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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Fan's Note

James Wood (Photo by Juliana Jiménez)

Thirteen New Yorkers so far this year, and not one of them contains a book review I’d rate above C+. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. I did enjoy Claudia Roth Pierpont’s “The Island Within” (March 6, 2017), a review of Megan Marshall’s Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, and Dan Chiasson’s “The Mania and the Muse” (March 20, 2017), a review of Kay Redfield Jamison’s Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character. But even those two pieces lack the kind of formalist analysis I crave, the kind of formalist analysis that, it seems, only James Wood can provide. Where is he? The last piece by him to appear in the magazine is his brilliant “Scrutiny” (December 12, 2016), a review of Helen Garner’s essay collection Everywhere I Look. That’s almost four months ago. Has he quit or been let go? I hope not. He’s irreplaceable.


  1. Maybe he's working on a new novel. I hope.

    1. I hope not. I hope he’s at some sort of watershed moment in his life in which he’s concluded that fiction is not the most effective way to represent reality. I hope he’s writing an essay about that.