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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 20, 2017, Issue


Gary Shteyngart’s “Time Out,” in this week’s issue, is pure bliss. It’s classified as “Personal History,” but it’s also a terrific reporting piece on the world of Watch Idiot Savants (W.I.S.). Shteyngart attends a secret meeting of a W.I.S. group called Redbar (“I missed out on the culmination of the evening, when all the watches were piled up for an Instagram photo with the hashtag #sexpile, but as I wandered into the autumn night my Nomos beat warmly against my wrist”), visits the Nomos workshop in Glashütt, Germany (“I observed with special delight as a watchmaker inserted a balance wheel into a new watch, and it came to life for the first time”), shops for a waterproof watch at Wempe’s on Fifth Avenue [“I was served an espresso and a Lindt chocolate by a young man who also presented me with a Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36, a glowing black-dial water-resistant watch bearing the famous ‘snowflake’ hour hand of Tudor (a sister company of Rolex)”], and talks with numerous watch geeks, including Ben Clymer, founder of the website Hodinkee (“Clymer is preternaturally calm and sumptuously bearded, a self-described ‘old soul,’ who ticks as reliably as a chronometer granted the all-important Geneva Seal”).

“Time Out” brims with inspired lines:

If you want a watch that looks like a Russian oligarch just curled up around your wrist and died, you might be interested in the latest model of Rolex’s Sky-Dweller.

I lay in bed practicing what I might say about “perlage,” “three-quarter plates,” and the rare lapis-lazuli dials on some seventies Rolex Datejusts.

Glashütte does not have so much as a proper restaurant, although every Tuesday a chicken man comes with a truck full of roasting birds, and pensioners dutifully line up as if the Berlin Wall had never fallen.

Reviewing Shteyngart’s brilliant “O.K., Glass” (The New Yorker, August 5, 2013), I said it was “close to perfection” (see here). His marvelous “Time Out” is perfection – perfect as that Nomos Minimatik Champagner beating warmly against his wrist. 

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