THE CONDENSED WORLD OF THE READER'S DIGEST by Samuel A. Sehreiner

THE CONDENSED WORLD OF THE READER'S DIGEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Reader's Digest isn't The New Yorker, and Samuel A. Schreiner isn't Brendan Gill, so this chatty all-about-that-magazine doesn't boast the Élan, the delectable stories, or the stellar cast of its acknowledged model. Schreiner served his time as an overpaid, under-bylined Digest editor and ""altar boy"" (to get anywhere there, ""you have to become a priest for the Digest"") and shuffles his own experiences up with pop analysis, anecdotes, history, quotes of tribute or scorn from insiders and onlookers, and those evocative titles and teasers from 50+ years of Optimism Over All: ""I'm Joe's Man Gland""; ""Who Really Needs Alligators?""; ""The New Case for Chastity""; ""Is Insurrection Brewing in the United States?"" The inevitable hero of what is, after all, a grand puffery: octogenarian DeWitt Wallace, that master of frontal-attack conversation (""Mr. Schreiner, why were you born?"") who, with wife Lila, turned a Mom-and-Pop 1920s operation--he did his digesting in the N.Y. Public Library's periodical room--into the 100-million circulation, world-wide #1 wordspreader. And Schreiner surveys Wallace's tidy empire--the Westchester oasis-cum-headquarters, the well-treated legion of slow-working editors (""check cutters"") who practice ""group journalism"" along ""murderer's row,"" the foreign outposts, the multimedia offshoots, the guarded subscription list (""With a list like that, you could sell shit in a paper bag""). What about RD's rightwing political groove? Schreiner gathers in barbs from Art Buchwald and others but sweeps the question away by citing the usually Democratic White House: ""The thunder on the right seems to fall on deaf ears."" So. . . ""My god, how the money rolls in,"" and the ""figures astound."" They also bore, as does much of this genial hodge-podge, which those ""check cutters"" could cut to their hearts' content without deleting anything anybody'd miss.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1977
Publisher: Stein & Day