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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 9 & 16, 2014 Issue

I skimmed the stories in this week’s “Summer Fiction” issue. Nothing grabbed me. I readily admit that I’m biased in favor of factual writing. Fiction’s photoshopped renditions of reality turn me off. But there’s always something in each issue to appreciate. This week, I found it in Emma Allen’s “Bar Tab” on Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, the final sentence of which made me smile: “Finally, a patron was allowed to sample the Rhapsody. ‘It tastes like Busch Light, the drinker said, before tossing out another comparison, to a different liquid, of a similar hue.” Allen’s piece brought to mind an earlier New Yorker review of Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden – Nick Paumgarten’s great May 16, 2006, “Tables For Two,” which describes the place as “variegation meets fermentation,” and memorably concludes, “Maybe our graveyards should be beer gardens.”  

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