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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

GOAT Collage #1

From three months’ worth of The New Yorker’s vast, rich, layered, and loaded sensorium, “Goings On About Town” (GOAT), here’s an assemblage of choice (semi-surrealistic) quotations: In the mornings, mothers with children and scooters in tow line up behind subway-bound suits for dollar cups of Stumptown coffee – no lattes here, only drip (Andrea K. Scott, “Tables For Two: Jeffrey’s Grocery,” January 10, 2011); Exercising a tribal right passed down for generations, the Blackfeet artist Lyle J. Heavy Runner will paint a twenty-five-foot-tall tipi in a bleeding-buffalo-skull design at the Brooklyn Museum, as part of the exhibition “Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains” (“On The Horizon,” January 17, 2011); David Cossin was the star soloist in an energetic and – it must be said – splashy performance of Tan Dun’s “Water Concerto,” which employs tubs of water as percussion (Alex Ross, “Critic’s Notebook: Jersey Boy,” January 24, 2011); Instead, there’s a different kind of magic, as he lets Jackson’s vocals – drenched in echo and other effects, but still filled with the same strange baby-doll ferocity – loose on sexy, brassy covers of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain,” Dinah Washington’s “Teach Me Tonight,” and more (Ben Greenman, “Critic’s Notebook: Kinda Fonda Wanda,” January 24, 2011); With her tall body and her long, grave, gorgeous face, she truly does look like a messenger from the beyond (Joan Acocella, “Critc’s Notebook: Vestal Virgin,” January 31, 2011); You’re likely to end up slumped in your lounge chair, gazing at the bongos (Lizzie Widdicombe, “Tables For Two: Bohemian,” February 7, 2011); Nostalgia cascades (Peter Schjeldahl, “Critic’s Notebook: Getting Clocked,” February 14 & 21, 2011); At regular intervals, a semi-transparent section of a rear wall slides open, and out come Lo’s ornate, succulent creations, sparked by her blended heritage (Mike Peed, “Tables For Two: Annisa,” February 14 & 21, 2011); It was a knotty time to make art, and Benglis literalized it in tangles of painted and glitter-flecked cotton bunting, which gave way to elegant arabesques of pleated metal and Zen-punk wonders in glass and ceramic (Andrea K. Scott, “Critic’s Notebook: Making A Splash,” February 28, 2011); If you like hand-pulled noodles, as much for their simplicity as for their artistry, you’d do best to stay south of Canal (Hannah Goldfield, “Tables For Two: Hung Ry,” February 28, 2011); There is an ingenious beer ice cream, made with the clove-y Bavarian Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, and beignets are like the Platonic ideal of childhood carnival-truck zeppole (Amelia Lester, “Tables For Two: Riverpark,” March 7, 2011); This is what Southern funk music looks like now: no big-time bling, only ambition and raw nerve, denim short shorts and chili dogs (“Art: Galleries – Chelsea: Michael Schmelling,” March 7, 2011); In the roofless remains of schools, blackboards and painted walls display fading alphabets and numbers for the edification of a stray goat (“Art: Galleries – Chelsea: Juan Manuel Eschavarria,” March 21, 2011); Birdcages and dog crates in storage become a meditation on the modernist grid, as does a shrinelike arrangement of vases (“Art: Galleries – Chelsea: Jonas Wood,” March 21, 2011); A Tuesday-evening special of fried chicken holds the promise of spice, but it requires getting to the Carroll Street F stop well before 8 P.M. (Silvia Killingsworth, “Tables For Two: Seersucker,” March 21, 2011); Skip the scoop and kick back with a carmel-nut lager from Laos – or a house cocktail, like the Phuket Fizz, made of vodka, Thai basil, and fresh pineapple, as low key a pleasure as Kin Shop itself (Andrea K. Scott, “Tables For Two: Kin Shop,” March 28, 2011).

Credit: The above artwork is by Olimpia Zagnoli; it appears in The New Yorker (January 17, 2011) as an illustration for “On The Horizon.”

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