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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Best of 2016: GOAT

Photo by Meredith Jenks

Here are my favorite “Goings On About Town” pieces of 2016 (with a choice quote from each in brackets):

1. Nicolas Niarchos, “Bar Tab: Berlin,” February 8 & 15, 2016 (“At the bottom of the stairs, in a barrel-vaulted watering hole, long lines of people waited for the bathroom from whence burst ebullient gaggles of young women and a madly coughing guy in a Thrasher hat”).

2. Becky Cooper, “Tables For Two: Bar Omar,” June 20, 2016 (“Shatter the shell of blistered sugar into pieces that look like stained glass and try not to smile.”)

3. Colin Stokes, “Bar Tab: The Ship, May 16, 2016 (“One wore a single black latex glove and smashed a large ice cube with a wand-like spoon to make the gin-based Gloria, with Campari, dry vermouth, and triple sec, from a recipe he’d ‘found in a book not too long ago’ ”).

4. Jiayang Fan, “Tables For Two: The Lucky Bee,” October 31, 2016 (“On a recent Tuesday, one patron was about to call an Uber when the coconut tapioca pudding arrived, unassuming in a lowball glass. Beneath a cloud of golden-crusted marshmallows were banana-toffee gems, tapioca pearls, and an exquisite layer of liquid honey”).

5. Matthew Trammell, “Night Life: Under the Bridge,” July 11 & 18, 2016 (“Compact and glowingly musical, the album reworked silent film scores and nimble kalimba phrases into a humming city tableau, on which the young rapper sulks through his writhing neighborhood with the moral baggage of an Arthur Miller lead”).

6. Emma Allen, “Bar Tab: The Johnson’s,” September 26, 2016 (“A first-time patron strolled in, looked around, and summed up the scene, rather approvingly: “Oh, so this is like a fake shithole, basically.” But, hey—it’s one with bathroom doors that consistently lock, if that’s worth anything to you”).

7. McKenna Stayner, “Bar Tab: Sycamore,” May 2, 2016 (“The crawlers, finishing a hot whiskey cider that tasted like the dregs of an overly honeyed tea, passed through a teensy smokers’ patio and into the booze-soaked main bar, attracted by a glowing yellow counter, its surface like the cracked crust of a crème brûlée”).

8. Michael Sragow, “Movies: The Deadly Companions,” April 4, 2016 (“Wills makes a terrific mangy villain; he sweats corruption through his buffalo-fur coat”).

9. Andrea K. Scott, “Art: Subject to Change,” August 22, 2016 [“The show opens with ‘A Movie’ (1958), a free-associative pageant of found footage, which flashes both slapstick (a clip of a periscope cuts to a voluptuous pinup, then to a speeding torpedo) and tragic (executed bodies strung up by their feet, an elephant swarmed by its hunters, children beset by famine), compressing the thrill, dread, desire, hostility, and too-muchness of life into twelve stunning minutes”].

10. Richard Brody, “Movies: Hell or High Water,” August 22, 2016 (“Only Bridges emerges whole; with his typical brilliance, he leaps from the laconic to the rhetorical, making even the shady brim of his hat speak volumes”).

Credit: The above photo by Meredith Jenks is from Jiayang Fan’s “Tables For Two: The Lucky Bee,” The New Yorker, October 31, 2016.

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