The New Yorker: May 27, 2013

29 May

I usually think of TNY as consisting of three parts: the front, middle, and back. The front is Goings On About Town and Talk of the Town. Middle is reporting and fiction. Back is everything after the fiction–The Critics, as it’s called in the Table of Contents. I’m mostly dividing my recap into those three parts this week.

Cover
I like the drawing, and a brief Googling reveals another Ana Juan cover from 2008 that is very good, but this one doesn’t do it for me. A little too current events, a little too New York. Maybe “a little too New York” is a dumb complaint to make of a magazine called The New Yorker, but I just saw Frances Ha yesterday and I’m a little New Yorked out right now. Sorry.

Front
I only read the blurbs in Goings On About Town. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes they’ll be about an artist or musician or something that I’ll seek out more info on as a result. Not this week. Anti-global warming Comment by Elizabeth Kolbert. I generally find the Comment to be worthless. Standard liberal whatever–nothing that’s ever interesting or thought-provoking. The very definition of preaching to the choir.* Other than that, a banner week for Talk. I liked the thing about Arne Svenson, a photographer who surreptitiously took pictures of people in the apartment building across the street from him and collected them into a gallery show. He was then “surprised and upset” to find that the people in the building didn’t want to be secretly photographed in their homes by a stranger. Amazing. The other two shorts were also enjoyable.

*I assume conservatives read The Dallasite or something instead of TNY.

Middle
The best piece this week was George Packer’s Reporter at Large about politics and Silicon Valley. What really interested me was the discussion of how tech jillionaires affect the local character of San Francisco. From where I sit (Oakland) they have an almost wholly negative influence. SF has two kinds of people: rich douchebags and homeless people. I don’t think I would enjoy living there even if I could afford to. There’s some fun stuff to do there, but I don’t feel a need to cross the bay more than once a month or so. One fact Mr. Packer cites is that the black population of SF has shrunk to less than 4%. That’s amazing. I can’t imagine there’s another major American city even close to that. I won’t be able to say anything here that improves on the article. Well worth reading. If you can’t read it, the takeaway is this: Computer types in the Bay genuinely seem to think they’re heroes for revolutionizing the world and society with their smartphone app that lets you order sushi from home and have absolutely no larger perspective about anything.

Jeffrey Toobin on stop-and-frisk was good as usual. One of the best things about TNY is their stable of beat-ish journalists who are both interesting writers and have genuine expertise (Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande on medicine are probably the best example).

I said earlier I was New Yorked out right now, but I make an exception for Tad Friend’s story about a local real-estate scam artist. I try not to do summary, but I can’t resist. Kind-of-but-not-really famous photographer rents an apartment. He gets into financial distress. He agrees to sublet his apartment to dozens of different people on Craigslist. He meets some of them. Some of them try to move in. He manages to mostly evade them and abscond with many thousands of dollars. There’s a lengthy process involving a lot of people and housing court and regular court and his dupes and his landlord and his dog. He’s eventually sent to jail. Great read.

I like when they do a Portfolio. I do wish they’d have more images. These felt like the kind of photos you’d see 3’x4’ prints of in a museum. Hard to capture that in a magazine, so why bother trying? I thought the goose was the best.

Fiction
The gimmicky format stuff can be dicey. I didn’t think this one really worked.

Back
Sort of interesting Daft Punk review. I guess they are a big cultural force now. When did that happen? I like two Daft Punk videos. Maybe not like. Captivated by in a difficult-to-explain way.

They used to play this video on The Box a lot. Nothing about the 90s seems more hopelessly quaint than The Box.

I guess this isn’t an official Daft Punk video. Whatever.

Apparently there is a neverending stream of Dante translations on the market. As you might guess, there are a lot of ways to translate rhyming verse from medieval Italian. Some of them tend to the ridiculous, apparently. Also some fun notes on the latest Dan Brown novel, which seems to be sort of about the Divine Comedy.

I haven’t yet seen either of the movies reviewed by David Denby this week. Just as well.

Cartoons
Improperly drawn striped tie on page 64. You’d think everyone at America’s WASPiest publication would wear a striped rep tie every day and could therefore draw one correctly. I bet cartoons in the 50s had correctly drawn tie stripes.

Caption Contest entry
“Hey, you can fly!”

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