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.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Robert Sullivan's "A Young Artist Confronts the Sinking of the Titanic"

Illustration by Nico Jaimes

Yesterday, one of my favorite writers, Robert Sullivan, posted a delightful “Culture Desk” piece on titled "A Young Artist Confronts the Sinking of the Titanic." It’s a note on the opening of “The Titanic,” an exhibition of drawings at the Sweet Lorraine Gallery, “a small exhibition space on the third floor of Treasure Island Storage, a self-storage facility in Red Hook, Brooklyn.” The drawings are by ten-year-old artist Nico Jaimes.  Sullivan writes,

Nico answered questions about the drawings, which show the ship from many angles of the disaster—views of the lifeboats, the deck, the hull in various degrees of submersion. “That’s people getting off the Titanic,” he said of one. “I know that the first-class passengers got off first, and the second class got off second, and they made the third class wait for the lifeboats, but then there were no more lifeboats and everybody just panicked.” His drawing of the evacuation emphasized the less orderly aspects. “Yeah, panic,” he said, nodding.

Sullivan’s piece reminds me of some his great “Talk of the Town” stories, e.g., "Say Cheese," "Super-Soaker," "Rabbit Ears," "Shredding Party," and "The Crossing." He’s a master Talk writer, right up there with Ian Frazier and Mark Singer. But he produces only one or two pieces a year. All the more reason to treasure them when they appear.

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