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.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year In Review: 20 Memorable Lines

Here’s one more list – twenty memorable New Yorker lines of 2015:

1. It is the writer who sees everything, hears everything, and reserves the right to fiddle with the aperture. – James Wood, "Look Again" (February 23 & March 2, 2015)

2. “This is about what you leave out, not what you take off. Writing is selection.” – John McPhee, "Omission" (September 14, 2015)

3. “Mayweather’s eyes get bigger when he fights: he seems intensely aware of his own vulnerability, which is precisely what makes him invulnerable.” – Kelefa Sanneh, "The Best Defense" (May 25, 2015)

4. “Dear God, the drinking.” – Anthony Lane, "Good Fights" (January 5, 2015)

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

6. “After straining for a sterner response to the works, I opted to relax and like them.” – Peter Schjeldahl, "Take Your Time" (January 5, 2015)

7. “This, this: this was the madness of the color line.” – Jill Lepore, "Joe Gould's Teeth" (July 27, 2015)

8. “Tastes differ, and Ishiguro is welcome to his Arthurian chain metal.” – James Wood, "The Uses of Oblivion" (March 23, 2015)

9. “Those who order the pear-and-kale salad, curiously wet, will get what they deserve. – Amelia Lester, "Tables For Two: Brooklyn Bavarian Biergarten" (October 12, 2015)

10. “Riefenstahl might have been both a considerable artist and a considerable Nazis.” – Claudia Roth Pierpont, "Bombshells" (October 19, 2015)

11. “The Wayback Machine is humongous, and getting humongouser” – Jill Lepore, "The Cobweb" (January 26, 2015)

12. “But Walden is less a cornerstone work of environmental literature than the original cabin porn….” – Kathryn Schulz, "Pond Scum" (October 19, 2015)

13. “I don’t like chocolate chips or see the point of vegan cookies.” – Michael Specter, "Freedom From Fries" (November 2, 2015)

14. “No better way to process a paradox than to have another drink.” – Emma Allen, "Bar Tab: Nitehawk Cinema and Lo-Res" (September 21, 2015)

15. “But how deep can a truth be – indeed, how true can it be – if it is not built from facts?” – Kathryn Schulz, "Pond Scum" (October 19, 2015)

16. “Through their decades of vicissitudes, he referred to their marriage as ‘cloudless’—even to his mistress.” – Judith Thurman, "Silent Partner" (November 16, 2015)

17. “Mass violence was buried in the city like strata in rock.” – Raffi Khatchadourian, "A Century of Silence" (January 5, 2015)

18. “Chances are that if you use the Oxford comma you brush the crumbs off your shirtfront before going out.” – Mary Norris, "Holy Writ" (February 23 & March 2, 2015)

19. “You could tattoo the entirety of Max’s dialogue onto his biceps.” – Anthony Lane, "High Gear" (May 25, 2015)

20. “Her spirit vibrates in the greenhouse air. But it can’t make you forget that, for twenty-two bucks at the gift shop, you can become the owner of a Frida oven mitt.” – Peter Schjeldahl, "Native Soil" (May 25, 2015)

Before I conclude, I’d like to give a special shout-out to the writers of “Tables For Two” and “Bar Tab.” These columns are tremendous sources of pleasure. I devour them.

And I want to salute David Denby. His distinguished run as New Yorker movie critic ended this year. I’ll miss his zingers (e.g., “Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque”). And I’ll miss his superb descriptive analyses – this one, for example, from his memorable "Influencing People" (October 4, 2010), a review of David Fincher’s The Social Network:

The scenes of the Winklevosses in their boat, crisply cutting through the water, are ineffably beautiful; the twins are at ease in their bodies and in nature, while the Zuckerberg gang slouch over their computers in the kind of trashed rooms that Fincher’s anarchists and killers live in. The revolution brews amid garbage.

That’s it! Time to clear the decks and make room for next year’s batch. Thank you New Yorker for another wonderful, absorbing, pleasurable, “unimpeachably interesting” (words stolen from Hannah Goldfield’s delectable "Tables For Two: Lupulo") year of reading. I don’t know how you do it, but you do. I love you.

But wait! I forgot to mention the Best Short Story: Martin Amis’s "Oktober" (December 7, 2015)

Best Poem: Meghan O’Rourke’s "Unforced Error" (October 26, 2015)

Best Cover: Mark Ulriksen’s “Streetball” (September 28, 2015)

I could go on. But I won’t. I’m going to mix myself a drink. If I had the ingredients, I’d try a Negligence (“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” – Colin Stokes, "Bar Tab: Threes Brewing," June 29, 2015), but I’m fresh out of basil syrup, damn it. My old standby, the Dark and Dirty (dark rum and Coke), will have to do. Here’s to you, New Yorker, you gorgeous creature. You take my breath away.

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