traveling, I watched Atonement via Vudu.

It was a waste of time, for me at least. The characters I might have liked or at least found interesting didn't get enough screen time or development. And the chief characters were difficult to like or care about. At the end of it all, I felt like I'd just watched a two-hour movie about a bunch of British people falling into various bodies of water. And I understand that water is recognized by literati as the token symbol of baptism and being washed clean, etc., but honest to God, talk about overkill. If it had been a pie-in-the-face comedy routine, there would have been a dozen pies and the audience would have stopped laughing long before it was finished. As it was, the movie is a drama/tragedy sort of thing, so it's both a downer and--with all that water--a drowner.

The catalytic moment in the story relies heavily on both coincidence and poor decision making. Several people must make a series of bad choices to get to the point where the main character finds she must atone(!) for what she's done and what has befallen the other characters. It's something of a stretch, and not even that compelling. By the time I got to what's supposed to be the Big Twist, I really didn't care any more.

Anyway, I can't look at James McAvoy and not think, Mr. Tumnus! I think I could have liked him in the film if I could've brought myself to care. Maybe something vital was left on the cutting room floor. Maybe the book really is better. Not that it would take much.