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, November 15, 2012

November 12, 2012 Issue

Call me a hedonist, peg me as hopelessly bourgeois – I don’t care. What I enjoyed most about this week’s issue is Judith Thurman’s description of Betty Halbreich’s apartment, particularly her bureau and closets:

After the cheese course, we started with the drawers in a massive bureau, where silk flowers and scarves, Bakelite “bug pins,” wooden bangles and beads, evening bags in toile sleeves, gloves from Florence and Paris, monogrammed handkerchiefs, chunky stone necklaces, silver pens and pillboxes, clip-on earrings, and her mother’s jewels all have separate compartments. Then came the clothes. Each of her closets (perhaps a dozen – I have lost count) is a deep stall with high ceilings, sturdy poles along both sides, and, above them, shelving. The larger stalls might accommodate a Lipizzaner, with its tack. Their heavy doors are fitted with custom-made wooden shoe racks that open like a steamer trunk.

I readily confess that I’m a sucker for description such as this. Like a rich, seventeenth century Dutch still life, it conveys pleasure in the representation of pleasurable things. The passage is from Thurman’s delightful “Ask Betty” – this week’s Pick Of The Issue. 

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