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.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Six New Yorker Writers On The Guardian's "100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books" List

I’m pleased to see that the Guardian’s recent “The 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books” (see includes six works originally published in The New Yorker:

1. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (The New Yorker, September 25, October 2, 9, 16, 1965)
2. Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families (The New Yorker, December 18, 1995)
3. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (The New Yorker, June 16, 23, 30, 1962)
4. Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment (The New Yorker, December 8, 1975)
5. Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer (The New Yorker, March 13, 20, 1989)
6. Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak Memory (The New Yorker, January 3, March 27, June 12, July 31, September 18, 1948; January 1, April 9, December 10, 1949; February 11, April 15, June 17, 1950)

Of course, as a long-time New Yorkerphile, I can think of plenty of other New Yorker non-fiction writings worthy of “Top 100” status. For example:

Ian Frazier’s Great Plains
John Updike’s Hugging the Shore
John McPhee’s Coming into the Country
Pauline Kael’s Deeper Into Movies
John Hersey’s Hiroshima
Joseph Mitchell’s Joe Gould’s Secret
A. J. Liebling’s Between Meals
Roger Angell’s The Summer Game
Henry Louis Gates’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man
Anthony Bailey’s Along the Edge of the Forest
Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Whitney Balliett’s Ecstasy at the Onion
Kenneth Tynan’s Show People
The Journals of John Cheever
Calvin Trillin's American Stories
Alec Wilkinson's The Riverkeeper

And that’s just for starters. But let’s not worry about who’s not on the list. Six extraordinary New Yorker writers are there, grouped with the likes of Plato, Freud, Darwin, Gandhi, Thoreau, and Twain. It’s a tremendous honor, and is objective proof, if any is needed, of The New Yorker’s greatness. Three cheers for Bettelheim, Capote, Carson, Gourevitch, Malcolm, and Nabokov!

Credit: The above photo of Janet Malcolm is by Kevin Sturman, and appears on the jacket flap of Malcolm’s Iphigenia In Forest Hills.

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