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.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best of 2017: GOAT

Dolly Faibyshev, "Mermaid Spa" (2017)

Here are my favorite New Yorker “Goings On About Town” pieces of 2017 (with a choice quote from each in brackets):

1. Becky Cooper, “Tables For Two: Mermaid Spa,” March 6, 2017 (“The best, though, are the cold appetizers, especially the pickled herring or, if you dare, the salo—raw pig lard, frozen and sliced thin. The procedure is half the fun: Layer it over some brown bread. Salt it. Pick up a raw garlic clove. Salt that. Bite one, then the other. The sharp fire of the raw garlic gives way to the sweetness of the bread, and to the soothing fat as it melts. It’s more bracing than the ice pools”).

2. Matthew Trammell, “Night Life: Past Customs,” July 24, 2017 (“Far from the sustained keys and billowing loops of Brian Eno’s ambient opus “Music for Airports” (1978), Amobi’s transcontinental score has a more explicit take on air travel: buzzy synths swell into prominence like a takeoff, asymmetrical percussion mimics the metallic dance of landing gear unfolding, and talk-box samples evoke the chorus of voices, automated and analog, that echo through terminal halls”).

3. Becky Cooper, “Tables For Two: Sunday in Brooklyn,” January 23, 2017 (“At some point, someone near you will order the pancakes, and you will turn involuntarily to stare at the stack coated in hazelnut-praline-maple syrup and brown butter. Gesture to your waiter for an order of those. The sauce, the texture of butterscotch, slips down the sides like a slow-motion waterfall. It tastes like melted gelato. The pancakes, slightly undercooked, seem almost naughty”).

4. McKenna Stayner, “Bar Tab: Super Power,” February 27, 2017 (“Visiting Super Power, with the gentle glow of a blowfish lamp, the fogged windows dripping hypnotically with condensation, and the humid, coconut-scented air, was exactly like being on a cruise, but everyone was wearing wool”).

5. Richard Brody, “Movies: The Long Day Closes,” April 3, 2017 (“Davies resurrects footfalls and shadows, the pattern and texture of carpets, the sound of his mother’s singing voice—the inner drama of undramatic things that are lodged in memory for a lifetime”).

6. Talia Lavin, “Bar Tab: Highlands,” July 24, 2017 (“A business-casual crowd filled the West Village redoubt, and the music played at a pleasant soft throb. “I need to find another lover,” a man in a lavender shirt sighed; ice clattered in a shaker as another cocktail was poured with luxuriant slowness. The Catholic Guilt left a taste of anise on the tongue. For the less whiskey-inclined, the Wobbly Piper (mezcal, cardamom syrup) and the Royal Mile (vodka, a grapefruity rhubarb pureé) offered their own path to contentment. As the evening deepened, the eyes of the deer heads on the walls glinted in the tawny light, but without malice”).

7. Andrea K. Scott, “Paper Weight,” November 6, 2017 (“The penumbral horse that Georges Seurat let loose with his black Conté crayon in 1882, on view here, might be up for a wild ride with Black Hawk’s ‘Buffalo Dreamers’ ”).

8. Carolyn Kormann, “Bar Tab: The Wooly Public,” August 7 & 14, 2017 (“A woman with a glittery backpack ordered a Woolynesia, tropical punch with gin, lime, chili, cinnamon, and puréed stone fruits, served in a woolly-mammoth-shaped mug. Paintings, prints, and statuary of the extinct beast, a lugubrious mascot, lurk everywhere you look. The woman took a sip, smiled at her man-bunned companion, and said, as far as an amateur lip-reader could tell, either ‘I love you or ‘Elephant juice’ ”).

9. Richard Brody, “Movies: Who’s Crazy?,” March 13, 2017 (“When love creeps in, the doings turn mock-solemn, as a mystical marriage—a threadbare rite of flung-together outfits and tinfoil décor—plays out like a discothèque exorcism”).

10. Andrea K. Scott, “Woman on Wire,” October 9, 2017 (“But such gripes melt away in the presence of an ethereal copper-and-iron-wire concatenation from 1954—seven interconnected orbs, two of which surround smaller spheres like translucent cocoons. It hangs in front of a window overlooking a garden, enmeshing nature and art”).

11. Becky Cooper, “Tables For Two: Augustine,” April 3, 2017 (“Roberta’s mere presence, as she delivers the tarte tatin, a rose of butter-caramel apple slices hugging a hazelnut crust, rescues the experience from the dispassion of the suits—as does François’s wink and pour of gifted Calvados”).

12. Talia Lavin, “Bar Tab: The Penrose,” November 27, 2017 (“The sound of fashionable boots striking the white floor was muted by a staccato prog-rock soundtrack; a young woman in a clinging leather blazer frowned at her companion by the light of a tiny candle and flicked beer foam at his lush red beard”).

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