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.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Eagle Feather

This morning, cycling from Brackley Beach to Covehead Harbour, in Prince Edward Island National Park, I found an eagle feather in the grass on the edge of the trail. My wife spotted it, and I went back and picked it up. It’s a wing feather, dark gray, with a tiny patch of white at the base. I treasure it. It brings to mind the scene in Ian Frazier’s great On the Rez (2000), in which Le War Lance, one of my favorite characters in all of literature, gives Frazier an eagle feather:

He was wearing a gray felt cowboy hat with a tall, uncreased crown and an eagle feather hanging from the back on a buckskin thong. He took off the hat and untied the eagle feather and handed it to me. He said it was a present for my son, then only a month or two old. We shook hands, and I wished him luck. He said as soon as he had gotten himself some Chinese food he would catch the next bus home. On the subway back to Brooklyn, three people asked me about the eagle feather. A black man in an Indian-style choker necklace made of pipe beads asked if I would be interested in selling it. I smiled and said no.

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