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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 6, 2012 Issue

Paragraphs may be “the units of composition” (Strunk & White, The Elements of Style), but sentences are the indicia of style. Sanford Schwartz, in his brilliant “Georgia O’Keeffe Writes a Book” (The New Yorker, August 28, 1978), says of Hemingway, “He takes the anonymity out of language, and shows how personal and three-dimensional the use of words can be, how a sentence can have a profile and be as contoured as a carving.” Reading The New Yorker, I’m always on the look out for creative, evocative, stylish sentences – sentences that “have a profile” and are “as contoured as a carving.” I found four in this week’s issue:

Just don’t arrive hungry, and leave any frumpy totes – or friends – behind, and you may enjoy the novelty of a Savage Detective (a mescal Old Fashioned with sherry, maple syrup, and charred pineapple) amidst the buzzy blend of flirting, texting, and social climbing that is Abramcyk’s signature dish. (Ariel Levy, “Tables For Two: Super Linda”)

Siodmak makes performance his subject, with scenes of an orchestra playing Wagner (her ecstacy) and Beethoven (her fate), lovers singing at a piano in a parlor, and a society band at a swank café, where, in a cunning crane shot of a saunter down a staircase – with Kelly’s leonine grace and Durbin’s homely footfalls – he condenses the drama to a thwarted dance. (Richard Brody, “Critic’s Notebook: Screen Fright”)

His black jeans puddle around white sneakers that looked like they were cut from blocks of foam. (Lauren Collins, “The Question Artist”)

When I met Aung Min this spring in Rangoon, he had about him a Brylcreem crispness that evoked an Asian Robert McNamara. (Evan Osnos, “The Burmese Spring”)

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