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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 4, 2017 Issue

This week’s New Yorker brims with piquant details: “seagulls, nominally and stickily rendered, as if piped on with black icing” (“Goings On About Town: Art: Whitney Museum: ‘Laura Owens’ ”); “Yvette, a raw industrial duo whose jagged tracks should come with cautionary signage” (“Goings On About Town: Night Life: Eaters”); “black-garlic jam (if mahogany had a flavor it would be this)” (Shauna Lyon, “Tables For Two: Ferris”); the white bones of a dead raccoon’s hand that “seemed to reach / out toward the sun as it hit the water, / showing all five of his sweet tensile fingers / still clinging” (Ada Limón, “Overpass”); the mud-encrusted riding goggles in Thomas Prior’s striking color portrait of Puerto Rican jockeys Irad and Jose Ortiz, illustrating John Seabrook’s excellent “Top Jocks”; Paolo Pellegrin’s arresting black-and-white photos of reed huts for Ben Taub’s absorbing “The Emergency”; the roll of adding-machine tape on which A. R. Ammons composed his great “Tape for the Turn of the Year” (“The poem’s margins were set by the tape’s width, about two inches; it began where the tape started and ended when it ran out, with no chance for revisions as Ammons’s words slalomed down its length”: Dan Chiasson, “One Man’s Trash”); Alexander Calder’s “kinetic, wire-and-collage miniature circus, complete with a full cast of characters, from ringmaster to strongman,” made “creature by creature, out of wire bent with pliers, and powered by everything from springs to balloons” (Adam Gopnik, “Wired”).

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