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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Best of 2015: GOAT

Here are my favorite “Goings On About Town” pieces of 2015 (with a choice quote from each selection in brackets):

1. Amelia Lester, "Tables For Two: Shuko," August 10 & 17, 2015). (“ ‘Did he say scallop sperm?’ He did, and it’s mild, sweet, and a little bit wobbly, like custard.”)

2. Sarah Larson, "Bar Tab: Wassail," April 20, 2015. (“Better yet was the Falling Up, with bourbon, apple brandy, Cynar, lemon, fresh ginger, and port. Served in a brandy snifter, piled high with pebbled ice, like a sno-cone, and garnished with an elaborately carved wedge of gala apple, it swirled cloudily in the glass, looking gloriously silly.”)

3. Emma Allen, "Bar Tab: Winnie's," February 9, 2015. (“One evening in Chinatown, a young woman in a Nirvana T-shirt took a break from mixing Hawaiian punches—a juggling act involving eight kinds of liquor, pineapple juice, and grenadine—to pull out a giant laser disk, grab a mic, and perform “Santeria,” by Sublime.”)

4. Andrea K. Scott, "Boxing Days," June 29, 2015. (“It’s a portable survey of Cianciolo’s career, revealing a hunter-gatherer of the flea market and an inveterate archivist of her own process. They’re the shamanic-punk heirs to a lineage of inside-the-box thinkers whose most famous son is Joseph Cornell.”)

5. Emma Allen, "Bar Tab: Livingston Manor," March 16, 2015. (“So it is that such throwbacks as wood reclaimed from a Virginia elementary school and a bourbon-and-ginger-spiked egg cream called the Bugsville Fizz coexist with neoteric features like a hearty dark lager from Catskill Brewery (est. 2014), a duck-rillette banh mi, and a woman guilelessly confessing, ‘I never really got into Seinfeld, I think because I was too young.’ ”)

6. Richard Brody, "Bodies of Work," June 22, 2015. (“Fairchild, who performs like a counterculture Gena Rowlands, is irresistibly passionate and volatile even in repose, and Shults displays a bold visual and dramatic sensibility with his impressionistic rearrangement of time and his repertory of darting, whirling, plunging, and retreating camera moves, which seem to paint the action onto the screen.”)

7. Colin Stokes, "Bar Tab: Threes Brewing," June 29, 2015. (“Appropriately, first on the list is the terrific Negligence, which blends gin, basil syrup, lemon, and absinthe into what looks like a green juice cleanse, but is much better for you, depending on who you trust. ‘Your mouth might not be able to detect how strong it is, but your liver will,’ a server advised.”)

8. Nicolas Niarchos, "Bar Tab: Dutch Kills," November 2, 2015. (“Behind a brown door on a blasted section of Jackson Avenue, a whip-thin saloon that bears the neighborhood’s name is bringing back a version of the past, with the clink of hand-cut ice in tumblers and the waft of freshly cut orange peel.”)

9. Jiayang Fan, "Bar Tab: Play Lounge," February 16, 2015. (“Hookah beer towers (strawberry, mint, melon) are hailed like cabs on a busy avenue.”)

10. Silvia Killingsworth, "Tables For Two: Timna," October 26, 2015. (“Kubaneh is a Yemenite-Jewish yeast loaf traditionally eaten on the morning of the sabbath, after it has baked overnight at a low temperature. Mesika’s version is served steaming hot in a clay flowerpot, freckled with sesame seeds. Its texture falls somewhere between brioche, challah, and croissant, and it pulls apart like cotton candy.”)

Credit: The above illustration, by Rebecca Monk, is from Jiayang Fan’s "Bar Tab: Play Lounge," The New Yorker, February 16, 2015.

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