Since we’ve enjoyed five months together here on Far aField Notes, I feel as though it’s time you visited our outhouse—the true mark of hospitality and friendship. We’re proud of our outhouse. It’s not simply a functional and decorative double-seater, but of course, like all the best outdoor salles des bains, it functions as a reading room, really, a cultural gathering place.
Outhouses have always been places of inspiration. I myself, during many visits, consider topics like beauty, humanness, mortality. “All flesh is grass and its beauty like the flowers of the field,” I think, as I stroll through flowers on the way to its door. “Of dust we are made, and to dust we will return,” I ponder as I leave. I will doubtless need to devote another post to this building, but here, now, I am after something practical, answering a question posed for generations: what is the best reading material for the outhouse?
We subscribe to many publications, too many, but we find multiple uses for the 30+ magazines we subscribe to out here, among them fire-starting, package-stuffing, fish-wrapping and of course, outhouse reading and enrichment.
Jose Ortega y Gasset has famously written, “Tell me the landscape in which you live and I’ll tell you who you are.” My present version of this quote reads, “Tell me what you read in the outhouse, and I’ll tell you who you are.” I know I’m taking a chance with Too Much Disclosure here, divulging the contents of our toilette, but in the interests of reading, the ongoing health of magazines, and the hope that all outhouses will continue to double as reading rooms, I present the winners in each category, and invite you to consider subscribing to these fine publications:
Most Ironic Outhouse Magazine: Wired. This geeky publication reporting on the futuristic-now makes us glad to keep at least one part of our bodies solidly in the past.
Most Likely to Create a Wait Line: The New Yorker. (Excellent in-depth articles, but for outhouse placement, we stress the value of the cartoons. Quick, punchy, in-and-out---Next in line!)
Most Literary: Image Journal: Art, Mystery Faith.
(Keeps us elevated to the Beautiful and Mysterious
on days when the outhouse has too many flies.)
Most Urban Mag: The New Yorker wins again! (It’s
especially fun to read The “About Town” section and marvel at how New Yorkers feel like they’re the center of the world.)
Most Inspirational: Martha Stewart’s Living. (I’m waiting for her Outhouse issue. It will likely be called “Re-fashioning the toilette al fresco”)
Most Erudite: Books and Culture. (After reading the scholarly reviews, you leave the outhouse feeling lighter in body, but gravid in mind.)
Most Redundant: Alaska Magazine
(One of my husband’s favorites.
Excellent writing and photographs
but---does a 5-windowed outhouse
need another window?)
People’s Choice Award: The Utne Reader. (The articles in this lively alternative digest not only report on the hopeful counter-culture, but they’re the perfect length for outhouse functions.)
Most Theological: Christianity Today. (With the new emphasis on a physical, embodied faith, this one fits right in, reminding us at just the right moment that our bodies are God-made and good---all the time.)
Most Likely to Be Used as Toilet Paper: Men’s Health (Too much fake beefcake on the covers. Do these guys know how to lift a hammer, run a skiff, build an outhouse? Yep, thought so!)
Most Likely to Incite Anorexia and Sex-Obsession: Cosmopolitan. But---whew! Our outhouse doesn’t subscribe.
I hope you’ll be inspired to subscribe to more magazines, AND to carry on an important tradition. Should you be one of the less fortunate, who doesn’t get to walk through flowers and grass on the way to the bathroom, even your inside room can become an educational gathering place.
So, what cultural offerings are on your bathroom shelves? What prizes have they won?