Thursday, November 3, 2016
October 31, 2016, Issue
Political writing rarely affords aesthetic bliss, unless you get your kicks from sentences like “Clinton would increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings; close the 'carried-interest' tax loophole that favors hedge-fund managers; and levy fees on banks with high debt levels.” This week’s issue – The Political Issue – is filled with that sort of thing. Fortunately, the magazine provides a few tonic alternatives. For example: the coconut tapioca pudding in Jiayang Fan’s delectable “Tables For Two: The Lucky Bee (“Beneath a cloud of golden-crusted marshmallows were banana-toffee gems, tapioca pearls, and an exquisite layer of liquid honey”); the Turnstile music video “Drop,” in Matthew Trammell’s terrific “Night Life: Bring It Back” (“filmed in black-and-white and hand-painted, frame by frame, in shades of turquoise, goldenrod, and salmon, the clip features a toothless ten-year-old flashing peace signs, and at least one puppy”), and the Met’s “Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant,” in Peter Schjeldahl’s wonderful “Art: Plus Ça Change” (“The show ravishes, close-up and quietly, in flurries of ink, red chalk, and brown wash that impart waking dreams of neo-baroque heroes, wild but not too wild nature, and meltingly pretty women”). Is it decadent of me to prefer coconut tapioca pudding to Clinton’s tax rates or Trump’s crazy Mexican-border wall? Probably. But I’m solaced by an observation that Elizabeth Kolbert makes in the Introduction to her The Prophet of Love (2004), a collection of her New Yorker political pieces: “If there is any particular theory that informs the pieces assembled in this book it is that the sense of political life is often indistinguishable from nonsense.” More coconut tapioca, please.