What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Matthew Trammell is not like a piece by James Wood, and neither is like a piece by Peter Schjeldahl. One could not mistake Finnegan for Frazier, or Lepore for Paumgarten, or Goodyear for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 25, 2011 Issue

Reading Nick Paumgarten’s wonderful “Tables For Two” piece about Danji in this week’s issue of the magazine, I recall with pleasure some of his other great “Tables For Two” columns, e.g., his review of Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden (“Maybe our graveyards should be beer gardens”) (The New Yorker, May 15, 2006), of Max Brenner (“omelettes as big as handbags”) (The New Yorker, December 11, 2006), of Hotel Griffou (“but a few rounds proved that these drinks were not girly”) (The New Yorker, August 31, 2009), and, above all, of Tony Luke’s (“and soon you find yourself pushing the thing into your mouth like a log into a chipper”) (The New Yorker, April 11, 2005). Paumgarten has written fifty-six “Tables For Two” columns since 2001, when he started doing them. They’re all terrific – where “terrific” means sharp, witty, conversational, casually elegant, delicious. His column this week about Danji contains this inspired line: “A spoonful of jjigae, tart and bubbling like some kind of witch’s brew, was accompanied by the sight, out the window, of Hell’s Kitchen flotsam blowing sideways in a squall”). Someday, I hope Paumgarten collects his “Table For Two” pieces in a book. Actually, I’d welcome a collection of all his New Yorker writings. Until that day comes, I’ll continue to make my own collection, clipping the pieces from the magazine, now and then rereading them, savoring the writing, imagining a tasty foot-long Philly cheesesteak disappearing into my chipper.

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