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, October 10, 2015

October 5, 2015 Issue

The pieces in this week’s issue I enjoyed most are Silvia Killingsworth’s "Tables For Two: Superiority Burger" (“A slip of flavorless iceberg lettuce is pure signifier”), Colin Stokes’s "Bar Tab: Covenhoven" (“Cavernous fridges illuminate the slim space, as well as the faces of customers poring over the panoply of alcohol therein”), Nick Paumgarten’s "Amerks" (“Dutton, eighty-two, had a brush cut, a firm jawline, and teeth that looked suspiciously like replacements for a set scattered on a frozen pond”), Scaachi Koul’s "The Dad Restaurant" (“Served the way it’s supposed to be: near-frozen, sure to give you severe brain freeze halfway through, as it always does, and mostly foam”), John Updike’s "Coming Into New York" (“And then like Death it comes upon us: / the plain of steaming trash, the tinge of brown / that colors now the trees and grass as though / exposed to rays sent from the core of heat – / these are the signs we see in retrospect”), William Finnegan’s "The Man Who Wouldn't Sit Down" (“Ramos, standing alone, seemed to fold into himself. His expulsion had been tense, uncomfortable, heart-pounding stuff. Everyone involved was surely agitated. But Ramos seemed calm, as if his pulse had slowed”), and Alexandra Schwartz’s "The Unforgotten" (“Turning to invention to get at deeper realities of experience is fiction’s righteous mission, and ‘Honeymoon’ performs it beautifully. But truthfulness isn’t the same as the truth”). A special shout-out to Philip Montgomery for his striking portrait of Jorge Ramos, illustrating “The Man Who Wouldn’t Sit Down.”

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