A pink taxi

A pink taxi

September 2, 2010

Newspaper Cults

My father has amassed a month of newspapers in perfect chronological order. He subscribes to Le Monde every summer and he chooses to read it of his own free will, although it is only recently that he has acquired the French language. "While in France do as the French", is what he practices. The reason he does not toss the dailies into the recycling bin is because he "conserves" the "treasures" for me. I read the pot-pourri of old newspapers with a secret pleasure that most of my family and friends tease me about.

This strange habit grew from an initial fear of not having enough "Le Monde" to read in a day. Like any newspaper, some days are replete with interesting articles and breaking news and other days are so dry that the paper can be read in fifteen minutes. Therefore I  started saving the good articles for the next day and on any average day I can actually read one or two editions. Some days I don't have the time to read it at all or I would rather finish a novel. It doesn't bother me in the least to receive the whole  month in one go, even if that delays me further!

However, I must confess that this very odd habit of accumulating and reading old newspapers is genetic. My mother collects the International Herald Tribunes and my grandfather before her, used to amass  the old New York Times. They each had their personal method of reading their newspapers. I cannot remember a day without my grandfather's bed being covered with various clippings and issues of his NY Times. He always put the paper down when we walked into his bedroom, but he always had a picture or an article to show us: "bibeen shi jaleb!" (Look how interesting!)

When I was a child, my father would take the Arabic Al Hayat  paper to bed for his siesta. The sight of the arabic script and the political contents bring back childhood memories.  I give him much credit  for understanding newspapers in three different languages. For me, the Arabic papers remain a challenge. I even balk at the thought of reading English newspapers. Although many members of my family have attempted to change my ways: my mom cuts out an entry from the IHT or  the Khaleej Times for me to read, my husband pushes his Financial Times on me, and many send me NYT articles via email. They simply don't read like Le Monde.

I have somehow been indoctrinated to read that paper exclusively. Sometimes, in the postings on this blog, which try to give film and book reviews, I sound like I am plagerizing the articles that I eventually read in Le Monde. Take the example of the movie Inception. I wrote about it the night I saw it, read the review in Le Monde a week later (of course because it was outdated) and was shocked by the similarity in the analysis. It seems like I have been brainwashed!

Would I trade an expensive hardcopy subscription of Le Monde in Dubai for an IPad subscription? Would I miss the randomly folded sound of newspapers in my handbag? Most important, could I read back issues on the pad I call the Rosetta stone? I must find out before I alter my habits. This habit is a deeply entrenched genetic compulsiveness.....So we will have to wait and see!


  1. Since I was 7 or 8 my father used to drive the car from Beirut to our summer house.He would have a pile of Arabic newspapers and magazines that were delivered to his office.He would ask me to read the headlines,then later some details.This is how the germ of reading papers got into my system,and I guess in turn I passed it down to my children!
    Both my wife and daughter are avid readers of one and only newspaper.
    Before the advent of technology,I would pass daily by my supplier and get one Lebanese paper,the IHT,and the Economist.The local Dubai paper would be delivered to our doorsteps early in the morning.The combination of my morning Nescafe and the terrible ink gives a terrible sneezing allergy!Luckily,I graduated into going through various publication through my laptop,and this summer through a birthday present:The IPad!
    Before every summer,I still get the IHT printed edition delivered to my summer home.In addition,I also get the Le Monde for my daughter who is an avid and loyal reader .Since my daughter spends a limited time with us,I started sneaking into her Le Monde despite my "faible" French,and would leave it on her shelf until her arrival,and before she devours them page by page!Years later,it became a habit,and I started reading it,but may be understanding half of its content.This summer,I am following the Bettencourt scandal with so much interest.
    As to the IHT,I leave it for my wife after reading interesting articles,but don't manage to read from page to page.My wife,on the other hand,does the same as her daughter:they read their favorite papers in totality,even if it is two months old.I still remember once traveling once over the Atlantic with my wife,with her carrying a huge bag of old editions of the IHT.The passenger behind us politely asked if he can borrow those that she had finished.You should have seen the shock on his face when he discovered it was four months old!

  2. It's interesting you bring up the subject of brain washing, because I believe there is definitely some truth to that. We have all gotten brainwashed by the media, whether it be CNN, the NY Times or Le Monde. We begin to formulate thoughts that are in line with the political inclinations of the news we read or watch, and in essence become products of the media. Perhaps journalists and not politicians are the most influential individuals in this world.....Just look at Rupert Merdoch!

  3. I've followed my father's footsteps in reading newspapers from a young age. i've always enjoyed accompagnying my father to purchase his newspapers and magazines. By the age of 12, I was stealing his papers and reading every article. During boarding school, my father gifted me with a subscription to the IHT which is still being delivered to our summer residence 20 years later. I enjoy reading a variety of papers with different political inclinations and different countries of origin in order to read different view points and make up my own mind on current events. What is frightening to me is that newspapers and other sources of news and media are being consolidated and purchased by a few media tycoons therefore purging free media and journalistic integrity.