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, February 6, 2015

February 2, 2015 Issue

“We navigate via the stars of details,” James Wood says, in his How Fiction Works. I agree. It’s how I read The New Yorker. Perusing this week’s issue, I was struck by a detail in John Seabrook’s wonderful Talk story, "Free," about an Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, visiting the Museum of the American Indian. Seabrook writes, “Tagaq, who is thirty-nine and has jet-black hair and a girlish face, had removed her sealskin boots and was sitting barefoot on the floor of the Diker Pavilion, a large oval space on the museum’s ground level.” Those sealskin boots caught my eye. I’ve long been an admirer of such footwear. In Iqaluit, Nunavut, where I lived for nearly ten years, they’re called kamiks. Bleached sealskin soles, shaved sealskin vamps, stovepipe-shaped leg sections, contrasting fur colors (white, silver, gray, black), tightly stitched, patterned with geometric designs such as diamonds, chevrons, circles, triangles, or stripes - they’re an Inuit art form. One of my favorite books is Our Boots: An Inuit Women’s Art (1995) by Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe. Seabrook’s noticing of Tagaq’s kamiks is inspired!

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