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 Ben McGrath is not like a piece by Jill Lepore, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Goodyear, or Filkins for Khatchadourian, or Bilger for Paumgarten. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Helen Vendler's "The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar"


This is just a quick note to say that Helen Vendler’s new essay collection The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar is out. Its publication is, for me, a major literary event. I treasure Vendler’s criticism. Her previous collections – Part of Nature, Part of Us (1980), The Music of What Happens (1988), and Soul Says (1995) – are among my favorite books. Each contains a number of her great New Yorker reviews. The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar includes two New Yorker pieces, “American X-Rays” (November 4, 1996) and “Ardor and Artifice” (March 12, 2001). But there’s much in this book that’s new to me. I look forward to exploring it and blogging about it here. 

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