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.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 6, 2015 Issue

Book reviews are, for me, the ultimate brain candy. I devour them. There’s a dandy in this week’s issue – Alice Gregory’s "Dear Diary, I Hate You," a review of Sarah Manguso’s memoir Ongoingness. It has all the elements of a satisfying review – description (“We get Manguso, at fourteen, looking through a telescope for a comet, failing to see it, and not caring; Manguso, in 1992, writing mostly about hating her mother; Manguso, in college, discovering that a boyfriend has read her diary, including some dismaying reflections on his sexual performance; Manguso, in her late thirties, drinking raspberry-leaf tea in an attempt to trigger early labor, hoping that her husband can be present for both the birth of his son and, an ocean away, the death of his mother”), analysis (The great feat of the book is that it succeeds in not feeling abstract, even though it frequently eschews specificity”), quotation (“I stayed partly contained in the moment until that night, when I wrote down everything that had happened and everything I remembered thinking while it happened and everything I thought while recording what I remembered had happened…”). Gregory’s absorbing piece whets my appetite for Manguso’s book. It also makes me hungry for more of Gregory’s reviews.  

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