The New Yorker: September 30, 2013

2 Oct

Cover
Breaking Bad is kind of a cool thing to put on the cover, but combining it with a Syria commentary is dumb. Like, is it supposed to be funny? Hard to take it too seriously as political discourse when you start adding TV characters.

Front
The paleo running thing kind of grabbed me. In that running actually barefoot seems crazy. Without any of the little sandal things you always see joggers wearing now. The big thing is that it forces you to strike with the balls of your feet, which is supposed to be biomechanically superior. I tried that in my (pretty minimalist) running shoes this week and it feels unnatural. Hard to do for more than several strides. And I don’t think I could run barefoot in my neighborhood. There is a LOT of broken glass on my usual routes. Shoutout to East Oakland.

My note on the Harry Dean Stanton piece: looking up guys like him on imdb is fun. He’s been in a lot of notable movies/TV shows in the last ten years. And also shows like Bonanza, The Untouchables, and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Amazing.

Middle
I liked Xan Rice’s Letter from Somalia. Somalia seems like a fascinating place. I’d rather see TNY run recurring reports from there than Syria etc.

Cora Frazier’s had some good S&M (this is my funny new Shouts & Murmurs abbreviation) pieces of late. This was about as it gets in the “series of statements that connect into a comedy piece” genre. I also liked the illustration.

I am almost incredulous about Josh Eells’s report on Las Vegas dance club DJs. How can they be so popular? Maybe this is just an indication of how profoundly not fun I am, but going to Vegas to party at an 8,000-capacity dance club playing dubstep sounds like just about the least fun thing in the world to me. More evidence that people are terrible, I suppose.

Dexter Filkins deserves note for his tightly put-together, well-reported piece about the Iranian operative controlling Syria. I say this every time TNY runs a Middle East report, but it’s just so depressing. The main takeaway is that the more the US is involved in anything, the more fucked up it gets. The secondary takeaway is that essentially no one in the US government has any kind of clue what’s going on over there or how to effectively advance US interests.

Ariel Levy’s profile of gay marriage plaintiff Edith Windsor was pretty standard stuff. The highlight was the picture of her late spouse in Suriname wearing a pith helmet at a jaunty angle. One for the ages. I wish someone in my family was in a picture that cool so I could hang it on the wall.

Fiction
Really good one this week from Joshua Ferris. The formal gimmick isn’t that new or noteworthy. I’d even say that to use something like that you really need to be on point otherwise it looks amateurish. His execution of it was just about flawless. The strength of the story is the way he was able to capture how fragile the emotional harmony of a relationship can be. His structure added to that and was the cherry on top.

Back
I’m always excited to see Louis Menand in the TOC. He was terrific as always this week.

The main thing I took away from Anthony Lane’s Rush review is that he seems to know more about the characters than Ron Howard does. This bit introducing the racing storyline needs to be quoted in full:

Never was battle joined with more fury than in 1976, when the outcome was decided in the final minutes of the final race, and settled by a single point. In the words of Tom Rubython, whose timidly titled book, “In the Name of Glory: 1976, the Greatest Ever Sporting Duel,” covers the same ground as the film, “No Hollywood screenwriter could have scripted such an ending or described the human drama of such a dramatic season.” That sound you hear is the nibbling of an author’s fingernails, as he waits for a producer to call.

The best.

Cartoons
“Bread torn into little pieces” on page 32. HA. Taco at a burrito fight is also funny. Page 68. Special note to the waves on page 80. I wish there were more weird cartoons like that.

Caption contest entry
“Cool robe!”

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