The New Yorker: July 22, 2013

24 Jul

Cover
It’s been a really rough stretch for TNY covers. I don’t get the point of this one. Cars are overrunning the Hamptons? People are overrunning the Hamptons? Who cares. This cover is pure White Rich. Do better.

Front
The most notable thing here was the Talk short about Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. Written of course before the enjoyable news of one Carlos Danger. Should have held onto that one for a week.

Middle
Depressing reporting about the Middle East as per usual. Here’s my take on the Egypt situation based on my reading of this article and other TNY Egypt reporting. As far as I can tell, the religious parties are the only ones with a chance of winning. They all seem to have the same goal: to win the election and then maneuver to rewrite the constitution to suit them and to eliminate future elections. This seems like a bad way to start out your democracy. The first election is easy; it’s the second one that’s hard. My guess is that the military will also depose the next elected government. The whole thing is a total mess. I also don’t think the billion dollars and change the US gives to Egypt is doing much good. Especially considering that everyone there from all over the political spectrum seems to hate us. Of course, this raises the whole problem of US policy in the Middle East. On one hand, we want to support free elections. On the other hand, in free elections the candidates who win are the ones who hate the US the most. Kind of an awkward position for us to be in. Maybe time for a new strategy.

Shouts & Murmurs this week from Jack Handey. He’s best known for having deep thoughts. This was similar–a series of quick hitters. I wonder if he ever does any writing that’s longer than two sentences. Cool to see TNY publish this. I wish they did more off-beat stuff like this instead of their usual humor writing, which is so often half-hearted and boring. I also wish they would find more people who could write pieces in the vein of David Sedaris. Light humor stuff, but a little longer and character- or situation-driven, rather than just an extended simple joke on a single premise.

John Seabrook was good on the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore. The thing that makes it difficult/crazy is that the whole coastline is built on narrow barrier island that are always shifting and the beaches are always naturally washing away etc. It costs many billions of dollars to maintain the status quo. Sounds pretty dumb to me. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the whole scheme. I definitely don’t have any sympathy for the people involved. Maybe move back to the mainland and stop worrying about hurricanes and stop requiring my tax dollars to rebuild beaches and build seawalls and create huge sand dunes so your vacation home doesn’t wash away. And of course it’s just a matter of time until sea levels rise to the point that this is all irrelevant and every dollar being spent now is a sunk cost. Haha what a great joke get it sunk cost puns are hilarious.

I count on TNY to bring me stories of weirdos and fringe groups and all kinds of other nonsense. This week’s report on rare egg collectors in the UK did not disappoint. There are apparently lunatics who sneak around stealing eggs from the nests of endangered birds. There is also a crew of G-men (do they call them G-men in the UK?) whose job it is to catch them. The accompanying photo of two of these middle-aged British guys in their full-body camo gear is truly hilarious.

Fiction
I liked this one. Every now and then TNY will hit with this kind of low-key surrealism or whatever you want to call it. Maybe that’s a bad descriptor. It’s not really magical realism or any other established genre I can think of. The kind of story that’s supposed to feel very modern and George Saundersy. Maybe that’s also bad. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Kind of reminded me of Atria by Ramona Ausubel, which is one of my favorite TNY stories of the last couple years. Probably not that similar upon close inspection, but kind of a similar theme in a loose way.

Back
The trend toward memoir and away from interesting books is really sad for publishing. Now you can apparently write a book that gets reviewed in TNY if your dad was a well-known writer. James Wood tackled FOUR different ones this week. Yikes. How big a William Styron fan do you have to be to read his daughter’s book about him? And that’s one of the books where the author seems to at least sort of like her dad. Saul Bellow’s son apparently hates him or holds a big-time grudge or has unresolved issues and wrote a book about it. That sounds like a tedious and horrible reading experience. What’s the audience–people who like Saul Bellow or people who hate him? Anyway. I’d never read any of these books but I did enjoy this review. Especially the old John Cheever tidbits. That’s what his daughter should write. A compendium of tidbits. Short enough to publish in whole in this very magazine. Especially since Mr. Cheever’s relationship with the magazine is so central to him and his work.

Shoutout to this week’s Briefly Noted blurbster*, who said 30 is the new 20 in a review. Good to hear. And then an anti-shoutout for closing with this quote from the book: “We hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone.” Thanks for reminding me, dick. I should mention the book if I’m going to quote from it. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Doesn’t sound like my thing.

*I can’t wait to see TPY referenced in the OED when this word I just invented becomes accepted into the language.

Cartoons
Proper tie stripes on page 45. Good work, Bob Epstein.

Caption contest entry
“Close the door Jerry, we have the air conditioner on.”

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