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, August 11, 2011

August 8, 2011 Issue

Nicholas Schmidle’s “Getting Bin Laden,” in this week’s issue, is enormously impressive. It consists of three strands: the run-up to the bin Laden raid, the raid itself, and the raid's aftermath. The piece lacks a subjective element, and that’s normally a problem for me. But in this case, it isn’t. The facts are so fascinating, I’m willing to overlook the absence of the writer’s “I.” I wanted to know what happened that night in Abbottabad, and “Getting Bin Laden” told me in vivid detail. In fact, I wanted to know so badly that I nearly skipped the long flashback in the piece’s middle. But I’m glad I didn’t because it contains some amazing images (e.g., the assault team practicing the raid in the Nevada desert). The best part of “Getting Bin Laden” is Schmidle’s description of the raid. It contains several inspired sentences, including these beauties:

During the next four minutes, the interior of the Black Hawks rustled alive with the metallic cough of rounds being chambered.

The Americans’ night-vision goggles cast the scene in pixilated shades of emerald green.

“Getting Bin Laden” is definitely this week’s Pick of the Issue; it may also be the magazine's top story of the year.

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