Beauty and absurdity. Franzen’s piece is alive not only with acute perceptions of unreality (“Sitting in the lounge of a ship burning three and a half gallons of fuel per minute, we listened to Adam extoll the benefits of shopping at farmers’ markets and changing our incandescent bulbs to L.E.D. bulbs”) but with consolations of intense natural splendor (“Their plumage had the hypercrispness of pattern, the hypervividness of color, that you can normally experience only by taking drugs”). It’s an amazing trip! I enjoyed it immensely.
Postscript: Two other pieces in this week’s issue that I especially enjoyed are Matthew Trammell’s "Night Life: Wristband Tans" (“Merch booths shill ‘Boycott Beyoncé’ T-shirts, while surprise rap guests and dance routines set to current club staples give the set list a layer of menace; every reference to her maybe-unfaithful husband, Jay Z, tightens chests”) and Jiayang Fan’s "Bar Tab: Fat Buddha" [“At Fat Buddha, an East Village Asian-fusion ultra-dive, the eponymous Buddha (corpulent, imperious, swathed in mini disco balls, and encased in a glass box stuffed with cash) looks like a reincarnated bouncer who opted for an off-book route to enlightenment: namely, booze, hip-hop, and a jovial no-holds-barred policy on happy-hour pork buns”]. And while we’re at it, let’s give a huzzah for Ping Zhu’s five (five!) gorgeous “Goings On About Town” illustrations.