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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 8, 2017, Issue


I see in this week’s issue that Richard Brody has tweaked his great “Bringing Up Baby” capsule review, adding several interesting touches. Here’s the original:

The enduring fascination of this 1938 screwball comedy is due to much more than its uproarious gags. Having already helped launch the genre, the director Howard Hawks here establishes archetypes of theme and character that still hold sway. He turned Cary Grant into an extension of his own intellectual irony, an absent-minded professor who awaits the chance to unleash his inner leopard. He refashioned Katharine Hepburn as a sexually determined woman who hides her aggression under intricate schemes that force the deep thinker to deploy his untapped virility. And Hawks brought to fruition his own universe of symbols that conjure the force that rules the world: she tears his coat, he tears her dress, she steals his clothes, she names him “Bone,” and the mating cries of wild animals disturb the decorum of the dinner table, even as a Freudian psychiatrist in a swanky bar gives viewers an answer key in advance. [The New Yorker, September 30, 2013]

And here’s the new version, with the additions underlined:

The enduring fascination of this 1938 screwball comedy is due to much more than its uproarious gags. Having already helped launch the genre, the director Howard Hawks here reinvents his comic voice, establishing archetypes of theme and performance that still hold sway. He turned Cary Grant into an extension of his own intellectual irony, an absent-minded professor who seems lost in thought but awaits the chance to unleash his inner leopard. He refashioned Katharine Hepburn as a sexually determined woman who hides her aggression under intricate scatterbrained schemes that force the deep thinker to deploy his untapped humor and virility. And Hawks brought to fruition his own universe of hints and symbols that conjure the force that rules the world: she tears his coat, he tears her dress, she steals his clothes, she names him “Bone,” and the mating cries of wild animals disturb the decorum of the dinner table, even as a Freudian psychiatrist in a swanky bar gives viewers an answer key in advance.

The changes seem aimed at underscoring the movie’s humor. The original review emphasized its sexuality. The inspired final line is slightly revised, subtly enlarging the Hawksian universe to include hints as well as symbols. Someday I’ll compile a “Top Ten Richard Brody Capsule Movie Reviews.” His brilliant “Bringing Up Baby” will definitely be on it.

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