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.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Year In Review: Images

Now, a few images from my 2015 New Yorker reading experience, in no particular order, montage-style:

BANANAS: I can still see in my mind’s eye those superbly noticed bunches of bananas hanging on plastic clothes hangers, in the Landsbjörg kitchen tent, at Landmannalaugar campsite, in Nick Paumgarten’s terrific "Life Is Rescues" (November 9, 2015).

KUBANEH IN A FLOWERPOT: One of the year’s most delectable images – Timna’s kubaneh, served steaming hot in a clay flowerpot, “freckled with sesame seeds,” (in Silvia Killingsworth’s wonderful "Tables For Two: Timna" October 26, 2015).

ROSE GOLD APPLE WATCH: I remember the color of the Apple Watch that Jonathan Ive wears, in Ian Parker’s masterful "The Shape of Things to Come" (February 23 & March 2, 2015) – “rose gold, with a band of white rubbery plastic.”

SEALSKIN BOOTS: I love sealskin boots and was delighted to see a pair mentioned in John Seabrook’s Talk story, "Free," February 2, 2015 (“Tagaq, who is thirty-nine and has jet-black hair and a girlish face, had removed her sealskin boots and was sitting barefoot on the floor of the Diker Pavilion, a large oval space on the museum’s ground level”).

RED DUTTON’S TEETH: Dutton, manager and coach of the New York Americans, the first team to play hockey in the old Madison Square Gardens, had teeth that, in Nick Paumgarten’s memorable words, “looked suspiciously like replacements for the set scattered on a frozen pond” ("Amerks," October 5, 2015).

PANTIES: I won’t soon forget those panties at Loosie Rouge, “petite enough to fit the models clustered around the bar, hung like birthday bunting over the liquor bottles” (Becky Cooper, "Bar Tab: Loosie Rouge," August 3, 2015).

JOE GOULD’S TEETH: I think they’re false. They appear as part of a vision that Jill Lepore has at the end of her extraordinary "Joe Gould's Teeth" (July 27, 2015): “I still sometimes picture a door with the word Archive etched on smoky glass. I picture it like this: I open the door, sneak inside, and enter an enormous room, cluttered with notebooks stacked on the floor, on shelves, on desks. I reach into my pocket for what I’ve brought. It feels like porcelain. It opens like a clam. And then I back out of that room, as soundlessly as I came, having left behind: Joe Gould’s teeth.” 

FLOYD MAYWEATHER’S EYES: This stuck with me – Kelefa Sanneh’s description of Mayweather’s eyes: “Mayweather’s eyes get bigger when he fights: he seems intensely aware of his own vulnerability, which is precisely what makes him invulnerable” ("The Best Defense," May 25, 2015)

MILK BOTTLE FULL OF GRAVEL: That’s what was on geology professor Todd Halihan’s desk, when Rivka Galchen visited him, as reported in her terrific "Weather Underground" (April 13, 2015). According to Galchen (quoting Halihan), the gravel is from the Arbuckle, a geological formation under Oklahoma.

GLASS OF NEGLIGENCE: Mentioned in Colin Stokes’s wonderful "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”).

STACKS OF PIZZA BOXES: Only Ian Frazier, with his jeweler’s eye for the overlooked and disregarded, would notice, “In out-of-the-way corners near the refreshment tables, stacks of empty pizza boxes rose to the height of a man” ("Bronx Dreams," December 7, 2015).

FURRY BIRKENSTOCKS: Sensuously described in Rebecca Mead’s delightful "Sole Cycle," March 23, 2015 (“There was a Boston mule made from textured velvet in crimson or gold, inspired by a Persian-lamb coat that Haslbeck had discovered in a flea market. An Arizona sandal had a rose-gold leather foot bed and an upper made from pinkish-peach tweed threaded with iridescent silver. It looked as if it had been cut from the sleeve of a Chanel jacket. Another Arizona sandal, in black leather, had been lined in sapphire-blue shearling”).

STUFFED-SATIN STARS: They were among the contents of Susan Cianciolo’s curio-filled cardboard “kits” that were on show at Bridget Donahue’s gallery last June (see Andrea K. Scott’s marvelous "Boxing Days," June 29, 2015).

OLD WHISKEY BOTTLE FULL OF WATER: This comes from Dana Goodyear’s excellent "A New Leaf" (November 2, 2015). Its main “character,” ocean farmer Bren Smith, drinks water from an old whiskey bottle.

PLAINS INDIAN HEADDRESS: Just one of the more than a hundred and fifty artifacts on display in “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky,” a wondrous show at the Metropolitan Museum last spring, superbly reviewed by Peter Schjeldahl in his "Moving Pictures," March 6, 2015 (“Beadwork, metal cones, and cotton and silk cloth figure in a headdress from the Eastern Plains, circa 1780, along with local stuffs including bison horns, deer and horse hair, and porcupine quills”).

HOOKAH BEER TOWERS: I love this image; it’s from Jiayang Fan’s brilliant "Bar Tab: Play Lounge," February 16, 2015 [“Hookah beer towers (strawberry, mint, melon) are hailed like cabs on a busy avenue”].

Credit: The above photo (detail) is by Dina Litovsky; it’s used to illustrate Silvia Killingsworth’s "Tables For Two: Timna" (The New Yorker, October 26, 2015).

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