The New Yorker: July 1, 2013

3 Jul

Cover
I have mixed feelings this week. On one hand, I like it. On the other hand, the comic strip thing seems like a slippery slope. I’d prefer a single drawing. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a dumb complaint. There’s still a big drawing that’s the main focus.

Front
I don’t usually read the letters to the editor, but I checked this week and was horrified to find that the page contained web comments “edited for length and clarity”. Web comments? Really? Christ. This is a magazine that used to be famous for not publishing any letters at all. Now they publish web comments. I wholeheartedly object.

Highlights of Talk were Spike Lee testifying at a City Council Subcommittee meeting about Madison Square Garden and career backup singer and upcoming documentary subject Darlene Love appearing on Letterman. David Letterman is great. There’s no one else who does what he does. I should watch his show more.

Middle
The piece about Lyme disease was interesting but I felt like it barely scratched the surface. It’s hard to get too deep in a 6-pager but I left wanting more. I didn’t realize Lyme disease was such a new phenomenon. I also wished Michael Specter had talked more about the relationships between the various bacteria involved and how people define “chronic Lyme” vis-à-vis those bacteria. I think a lot of self-diagnosed Lyme disease patients are people who simply preferred that disease to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Sounds like there’s quite a lot of work to be done on the basic biology of the whole situation. That was news to me.

Always a pleasure to see John McPhee in the magazine. His recent series about the process of writing might be the best thing in the magazine over the last few years. I wouldn’t have picked him for a golf ball hound, but his story about it is immediately recognizable as McPhee. He’s the best.

I liked the reported story from Mali. Most of the middle east things in the magazine are depressing and tend towards the tedious, but this was pretty good. Maybe that’s just because I know so much less about Mali than Syria et al.

My biggest takeaway from the Ed Ruscha profile is that his name is pronounced Ru-SHAY. Museum wall cards don’t usually have pronunciation guides. Artist profiles are frustrating. Especially reading a hard copy. Not enough visual reference. Reading descriptions of paintings just doesn’t fly when the internet is a thing.

Fiction
I haven’t read much at all of Joyce Carol Oates. I probably should. The big news about this story is that it’s mostly set on a hiking trail in Berkeley that I regularly hike on. Shoutout to Wildcat Peak trail. Stumbling on that kind of thing is awesome. Number two on my list of TNY personal connections. Number one was a Personal History by Aleksandar Hemon. It was about the neighborhood in Chicago where I used to live. He lived in the building next door to mine and drank at a bar I frequented. I wanted to carry the magazine with me down the street and tell strangers about it.

Back
The book review about Chinese prisons was interesting. The real value of magazines like TNY is reading stuff like this that I’d never seek out on my own. I’ve found that by reading cover-to-cover every week I’m almost always glad I did for this reason.

There was a novel in Briefly Noted called Our Man in Iraq. Lame. Obviously an homage/rip-off/comment/whatever on Our Man in Havana. What a lazy way to name your book. Come up with something on your own. Our Man in Havana is good by the way. I like Graham Greene.

So David Denby really really liked World War Z. Didn’t see that coming. He called it “the most gratifying action spectacle in years”. Wow. I should just ignore the guy for my own sanity. Although I guess it’s fun to write stuff about him on the internet. Maybe he can become my nemesis. That’s probably unlikely. Bête noire might be more realistic.

Copyediting
Last week I made not of the differing treatment of acronyms. Specifically, that “MRI” was rendered without periods. Well guess what. This week there was more magnetic resonance imaging, but it was “M.R.I.”. Hmm. I don’t quite know what to say. Could this just be an oversight? That seems impossible. Also, this week DNA made an appearance sans periods. What’s going on over there?

Cartoons
Slow week. Cavemen on page 61 was OK.

Caption contest entry*
I don’t know how to tell you this, but…you’re a dog.

*Please note that there is an improperly drawn striped tie in this cartoon.

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