Introduction

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.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 6, 2014 Issue


The first 2014 issue of The New Yorker is here. I scan it for thisness, the quality I most crave when I read. As defined by James Wood, thisness is “any detail that draws abstraction toward itself and seems to kill that abstraction with a puff of palpability, any detail that centers our attention with its concretion” (How Fiction Works, 2008). Wood appreciates thisness in fiction; I appreciate it in factual writing. Perusing the current issue, I find only one instance of thisness, but it’s a beauty: Sophie Brickman’s “Armed with an ant’s perspective and a technology titan’s resources, Myhrvold captures the swirling magma of a blueberry’s interior and the translucent reptilian juice sacs of a grapefruit,” in her wonderful Talk story, “Say Cheese.” That “swirling magma of a blueberry’s interior” is marvelously fine, and the “translucent reptilian juice sacs of the grapefruit” is brilliant. The new year is in it’s infancy, but already a “Best of 2014” candidate has emerged – Sophie Brickman’s terrific “Say Cheese.” 

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