Sunday morning I woke up in Minnesota for the first time in seven months. With my wife half a world away in 80-degree Cape Town I’m back home at my parents’ house, just in time for a week of weather that will feel 120 degrees colder. But it’s plenty warm in the old home I grew up in, though not as warm as it might be if a less-stingy man was in charge of the heat.
A lot has changed in the Fury home since the last time I was here. There’s new carpet, new paint jobs in the bathroom, living room and dining room and a new table and chairs that hosts our dinners each night. But one thing remains the same: No house in this town — in this county, state or country — is doing more to keep the newspaper business alive. And while they’re at it, they’re doing their patriotic best to prop up the book business and magazines.
Yesterday I came downstairs, sat on the couch and settled in for a few hours with the local newspapers. My parents are old-school — they get subscriptions, the printed product. And they get a lot of them. Daily subscriptions to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mankato Free Press, which both arrive every day via delivery person and on Sundays weigh as much as a small child. They also get a subscription to the Worthington Daily Globe, which covers the part of the state where they grew up and where I once worked. Weeklies? They get weeklies, from the Waseca County News to the Fulda Free Press.
My love of newspapers started at an early age, brought on by simple overexposure to the product. Mornings at the breakfast table I scanned the sports section for Lakers scores, perpetually disappointed by the (late) or (night) that always appeared next to their games in the boxscores. I read the paper in the morning while my dad ate his Wheaties and listened to the Good Neighbor. At night he finished what he started 12 hours earlier while mom took her first look at the Free Press and Star Tribune. They read each section, from the main section to the features pages — whether they’re called the Variety page or Current — and always hit the metro news, editorial page, sports, obituaries and business. They read about what’s going on with the living and who’s just joined the ranks of the dead. Forget reading this stuff for free online — although they do that too. These two pay the full subscription price, a dying breed in a changing media world. All they ask for in return is that these publications occasionally publish my dad’s letters to the editor.
The newspapers pile up in a corner each week, ready for recycling. They stack up nicely next to all the hardcover books that currently occupy space on the fireplace ledge but just as often reside on bedside tables, recliners, shelves and cardboard boxes. I remain an old-school book guy — no Kindle or any other e-book reader — but even I usually purchase paperbacks, although I stock up on hardcovers during trips to used bookstore the Strand. But ma and pa Fury are an author’s — and publisher’s — dream customers: They go for the hardcovers, often when they are first released. David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Tami Hoag — those are just some of the authors who can thank their higher royalty checks to these two Mott Street residents.
Magazines? We have magazines. Sports Illustrated’s dating back to the early ’70s, housed in the basement. And car magazines, three that I saw on a table next to the couch: Motor Trend, Automobile and Car & Driver.
I’m grateful for this love of the printed word, though my wife will be less enamored when we one day inherit all of those Sports Illustrated magazines. I’m grateful because it proves my parents remain engaged in the world — study after study shows that people who read a newspaper day are more informed about the events that get documented every day in black and white. They’re curious. They care about what goes on around them, and I can’t even count how many conversations have started over the years with the line, “Did you see that story in the paper…”
Mostly I’m grateful because I work with words today, and their influence played a large part in that path. I wanted to work in newspapers from an early age and that would have never happened if I hadn’t been reading them from an early age. I wanted to write for Sports Illustrated from an early age because I grew up reading SI at an early age. I grew up reading several books a month because they read several books a month. Today I want to write books partly because I love reading them, a trait I inherited from them.
And I love that if I write another one someday, at least someone will buy it — in hardcover.