The New Yorker: September 16, 2013

18 Sep

Cover
Not into this one. I assume it’s a commentary on Manhattan real estate and moving to the suburbs and such. Don’t care. That’s a dumb thing to comment about. And if it’s something else and I missed it then whatever. Time to step the cover game up. They’ve been very subpar.

Front
First I want to mention the redesign that’s apparently happening next week. I’m glad someone at TNY has been reading and took my advice. You’re welcome. I’m looking forward to it. Note that I do NOT approve of any change to the font. That’s distressing to read. More next week. Three quintessential Talk pieces this week. A rich Korean guy who is trying to make it as a knuckleballer, shipping pieces of a giant bronze sculpture on flatbeds and installing them in Brooklyn, and an off-Broadway theater making a performance solely out of Eugene O’Neill’s stage directions. Plus a well-explained economics piece by James Surowiecki. And a fairly standard Comment from George Packer. This might be the Platonic ideal of Talk of the Town as it exists in 2013.

Middle
I was excited to see Flannery O’Connor’s name in the Table of Contents this week. TNY always gets first dibs on newly-discovered work from dead famous writers. Not so excited when it came time to read it. It’s a collection of prayers from Ms. O’Connor’s journal as a young writer. I didn’t get anything out of it. Maybe if you’re not familiar with religion in America or how prayer fits into it there could be some interest. It wasn’t that revealing about Ms. O’Connor’s writing or personal life. It mostly served to remind me why I stopped going to church and to reassure me that I made the right decision.

New trend in mental illness: paranoid delusions that you’re the star of a reality show. It’s called the Truman Show delusion. The article does a good job explaining how delusions in schizophrenics are culturally-based and how that does and doesn’t impact the treatment of the disease. Andrew Marantz uses a case study of a guy from Ohio to illustrate how the delusion works. Crazy stuff is always happening in Ohio. I would not want to live there.

Ryan Lizza always brings it. A very lengthy summary of the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. I try to avoid politics in all facets of my life, but I appreciate the level of detail and information in Mr. Lizza’s reporting. I feel like I have a good understanding of the issue when I’m done reading. That’s surprisingly rare in political reporting.

I like Tad Friend. He’s a good writer, and he always seems to find interesting people and topics to write about. His Bryan Cranston profile was fairly standard for a TNY profile. I enjoyed it. The most interesting thing to me was the abundance of Breaking Bad spoilers it contained. Not just old spoilers, but new, last week’s episode spoilers. With no warnings! I’m not opposed to that, but it totally flies in the face of our new SPOILER ALERT culture. I wonder if there was any editorial discussion about it. I get the feeling that anything about Breaking Bad TNY might publish online would have warnings. I guess the feeling is that anyone reading a Bryan Cranston profile either a) is caught up on the show, b) never plans to watch the show, or c) knows better than to read a lengthy piece about its star. I know I have avoided any and all writing about TV shows I like that I’m behind on.

Fiction
A very engaging story this week from Tahar Ben Jelloun. I know I’ve said I wish there were fewer in-translation selections in the magazine, but this one was good. I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t see the ending coming. In retrospect it was pretty obvious. Oh well. I suppose you could say that the ending turns it into a piece of propaganda or politics or something. I’d be interested to hear someone smart talk about that, but I think that subject is a little beyond me.

Back
I like when they put the movie reviews first instead of last. Gives Anthony Lane a little room to spread out. I wish they’d do it more often. Hard to think of two more different movies to review. Wadjda and Riddick. Guess which one I’m interested in?

David Denby back with another non-review movie piece. A review of recent books detailing how Hollywood related to Germany and Hitler in the 30s. One of those short pieces that’s interesting mainly as a microcosm of a larger issue. No one really wants to remember how many powerful people in America felt pretty good about Hitler until 1941.

Talking about Generations and media and how the new Generation is changing everything and they need to be catered to etc. has been a tired media trope for my whole life. It’s a dumb topic and I don’t care about it. That’s my feeling about this new TV network for Millennials and any and all media reactions to it.

Cartoons
Edward Steed on page 77. His drawings are just funny, that’s all there is to it. I can’t even explain why this one is so good. Just the facial expressions and the guy on the left stirring the pot… he’s great.

Caption contest entry
“Larry, quit whining or you’re fired.”

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