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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

James Wood's "The Nearest Thing to Life"

James Wood has a new book out – The Nearest Thing to Life, a collection of four pieces, one of which, "Why?," originally appeared in the December 9, 2013 New Yorker. Wood is one of this blog’s central figures. His definition of “thisness” (“any detail that draws abstraction toward itself and seems to kill that abstraction with a puff of palpability, any detail that centers our attention with its concretion”) is a touchstone. I want to devour The Nearest Thing to Life now. But I’ve decided to save it for a trip I’m taking on May 24. I’ll read it on the flight. I’ll post my review of it when I return (June 9).

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