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.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 10, 2012 Issue

There are four remarkable pieces in this week’s issue: John Seabrook’s “The Geek of Chic”; John Colapinto’s “Check, Please”; Aleksandar Hemon’s “Beyond the Matrix”; and Ian Parker’s “High Rise.” All four, I’m pleased to note, are written subjectively. The most subjective and, in many ways, the most exhilarating is Seabrook’s “The Geek of Chic.” It’s about Frederico Marchetti and his e-commerce fashion company, the Yoox Group. It reads like a journal (“In June, I was sitting next to him in the front row of the Jil Sander menswear show in Milan,” “I did some shopping on Yoox, and saw nice suits at great prices, but I needed to feel the fabric, and online shopping can’t provide that,” “It was Yoox’s twelfth birthday – June 20, 2012 – and Marchetti and I were in Florence,” “During my visit to corporate headquarters, I met the keeper of Yoox’s algorithm, Alberto Grignolo, a husky, balding man with pale eyes and a large, smiling face”). I devoured it. “The Geek of Chic” is a model piece of journalism. But it’s not this week’s Pick of the Issue. That honor goes to Parker’s brilliant “High Rise.” It’s not as gloriously subjective as Seabrook’s piece, but that’s okay because it has something else going for it that’s pure journalistic gold – an irresistibly fascinating leading character. “High Rise” is a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Describing this amazing, youthful wizard of energy, wit, creativity and confidence, attempting to get him down on paper, Parker generates some inspired, almost surrealistic word combinations. For example: “For the 2010 promotional film, he rode down the bike path running through the heart of his beautiful, double-looped Danish Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo, to a soundtrack of ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ by the Black-Eyed Peas.” When was the last time you saw “promotional film,” “bike path,” double-looped,” “Danish Pavilion,” “Shanghai World Expo,” “soundtrack,” and “Black-Eyed Peas” strung together? Answer: never - it's an original. “High Rise” contains many such creations. There’s a passage in it illustrating Ingels’s comparison of designing a building to a joke that’s absolutely extraordinary. I believe this is the first piece by Parker that’s caused me to sit up and take notice of his work. I’ll certainly be on the watch for it from now on.

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