The New Yorker: August 26, 2013

28 Aug

Cover
Similar in a lot of ways to the most recent cover. Simple and summery. This one is better. Green is better than yellow, and there’s the tree in the middle to break up the color monotony. Sort of a van Gogh tree, with the big impasto strokes. I like it.

Front
Apparently in London all of the skyscrapers have nicknames. The shard, the cheesegrater, the gherkin. I endorse that wholeheartedly. The clash between modern architecture and history in old European cities is something I’d like to read more about. I’m generally pro-modernity, but it seems like a complicated issue.

Some well-explained common sense from James Surowiecki about luxury goods pricing and lobster. Apparently wholesale lobster prices are way down, which would make this a good time to take a trip to Maine. My family went on a trip to Boston and Maine when I was in high school. The Maine coast is a fun drive. Would be even more fun with cheap lobster at all the lobster shacks.

Middle
I liked the report from Alec Wilkinson about an art forger who donates his fakes to museums, who often don’t realize they’re fakes. The meat of the issue was unfortunately glossed over. That is, to what extent does our enjoyment of art depend on its authenticity/provenance? If a museum has a copy of a Mary Cassatt, and I can’t distinguish between the copy and the original, does it matter? Is it legitimate to enjoy a copy? If it is legitimate, what is the value of a skilled reproduction? A lithograph? A poster? If it isn’t legitimate, why not? I’d lean to “not legitimate” in the case of forgeries. A lot of the appeal of an art museum to me is that it’s also a kind of history museum. It seems important to maintain the integrity of that history.

A plus plus to this week’s Shouts & Murmurs. A lot less jokey than usual. This felt like it could have worked as a fiction entry with some lengthening. It could have had a little bit of a Shirley Jackson feel with some darkening and some narrative adjustment. As it is, it worked almost perfectly as a short humor piece.

I’m going to try to stay away from eye-rolling about Meghan O’Rourke’s piece about suffering from an auto-immune disorder. I thought the comparison she made between herself and her aunts with similar health problems at the end was instructive. More people should think of illness like the aunts do. It’s also good to have an occasional reminder like this that our understanding of the human body/brain/nervous system/etc. is a lot more limited than we like to think.

Ken Auletta is good, but his Michael Bloomberg was sort of blah. Not a lot of new ground to cover with the guy, frankly. An informative enough summary for those of us who don’t keep up with NYC politics.

The Jordan refugee camp piece surprised me. David Remnick is a good writer. Sometimes the Middle East stuff gets tiresome for me, but this was fast-paced and had just enough hard info stuff to keep it away from human-interest territory.

Fiction
Serviceable I guess. It’s hard to evaluate stories like this translated from Chinese. It’s so obvious while reading that a lot of the language gets lost. English translations of Chinese/Japanese always have such a distinct feel. I would almost rather see a literal translation with a ton of footnotes, especially for something this short. That would be an interesting read for sure.

Back
I spend a lot of time criticizing David Denby. I don’t think he’s a good movie critic. He does occasionally write longer pieces, like this week’s book review of Ava Gardner biographies. He’s much better at this kind of writing. He should be doing it full time instead of inflicting his opinions of new releases on us.

A notable Briefly Noted blurb this week about a new memoir by David Foster Wallace’s wife Karen Green. I hadn’t heard about this book, but the blurb makes me not want to read it. I say this as someone who has read three different posthumous books about DFW. I’ve heard reference to some extreme fans who have tried to get their hands on his autopsy report and such. That holds absolutely no interest to me, and the blurb makes it sound like this book gets into some pretty grisly territory. I don’t know how much of the book is about the suicide, but that’s not for me. Maybe someday.

A pretty effusive review of the new Earl Sweatshirt album by Sasha Frere-Jones. He fits in comparisons to Ghostface and Nas in one paragraph. I’m listening to it now, Earl definitely has a way with words. He has tracks from The Neptunes, Alchemist, and RZA, but most of it’s self-produced. Not my favorite producer. A little too cute with the drums. A little to simple with the samples. He does keep it pretty grimy, which I appreciate. I think the Nas/Ghost comparisons are interesting because even if you don’t think he’s up to that standard lyrically (and I don’t), he’d definitely sound better over the kinds of tracks those guys had in the mid 90s. RZA definitely stands out here. Earl would kill it with Premier, Pete Rock, et al. He even sounds a little like GURU if you twist your ears a bit. And shoutout to Earl for bringing back “gully”. A long-underappreciated adjective.

I don’t think I’m going to see The Butler. Too many Forrest Gump comparisons. Sounds like an apt one from my understanding of the movie. I do not like Forrest Gump. The Presidential stunt casting sounds… interesting. I’ll admit I’m curious about that. Also kind of curious about Lovelace but I think I already missed it in the theater. Maybe both of them on Netflix next year. And Mr. Denby sounded downright reasonable this week. Maybe his book review rubbed off onto his movie review.

Cartoons
Meh. It’s been a bad run for cartoons lately.

Caption contest entry
“God damn it Gary you look at my wife again and I’ll really get angry.”

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