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, June 25, 2016

Becky Cooper's Ravishing "Tables For Two: Bar Omar"

Photo by Christaan Felber

Last year, in a memorable piece titled "Sacred Carnality" (, October 11, 2015), Mary Karr praised what she called “carnal writing.” “Every memoir should brim over with the physical experiences that once streamed in—the smell of garlicky gumbo, your hand in an animal’s fur, the ocean’s phosphor lighting up bodies underwater all acid green,” she said. I agree. The New Yorker’s “Tables For Two” is a tremendous source of carnal writing. A prime example is Becky Cooper’s ravishing Bar Omar review in this week’s issue. Of Bar Omar’s tagine, she writes,

But the tagine (lamb, chicken, or kefta) is the showstopper. Portioned for two, it arrives in a tall clay vessel, clutched between napkins. The waiter pauses for dramatic effect before rolling off the lid, letting steam billow out. If you ordered the lamb, swollen prunes, fat apricots, and egg-shaped potatoes hug two giant shanks sunk in a still-bubbling broth; the prunes collapse into a sweet, jammy mess the second they’re touched. Shovel some of the fruit over meat pulled clean from the bone, add slivered almonds for crunch, and it’s a perfect bite.

Mmm, so good! And Cooper’s description of desert is even better:

Ending your meal with dessert is a must, and the crème brûlée is irreproachably classic. Shatter the shell of blistered sugar into pieces that look like stained glass and try not to smile.

Who is The New Yorker’s leading carnal writer? I vote for Becky Cooper. 

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