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 Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins 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.

Friday, June 1, 2012

May 28, 2012 Issue

The most interesting sentences in this week’s issue are by Richard Brody. In his capsule review of Leos Carax’s Boy Meets Girl (1984), he writes:

Lucid, sardonic, cinema-centric asides (especially one great set piece involving an aged, hearing-impaired movie technician from the silent-era) adorn their all-night tangle of intimacy, building to a grungy, furiously self-deprecating Liebestod.

Notice how he deliciously delays the verb. His sentences are like long freight trains, multi-colored boxcars of description strung before and aft of the locomotive verb. I’m a sucker for such front-loaded constructions. Brody is a master writer of them. Here’s another example, this one from his mini-review of Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), also in this week’s New Yorker:

The irrepressible allure of Hitchcock’s visual extravagance – his baroque swirl of caustic greens, voluptuous purples, acidic yellows, and fiery reds, the indecent glare of daylight – conjures a vortex of unconscious desires beyond the realm of dramatic machinations; his happy ending, of health restored and crime punished, resembles an aridly monastic renunciation.

I don’t always agree with Brody’s opinions. His listing of Hitchcock’s Marnie on his “Ten Greatest Films of All Time” struck me as excessively connoisseurish. And his grievous lack of appreciation for Kael’s writing borders on willful blindness. But, for me, it’s not the opinion that counts so much as the art with which it’s expressed. Brody is emerging as one of the magazine’s most distinctive stylists.  

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