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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 11 & 18, 2014 Issue

The piece in this week’s issue that I enjoyed most is Dana Goodyear’s “Paper Palaces.” It’s a profile of the architect Shigeru Ban. Goodyear is an artful describer. She says of Ban, “He looks clicked together, like a Lego figurine.” Her descriptions of Ban’s creations are delightful. For example, she depicts his Aspen Art Museum as “a glass box nested in a lattice screen made from resin-infused paper and topped with a timber truss roof.” Of his Kobe cabins, she writes, “Pleasingly geometric, with an eco-friendly, brown-rice look – smooth paper columns supporting crisp white canvas roofs – the Kobe cabins have an aesthetic that lies somewhere between a Tinkertoy masterpiece and a Seventh Generation diaper with operable windows.” My favorite passage in “Paper Palaces” involves Goodyear herself. She and Ban are looking at the Aspen Art Museum’s truss roof: “I said that the swooshing lines reminded me of overlapping ski tracks. He looked at me blankly.” I smiled when I read that. I relish its use of “I,” and I love the way she shows herself failing to spark Ban’s response. I smiled again near the end of the piece when Goodyear observes Ban at Tom McInerney’s Montana lot, listening to McInerney and Maltz discuss design ideas. She says, “Who knew what he was thinking? ‘Do you have mayonnaise?’ he said finally.” Ban strikes me as a very cool guy. I enjoyed “Paper Palaces” immensely. 

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