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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Strand's Solitude

Edward Hopper, Automat (1927)

The recent passing of Mark Strand returned me to his great little book Hopper (1994), a wonderful collection of aesthetic meditations on twenty-three of Edward Hopper’s paintings. So many of Hopper’s pictures – Morning Sun, Automat, Western Motel, Hotel Room, Summer in the City – sway me with their feeling of solitude. Strand identified with them. In Hopper’s concluding piece, he says that the silence of Hopper’s rooms “weighs on us like solitude.” This links with Dan Chiasson’s observation, in his eloquent "Mark Strand's Last Waltz" (“Page-Turner,”, November 30, 2014): “Strand surveyed his outward circumstances—relative health and prosperity, growing fame, the undeniable good fortune of being alive—from a peephole cut into the exterior wall of his solitude.”

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