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 Ben McGrath is not like a piece by Jill Lepore, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Goodyear, or Filkins for Khatchadourian, or Bilger for Paumgarten. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 12, 2014 Issue


The pleasures of this week’s issue are many: Peter Schjeldahl on “No Problem: Cologne/New York, 1984-1989” (“Nostalgia-stirring photographs, which appear in the show’s catalogue, find many of the glamorous names achingly young and, often, conspicuously plastered”); Richard Brody on Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (“His painterly framings have a teeming simplicity, with action spilling in from the margins and up from the background, entangling the characters in a web of conflicting forces”); Hannah Goldfield on Bunker (“But these slips, like the strip club, are forgiven in light of the restaurant’s other charms, including the creamy tapioca pudding, spooned over coconut, palm seed, and jackfruit, and the skateboard propped up against the bathroom sink”); Lizzie Widdicombe’s “The End of Food” (“With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad”); Sean O’Brien’s “Café de l’Imprimerie” (“All night I wait for you at the Café de l’Imprimerie”); Lee Siegel’s “Pure Evil” (“Nesbø’s books stand out for their blackness”); Keith Gessen’s “Waiting for War” (“One person’s little old grandfather fought in the Red Army to liberate Ukraine from the Nazis; another person’s little old grandfather fought in the U.P.A. to liberate Ukraine from everyone, Nazis and Soviets both. These historical narratives are very difficult to reconcile, and neither side has done a good job trying”); D. T. Max’s “Green Is Good” (“The silver Patagonia fleece jacket he wore accentuated the perception that he was someone you were more likely to meet on the chairlift at Telluride than chained to a power-plant fence”); Riccardo Vecchio’s exquisite wallpaper-and-naked-old-women illustration for Lyudmila Ulitskaya’s “The Fugitive”; Jill Lepore’s “Away From My Desk” (“Leisure may be over, but that’s only because when your office is a cloud it follows you everywhere”); Joan Acocella’s “Selfie” (“Because Blackburn’s positions are so clear, his prose is clear. It is also unostentatious”); Anthony Lane on Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (“We expect its austerity to fend us off, but no; it gathers us in and forbids us to look away”). In its sheer intelligence, wit, and craft, this is a brilliant New Yorker. I enjoyed it immensely. 

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