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, January 2, 2018

Best of 2017: 21 Inspired Lines

Rosz Chast, "Motherboard (Back)" (2017)

Shauna Lyon, describing the rich refinement of the Brooklyn bistro, Otway, notes “the natural shades of toffee, rhododendron, and sunlight filling the lovely corner space” (“Tables For Two: Otway,” June 26, 2017). That, for me, is one of the year’s most sheerly pleasurable lines. Here are twenty more to go with it:

1. A mustachioed violinist, in quasi-Edwardian garb, crouched almost fetally under water, his bow rising above the surface, like a shark’s fin, then falling below it. [Rebecca Mead, “Transformer,” September 25, 2017]

2. When I look at the back of a Datograph, one of Lange’s more complicated watches (it features a date as well as a chronograph, a kind of stopwatch), I see a small city of silver and gold gears and wheels, a miniature three-dimensional universe in which everyone is running to catch the next bus. [Gary Shteyngart, “Time Out,” March 20, 2017]

3. Rich saxophones and organs stood in for synthesizers, drums jangled and twitched, and vocalists like King Krule gave the beats another sheet of voice. [Matthew Trammell, “Step Out,” June 5 & 12, 2017]

4. The film’s images are filled with a pointillistic profusion of detail—wheat stalks at the roadside, a modern bridge’s metallic latticework, even the duo’s jazzily patterned shirts—that’s as alluring as it is nerve-jangling. [Richard Brody, “On the Wild Side,” July 3, 2017]

5. Save space, too, for malab iyo malawax, sweet crepes soaked in honey and dusted with cinnamon, and a mug of steaming qaxwo, pungent black coffee spiked with ginger. [Nicolas Niarchos, “Tables For Two: Safari,” September 4, 2017]

6. After the great pea-guacamole controversy of 2015, it takes cojones to add mint to an otherwise innocent, chunky scoop, which arrived, one afternoon, dramatically hidden under an elephant-ear-size purple-corn chip. [Shauna Lyon, “Tables For Two: Atla,” June 5 & 12, 2017]

7. The slanted early-morning sun amid the pillars colors the sides of bread trucks moving slowly on their deliveries. [Ian Frazier, “Drive Time,” August 28, 2017]

8. Now she seemed slight, fine-boned, almost translucent—it was hard to imagine her surviving a sea of forearms, iPhones, and gropey hands. [Nick Paumgarten, “Singer of Secrets,” August 28]

9. Even when she’s performing small steps, or no steps, you can still feel, across the auditorium, that astonishing engine, humming along like an Alfa Romeo, at the base of her spine. [Joan Acocella, “Dance: Alfa Romeo,” June 19, 2017]

10. I nibbled a small pie: it tasted like pumpkin, but with a weedy aftertaste, which brought back Proustian memories of high school. [Lizzie Widdicombe, “High Cuisine,” April 24, 2017]

11. When I went back again a few days later, the studio floor was littered with discarded paintbrushes, dozens of them, some still oozing paint—I got bright orange on one of my shoes. [Calvin Tomkins, “Troubling Pictures,” April 10, 2017]

12. His punch lines are not punched at all but flicked as casually as cigarette butts. [Anthony Lane, “Across the Divide,” June 26, 2017]

13. This is the “seashore at evening,” where lithesome mermaids on motorcycles whiz by, their “leather-clad calves” united with a “noir chassis.”  [Dan Chiasson, “Merry War,” September 4, 2017]

14. It causes the wasp-waisted barmaids in strappy green minidresses to grunt audibly as they muddle handfuls of cherries, and scoop ice as if shovelling a driveway. [Talia Lavin, “Bar Tab: Fishbowl,” May 29, 2017]

15. Smeared, apocalyptic guitar riffs buoy Bryan Funck’s grim, screeching vocals, which invoke classic black-metal singers while sidestepping any hint of Dungeons and Dragons. [“Night Life: Thou,” January 9, 2017]

16. I’ve imagined a whole film just about the waitress who describes the chorizo and eggs in “Midnight Run.” [Patton Oswalt, “Deep Cut,” September 4, 2017]

17. Actually, the culprit was likely the Slow Reveal, which encourages anything but: a syrupy accelerant in a bisected brass pineapple, the round belly of the bottom half balanced on the stiff fronds of the top half. [McKenna Stayner, “Bar Tab: Super Power,” February 27, 2017]

18. They play a high-octane strain of rock and roll that’s best described as ripping, advancing a thread of brawny, pissed-off fight music hybridized by groups like the Dwarves and Fear. The effect is ideally experienced while pogo-dancing around a room of diaphoretic night owls. [“Night Life: Hank Wood and the Hammerheads,” July 24, 2017]

19. There’s usually sports on the TV, but the broad array of neighborhood bargoers watch indifferently; there are conversations to be had in big, gossipy groups, cold beer to be sipped, flirtations to be advanced in sly increments. [Talia Lavin, “Bar Tab: Salud,” September 11, 2017]

20. Shroud-like disguises figure into her work from subsequent decades, too, counterbalanced by absurdly tailored pieces, including cinched whirlpools of deconstructed menswear and gingham frocks deformed by asymmetrical humps. [“Art: Metropolitan Museum: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” September 4, 2017]

Enough already! Time to let go. Be off with you, old New Yorkers. Down to the basement you go. The new year’s first issue beckons. There’s a piece in it by Peter Schjeldahl I want to read. Let’s get started.

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