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.

Friday, March 11, 2016

February 29, 2016 Issue


Jeffrey Toobin’s Talk piece, "Looking Back," in this week’s issue, perfectly expresses my view of Antonin Scalia:

Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor.

Ive read several comments on Scalia’s death, e.g., Lawrence H. Tribe’s "The Scalia Myth" (NYR Daily, February 27, 2016), David Cole’s "Scalia: The Constitution in Politics" (NYR Daily, February 15, 2016), Dahlia Lithwick’s "Why Liberals Loved to Hate Antonin Scalia" (Slate, February 14, 2016). Toobin’s piece strikes me as the only one that's adequately damning.   


Postscript: One of the best sentences in this week’s issue is Peter Schjeldahl’s “Take Rat and Bear, their costumed roles as fame-hungry artists turned murder detectives in the very funny Super-8 film 'The Least Resistance' (1980-81), which they made in L.A. on a budget not far north of nothing, despite a triumphant finale involving a helicopter” ("Light Heavyweights") – where “best” means surprising, delightful, specific, textured, variegated, surreal. 

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