The New Yorker: September 2, 2013

4 Sep

As a general rule I’m against words in cover illustrations, but this one incorporated them as well as it can be done. The sidebar, the spilled ice cream, the simplicity of the colors. Really appealing. The tree branch creeping in from the right side was a nice addition.

By far the most notable thing in Goings On was a movie blurb. TNY will occasionally blurb repertory films that are being screened in NYC. This week one was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Usually there will be a newly-written blurb, whether it’s in the featured space or not. This week TNY did something I haven’t seen before–they used the original Pauline Kael blurb from 1982. With no fanfare, just presented as always with –Pauline Kael at the end. I think this is brilliant. It’s a perfect way to plumb the magazine’s history without being obvious or masturbatory about it. And this magazine has a history like few others, especially when it comes to noteworthy contributors like Ms. Kael.

The other notable movie blurb is another oldie, but with a new blurb from Richard Brody. Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s playing in NYC this week. Can this happen without everyone in attendance making Seinfeld jokes? If you were going, would you have dinner at a Chinese restaurant beforehand? Mr. Brody didn’t provide any guidance. It would have been a nice touch if he had dropped in a little wink.

The closer from Steve Coll’s Comment about government leak prosecutions:

If nothing else, Holder would demonstrate to the world that the Obama Administration perceives the difference between a professional reporter’s dissenting acceptance of the rule of law and the rejection, by Assange and Snowden, of American law’s essential reliability.

I try not to be political or controversial, but wow. If Mr. Coll thinks American law in 2013 is “essentially reliable” he’s a goddamned moron.

A couple pretty blah short pieces about panda bears and a new Indian political party. I guess I’m not as fascinated as most people by pandas. And I thought the India piece barely scratched the surface. It could have been a lot longer and more detailed. I don’t think using one reformer as an entry point worked very well; the interesting parts of the story seem much larger than him.

The Novak Djokovic profile was kind of bland. Not necessarily because of the subject, but because of the approach. I think to make this kind of profile work, you just have to assume that the audience has a prior understanding and working knowledge of tennis and the current pro tennis scene. Otherwise you get bogged down in a lot of boring exposition and dumbing down of details. That’s what happened here. Write it like you’re submitting to Grantland or whatever and accept that some percentage of readers won’t get it and won’t read it. Or don’t bother.

I hadn’t thought about the issues raised by the MSNBC story. I think the fundamental problem is if you’re targeting liberals, you can’t sustain a news channel without an election or other big overarching thing happening. I think a lot of MSNBC’s target audience prefers the Stewart/Colbert approach. That is, making fun of conservatives without trying to be too serious or weighty. And you can’t do comedy on a news channel.

Big name this week. Robert Coover with a rather dense piece of Serious Fiction. A much more difficult read than your average short story. I felt like I missed some things, so I read the interview on That was a little helpful. I’d need to read the story again to have a solid opinion on it. I’m probably not going to do that.

The best part of Joan Acocella’s dance review was the accompanying picture. Full page, B&W, it really popped.

Last week we had a double-dip from David Denby, this week from Anthony Lane. An art review of an early photographer. I loved some of the little technical details. I’d like to know more about that. Turns out I didn’t learn everything in Basic Photo class in 9th grade. Mr. Lane’s my favorite movie critic, and his non-movie pieces are always a bit jarring. Something longer and more put-together is such a different kind of writing than a weekly movie review. He has a book of collected writings, I should check it out.

I like when Sasha Frere-Jones writes about offbeat new music. I don’t have very many sources for new music. Julia Holter this week. I listened to some of her stuff. I’m not smart enough to have intelligent opinions about intelligent music but I liked what I heard. Mr. Frere-Jones had the highlight of the week with his description of Ms. Holter: “She looks like an Eastern European novelist who is ten years away from receiving a major prize.” Ha. Shoutout to Ms. Holter by the way for briefly attending the University of Michigan. Sounds like she was there at the same time as me. Julia! We should have been friends!

Waterfowl on page 50 was the best. Farley Katz.

Caption contest entry
“Oh come on Steve, you just threw one there yesterday.”

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