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.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 13, 2014 Issue

The New Yorker’s “Bar Tab” isn’t just a food-and-drink review column; it’s a series of miniature illustrations. The most striking of them are by Matthew Hollister. Luminous, fresh, and deliciously hued, they attract the eye, decorate the text, and symbolize the bar under review. They lean towards abstraction and simplification. They’re a superb reduction of the bar’s essence, expressed in geometry and arrangement. This week’s “Bar Tab,” a review of a wine bar called Old Man Hustle, features a delectable orange-brick-purple-neon-pearl-tile-tan-cork beauty that went straight into my digital collection of favorite New Yorker artworks. Hollister has a wonderful way with shimmery coppers and satiny whites. See, for example, his exquisite illustration for Rob Fischer’s “Bar Tab” review of The Shanty (also in my collection).
Hollister has a knack for picking out a detail in the review and including it in his picture. For example, Fischer’s Shanty piece mentions “the metal vats and oak barrels that now line the factory floor.” Sure enough, there in Hollister’s illustration are partial views of four barrels with their checkered patterns of light-and-dark wood, and a gorgeous rendition of a bright, bulbous copper distillery vat. In this week’s “Bar Tab,” also by Fischer, Old Man Hustle is described as “this tiny brick-walled wine bar and performance space.” Hollister’s picture incorporates a beautiful horizontal band of orange-brown-buff brickwork. The burnt orange, setting off the black wine bottles with their tan corks, and the ravishing grape-colored neon sign, and the intricate gray-and-white tiles above, are satisfying to the point of sensuousness. I can practically taste the wine.  

Credit: The above artwork is by Matthew Hollister; it appears in The New Yorker (January 13, 2014), as an illustration for Rob Fischer’s “Bar Tab: Old Man Hustle.”

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