Introduction

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 Ben McGrath is not like a piece by Jill Lepore, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Goodyear, or Filkins for Khatchadourian, or Bilger for Paumgarten. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Interesting Emendations: Dana Goodyear's "Anything That Moves"


One of Dana Goodyear’s most memorable descriptions is of eating a dish of raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts at a secret Los Angeles sushi bar called Yamakase. There are two versions of it. The first is in her “Beastly Appetites” (The New Yorker, November 4, 2013):

We ate the beef, we ate the crab, we ate gumball-size baby peaches, olive green and tasting like a nineteen-forties perfume. There was slippery jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, and a dish of raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts, meant to be slurped together in one viscous spoonful. That one—quiver on quiver on quiver—was almost impossible to swallow, but it rewarded you with a briny, primal rush.

The second version is in her Anything That Moves (2013):

We ate the beef, we ate the crab, we ate gumball-size baby peaches, olive-green and tasting like a 1940s perfume. There was slippery jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, and a raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts, meant to be slurped together in one viscous spoonful. That dish—quiver on quiver on quiver—epitomized the convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food. It was almost impossible to swallow it, thinking ruined it, and submission to its alien texture rewarded you with a bracing, briny, primal rush.

Comparing the two versions, I find three interesting differences: (1) “dish” in the New Yorker piece appears to refer to “raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts,” whereas in the book version it seems to include the jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, as well; (2) the book version contains more detail of Goodyear’s response (“That dish … epitomized the convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food”; “thinking ruined it”; “alien texture”); (3) the magazine version’s “briny, primal rush” becomes, in the book, “bracing, briny, primal rush.” 

Both versions contain the inspired “quiver on quiver on quiver,
” so intensely evocative it almost makes me gag. This is meant as a compliment. Goodyear's phrase brilliantly enacts the sensation it describes.

2 comments:

  1. (1) “dish” in the New Yorker piece appears to refer to “raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts,” whereas in the book version it seems to include the jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, as well"

    No it doesn't. Follow the punctuation.

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  2. I suppose "slippery jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette" can be considered one dish, and “a raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts, meant to be slurped together in one viscous spoonful” as another. But the commas don’t tell me that. The commas tell me that this line is a list of items. “That dish” in the next line appears to refer all four items in the list. The New Yorker version is much clearer.

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