When I was a kid growing up we received two magazine subscriptions in the mail: TV Guide and the Reader’s Digest. Each one was eagerly awaited and my sister and I would even fight over whose turn it was to do the weekly crossword puzzle in the TV Guide. I knew more useless TV trivia back in the 70’s than I care to admit to.
There were fewer fights over the Reader’s Digest but it was a favorite none the less. I loved the jokes and stories that folks sent in for the columns such as “Laughter the Best Medicine”, “Life in These United States”, “All In a Day’s Work”, and “Humor in Uniform”.
There were suspenseful and heart wrenching stories to be read under the “Drama In Real Life” section and I still credit “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” for my strong verbal score on my high school SATS.
They also had a book club known as “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books”. This is where they would take classic pieces of literature and “edit” them for length and content. Then they would bind 3-4 of these “condensed” books together in one volume and deliver it to your door for $9.95 plus shipping and handing.
I’m talking about classic novels like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Christmas Carol”. I’ve always been curious about who got to decide what chapters Harper Lee and Charles Dickens should have left out the first time around. Not to mention Herman Wouk’s “War and Remembrance”. That book was turned into an eleven and a half hour mini-series on TV for crying out loud. How do you condense the Battle of Midway?
I think Reader’s Digest was unknowingly setting the tone for today’s way of life. Everything we do, read, listen to and communicate is in a condensed version.
- Teenagers text in a “condensed” language (idk, my bff jill? jk. lol)
- We download music from iTunes and add it to our “condensed” library of 5000 songs on our iPods.
- We “condense” our television viewing by TiVoing our favorite shows and fast forwarding through commercials.
- And if you miss any episodes of your favorite shows you can get the entire season “condensed” on DVD and you can catch up in a single weekend.
It’s a fast paced world and if you’re not able to keep up you might find yourself eating everyone else’s sweetened, condensed dust.