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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Samanth Subramanian's "Following Fish"

I see Samanth Subramanian’s Following Fish is mentioned in Simon Winchester’s excellent travel book "roundup," in this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review. Subramanian is an occasional New Yorker contributor. See, for example, his terrific "The Agitator" (The New Yorker, September 2, 2013). Following Fish is one of my favorite books. Last year, I posted a review of it here. I also recommend Subramanian’s "Breach Candy" (Granta, Winter 2015), about an old colonial Mumbai club and a legal challenge to its “arch commandment” that only Europeans are allowed to be trust members. Here’s a taste:

He [Gerry Shirley, one of the litigants] remained alert even through the otherwise slackening texture of a day in court: the buzz of the first hour, then the settled keenness, the post-lunch torpor, the gradual straying of eyes to clocks, the dense energy of a system at work dissipating through the afternoon.

Anyone who’s spent a day in court will relate to that “gradual straying of eyes to clocks.”

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