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 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, December 3, 2014

Journeys and Visits


“Journey” and “journalism” share a linguistic root. I often think of this when I read The New Yorker. Each of its fact pieces is a sort of journey, or at least a visit. This year, the magazine took me on some amazing armchair trips: to Delaware Bay to see horseshoe crabs (Ian Frazier, “Blue Bloods); to Oaxaca, Mexico, to explore one of the deepest caves in the world  (Burkhard Bilger, “In Deep”); to the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique, in the south of France, to view ITER, “the most complex machine ever built” (“Raffi Khatchadourian, “A Star in a Bottle”); to the Cairo Police Academy to see the trial of twenty-one Muslim Brotherhood leaders (Peter Hessler, “Revolution On Trial”); to Berlin’s Berghain, “the most famous techno club in the world” (Nick Paumgarten, “Berlin Nights”); to a café in Kiev, as Russian tanks mass on Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders (Keith Gessen, “Waiting For War”); to Aspen, Colorado, to view the construction of the Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museum (Dana Goodyear, “Paper Palaces”); to the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles to visit the Soylent headquarters (Lizzie Widdicombe, “The End of Food”); to a convention center in Villa Park, a western suburb of Chicago, to attend a conference of fast-food workers (William Finnegan, “Dignity”); to the Ebola wards of the Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone (Richard Preston, “The Ebola Wars”); to Washington State University’s Bread Lab, in Mount Vernon, to gain a better understanding of the role of gluten in our diet (Michael Specter, “Against the Grain”); and many more.

I’ll soon be compiling my “Best of 2014” list. Expect to see at least a few of the above-mentioned “travel” pieces on it.

Credit: The above artwork is by Istvan Banyai; it appears in the March 24, 2014 issue of The New Yorker as an illustration for Nick Paumgarten’s “Berlin Nights.”

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