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 Matthew Trammell is not like a piece by James Wood, and neither is like a piece by Peter Schjeldahl. One could not mistake Finnegan for Frazier, or Lepore for Paumgarten, or Goodyear 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.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May 1, 2017, Issue

Notes on this week’s issue:

1. I enjoy Mark Ulriksen’s vivid baseball covers immensely. This week’s issue features a dandy. Titled “Strike Zone,” it’s a close-up of a scene at home plate: a wide-open-mouthed umpire is calling a strike; a wide-open-mouthed Red Sox batter is expressing dismay; and a wide-open-mouthed Yankee catcher, holding the ball in his mitt, looks ecstatic.

2. “Goings On About Town: Art” says of Maureen Gallace’s paintings, “Like the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, her work generates power from reticence.” It’s an interesting observation. But Bishop also had a keen eye for detail. As Bonnie Costello says in Elizabeth Bishop: Questions of Mastery (1991), “Her eye delights in the particular.” The same can’t be said for Gallace’s paintings. They efface detail. In this regard, the analogy with Bishop’s poems seems tenuous.

Maureen Gallace, "Summer House / Dunes" (2009)

3. “Goings On About Town: Night Life” says of Alan Broadbent,

He’s played the role of the best man for years now, both as the pianist for Quartet West—the celebrated ensemble led by the late, great bassist Charlie Haden—and as an A-list studio arranger and conductor. But Broadbent also deserves considerable attention for his work as a probing stylist who deftly balances the rhapsodic and the propulsive.

I agree. Listen to him play George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” on his 2005 album ’Round Midnight. It’s the most intense, swinging, gorgeous rendition of that great song you’ll ever hear.

4. Wei Tchow’s piece on Diamond Reef is classic “Bar Tab,” right up there with Nicolas Niarchos’s “Dutch Kills.” Both pieces mention the Penicillin (Scotch, lemon, honey, ginger), my favorite cocktail. Tchow refers to a witty Diamond Reef variation – the Penichillin: “Diamond Reef’s frozen take (the Penichillin) employs an age-old principle: anything is more fun when tossed into a slushy machine.”

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