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 Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins 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, September 26, 2014

September 22, 2014 Issue

Pick of the Issue this week is Nick Paumgarten’s "We Are A Camera." It’s about the GoPro camera – “a perfect instrument for the look-at-me age,” Paumgarten says. The piece reports on the morning of GoPro’s stock market launch (“Woodman, in jeans and a dark-blue button-down shirt, tan and fit with white teeth and spiky dark hair, led them in impromptu banshee howls, the feral woo-hoos of joyriders everywhere, and chants of ‘Go Pro! Go Pro! Go Pro!’ and with his non-GoPro hand flashed the surfer’s hang-loose shaka sign”). It describes a GoPro video of three men parachuting from the top of One World Trade Center (“Most striking of all is the vision, once the plummet begins, of the illuminated glass façade of the tower sliding past, the pace accelerating yet oddly slow, almost elegant, with no trace really of violence or terror”). It chronicles Paumgarten’s attendance at the GoPro Mountain Games, in Vail, Colorado, where he went whitewater kayaking (“On bridges and banks: GoPros everywhere. We were mayflies, flashing through the frames of strangers”). My favorite part of “We Are A Camera” is Paumgarten’s descriptive analysis of his ten-year-old son’s GoPro ski video:

Even though the camera was turned outward, filled mainly by the sight of the terrain sliding past, it provided, more than anything, a glimpse into the mind of a dreamy and quiet boy—who, to my eyes, during the day, had been just a nose, his features and expressions otherwise hidden by helmet, neck gaiter, and goggles. I didn’t need a camera to show me what he looked like to the world, but was delighted to find one that could show me what the world looked like to him.

“We Are A Camera” brims with superb descriptions and illuminating perceptions. In other words, it's quintessential Paumgarten. I enjoyed it immensely.

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