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 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

June 1, 2015 Issue


Pleasures abound in this week’s issue – Richard Brody on Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (“Fuller’s pugnacious direction and his gutter-up view of city life romanticize both the criminal code of honor and the jangling paranoia of global plots; his hard-edged long takes depict underworld cruelty with reportorial wonder as well as moralistic dread”), Emma Allen on a cocktail called What the Doctor Ordered (“The rum made it taste like a mind-bending root beer”), Lizzie Widdicombe on Uber for helicopters (“The helicopter made its shuddering descent. Legs shook; sippy cups spilled. Marcy said, ‘Wow! I love this part!’ The pilot yelled, ‘Touchdown!’ ”), Nick Paumgarten on the end of Vin Scelsa’s “Idiots Delight” (“After ‘Goodnight Ladies,’ Scelsa signed off: ‘Thanks for your ears. I love you all’ ”) – but for me its most piquant delight is Dan Chiasson’s review of John Ashbery’s Breezeway (“These poems conjure a massive mental errata slip made up of what they almost say and nearly mean”). Chiasson is on a roll: four reviews this year, so far – all brilliant!

It would be perverse to say that I enjoyed Michael Specter’s "Extreme City," an account of a recent visit he made to Luanda. The inequality it describes is appalling. But I do relish it as writing. I like going (vicariously) where Specter goes. He’s always out and about, nosing around, seeing what’s to be seen. He says, “One afternoon, I visited Tako Koning, a Canadian petroleum geologist, who lives on the seventh floor of an older building in the center of Luanda,” and I’m right there with him. He says, “One day, I had lunch at Oon.dah, on the first floor of the Escom Center,” and I’m happy to tag along. Specter’s pieces afford the experience of first-person access. The payoff is readerly bliss.

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