September New Yorker reads
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I hope many more of you will join us in this less pressured environment.
I don't know if I am going to meet my extension deadline..... I'm still paddling through the fiction.
Because of the Nabokov I was butterfly sensitized this morning -- saw a few -- monarchs, some kind of similar looking one, but smaller, little yellow ones, and then the blacky-purple with the white strip along the top of the wing..... I don't have a proper butterfly ID book, just a book on the pleasures of studying butterflies......
Well, maybe your deadline can be reduced in intensity to a guideline, especially if you're enjoying the fiction. At the rate you've been going, you can slack off and still become current this month or next.
I got so excited about the above I forgot to add that I finished this fiction issue. On the whole I'm pretty impressed with it. Two of the stories were very good -- they had a theme: 'lost' young people. The middle one by Jeffrey Eugenides didn't quite work for me although it had some moments and the description of Calcutta, of being a volunteer for Mother T. there, brought the experience to life.
One essay - the last 'how I became a writer' is wonderful -- as a disaffected teen the writer found St. John's University and never looked back. That is a college I wish I had considered.
Lastly a review of a book on the influence of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin - I read an odd novel of hers earlier this year with Becky so it was of interest to me.
Edited for astonishing number of weird spelling mistakes.
Hmm, I might read the story for Calcutta.
I visited the St. John's Annapolis campus with a friend in HS, so it must've had some appeal, but I didn't pursue further and I don't think she did either, in any case didn't end up there.
I'm catching up with reviews (2 of 4 done), keeping on pace with the current book (The River of Doubt), stepping through January 2011 Scientific American, haven't opened a NYer since my post on Saturday night, and doubt I will today. I should be painting my house and weeding my yard too; not sure when that's gonna happen.
The piece about Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton's museum is great. I can't wait to go and see it. I loved the Ozarks when we drove through in the early 90's. Skipped ballet and financial-sector crime because...... well..... because. LOVED Gopnik's piece on trying to learn to draw. It's the best of his essays in a while. Didn't like the Munro -- and I studied Munro intensively at one period; I'm tired of this kind of story where you know the dog is gonna die. Boring.
Lastly an excellent overview of books about cities - as someone who left the depths of rural life for the middle of a city and is now back in the boonies, I have my own views on the matter..... I think the city is/was a fabulous place to bring up a child - although, ok, full disclosure - I admit, I'm ok that we aren't there for adolescence.
I don't quite get the cover. Is it the 'dogs looking like owners' thing?
I do not plan to touch a NYer until sometime next week.
That said, I'm cruising through Autumn 2006, and will report the interesting tidbits tonight.
>13 sibylline:. I loved the article about Alice Walton's art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. That's only about 5.5 hours from here. DH is always asking if I wouldn't like to go somewhere for the weekend. That sounds like the perfect place to go. The Ozarks are wonderful, particularly in the fall. It's not good to go hiking there in the summer because it's too hot, humid, and buggy. Coming from Colorado years ago, we were used to doing our hiking in the mountains in late July & August. The backpacking season in the Ozarks pretty much ends with Memorial Day--something we had a very hard time adjusting to.
Anywho, I'm so glad you mentioned that article.
I wanted to mention that if anyone is interested in the history of the New Yorker, there's a very entertaining and readable book, About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made, by Ben Yagoda. I might have mentioned this here before. He was one of the first researchers to use the NYer archives when they opened them up to researchers at the NYPL. I'm about 80 pages into the book, so I can't say if he will keep up the good pace that he's set for the first part of the book, but I would imagine he does. I love the stories of the people who first worked there--what a great group and what a great place to work. Fun.
Definitely, next time he asks say, I know where! I'll await your report. We had some adventures with our tent camper in the Ozarks, oh my!
October 9, 2006:
I was moved and educated by Richard Preston’s article on the tallest tree yet found, a redwood named Hyperion, with measures 379.1 feet tall when measured by an expert, Stephen Sillett, who climbed it and measured using a metal pole, for the topmost part that was unclimbable, and a tape line in the other direction. He estimated that it was yet a young tree, only 600 years old. That makes me feel a little insignificant.
I still have to read a piece by Milan Kundura on What is a Novelist, lessons from Proust and Flaubert. At least I’ve read two out of the three authors in that sentence – haven’t gotten to Marcel yet.
Ocotber 16, 2006:
This was the media issue for the year, and full of articles on magazines and newspapers and journalists and moguls, most of which I skipped. But there were four articles I found fascinating and amusing
1. The Formula (Malcolm Gladwell) – a few Brits decide to see if they can quantify what makes a movie hit, using hundreds of attributes and past track records, and ignoring quality. Very amusingly told, and perhaps the reason why so many of our movies, especially summer movies, are so much alike.
2. He Knew He Was Right (Ian Parker) – a sort of intellectual history of Christopher Hitchens and his steady steamroll to conservatism, in which Hitch does not come off very well. It was followed in a subsequent issue in November by some scathing letters to the editor that were just as much fun.
3. Book review by Jill Lepore on new books on Thomas Paine. The review was fascinating in that it told so much of Paine’s biography. I hadn’t realized that he had come over from Britain after he reached adulthood and after failing in business and losing his family, or that he left the new US for France in search of more and better revolution. I suppose I should look for the books Lepore reviewed, as well: Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, by Harvey J. Kaye, and Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations by Craig Nelson, and The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine by Paul Collins, not to mention Paine’s own writing. Lepore is delicious in her discussion of how so many people were discomfited by Paine, especially John Adams, and in the following paragraph:
“Thomas Paine is, at best, a lesser Founder. In the comic-book version of history that serves as our national heritage, where the Founding Fathers are like the Hanna-Barbera Super Friends, Pain is Aquaman to Washington’s superman and Jefferson’s Batman; we never find out how he got his superpowers, and he only shows up when they need someone who can swim.”
4. And, in the same issue, I found a review of Jessica Mitford’s book Daughters and Rebels, by Thomas Mallon, which gives a biographic gloss to ‘Decca’ and makes me want to read more about her as well.
And all that without reading about Murdoch or conspiracy theory or any of the other media stories in the issue. I loved the cover, too – a patchwork of floating eyes and ears in bright colors with barely visible media logos interspersed. I can see it as an eye-popping patchwork quilt in an outrageously modern white and steel bedroom.
October 30, 2006:
A much more sedate issue. What caught my eye was another Ian Frazier story, this one about a fish called a ‘snook’ and how it figured in his life, and a wonderful article on Alexander Hertzen, prominent in Stoppard’s wonderful theater trilogy ‘The Coast of Utopia’, which I had the extreme pleasure of seeing in its entirety. To watch Ethan Hawke (as Bakunin, I think) command the entire, huge stage at Lincoln Center as the subject of an interrogation – he just seemed to expand like the Incredible Hulk, without ever leaving his chair – forever will be one of my most wonderful theatrical memories.
Sigh – more history to catch up on.
You lucky duck! (The Stoppard)
In a perfect world, I would rent a place in NYC for a month or so and spend time just with the letters (and Yagoda says that both sides of the letters exist because they kept carbon copies of their own letters) of fiction editor Katharine Angell White--just for the shear pleasure of doing it. I think she's a fascinating personality, but unfortunately her biographer had Andy White hanging over her shoulder, so I'm afraid the "good stuff" was whitewashed.
Meanwhile, I confess I am enjoying my NY 'respite' although I keep wondering what's missing in my life??? Why is there so much extra time? ha ha
27: I am enjoying my NY 'respite' I'm trudging through June 6, with no more enthusiasm than you had. I expect to finish it, and the January 2011 Scientific American, and a short book (which will put me three reviews behind unless I get my act together), this weekend. So enjoy your respite a little longer, and I may be able to catch up.
Kundura, in contrast, states that Flaubert exemplifies the 'conversion', the maturation of a writer from the 'lyric age' of adolescent poetry to the age of the true novel, what Kundura calls 'the prose of life'. He then quotes a passage from Sentimental Education, in which Frederic, thinking himself in love with Madame Arnoux, goes home and views himself in his own mirror for a solid minute. This is what Kundura says is the 'lyric age' exemplified and gently mocked by Flaubert. I must read that book. Kundura further cites the end of Madame Bovary, when she flings her last five-franc coin at a beggar, and 'thought it quite fine, tossing the coin like that'. She is still measuring herself, pleased with herself even as she forges on to her death.
I hope this excerpt gets Kundura's point across, that novelists are interpreters, even re-enterpreters of life, distanced from the self-regard that so absorbs us - it's an article with many references to Flaubert, Proust and Cervantes, and has made me think quite a log.
In that issue also, an article by Mark Singer on Richard McNair, the wiliest prisoner ever to escape, repeatedly, from penitentiaries in various locations by a variety of means, including lip balm on his handcuffs (there's a lesson for you), close observation and what we would now call social engineering. As of the writing of the article, he was out again. He is such a con-man that in a rather extended meeting with an officer who had just been briefed on his latest escape, he manages to dazzle the officer into ignoring the obvious. There's a video-recording of the meeting, in which he is so likeable that the officer completely disregards what he himself is saying and lets McNair go!
Also, there is an article by Atul Gawande, always an interesting medical writer, on how childbirth techniques have changed over the years and why we now do so many Caesarian section deliveries. A little gruesome, actually, but very informative. And, a review of a biography of Kit Carson, containing, as Jill Lepore's reviews often do, much history of the time. It's interesting that a review like this rarely comments on the quality of the book or writing - it's more an introduction to the material and an invitation to look further.
AND - a 'review' of Hart Crane, prompted by the publication of a volume of his work by the Library of America.
AND - a review of the movie 'The Queen'. But I was too tired by then to do more than skim it.
And that's why I'm still reading 2006.
Yes. I generally suppose the book to be worthwhile or the article would not have been written, because it does rather imply that the mentioned book is the place to look for more, but I don't know that I've ever followed through; typically the several page summary is as much as I want to know.
And that's why I'm still reading 2006.
Heh. I'm finding the NYer challenge a little bit addictive now. Instead of surfing the internet, I pick up the magazine and read a short article. I moved twice, in 2006 and 2009, and both times the backlog of magazines went into recycling. I'm grateful that you kept yours. You're not too far from 2007, and in theory you just have to read them faster than they arrive and you'll eventually catch up.
30 -I remember the McNair piece! The NYer loves these stories about scoundrels and rogues, and they are entertaining, no doubt about it!
I was a bit confused about the first para about Flaubert -- were these two prefacers are saying that Madame Bovary is less than a work of genius??? How peculiar! A Sentimental Education is my favorite of his books (I haven't read them all, could not get into Salambo for instance. But SE is often very funny -- maybe it is something to do with his send-up of that kind of self-conscious, self-absorption. In Bovary I've never been able to get past this feeling that while he is showing how empty Emma's life is, so she can hardly help being as shallow as she is, at the same time he somehow can take it to the limit because she is a woman. I always felt something mean in it. He is kinder to Frederic - a man - at least, that is how I remember it. I could be so wrong. I was in my teens the first time I read Bovary, early thirties second time and when I read SE. I just felt that Flaubert had an inner lack of regard for women as full people that made Bovary possible for him to write in the ruthless way he did. I might not feel so judgmental about it now, or I might feel it even more. Who knows?
Re multiplying books... all I can offer is sympathy from the similarly drowning. Earlier this year I'd actually gotten everything cataloged and shelved, for the first time ever. Now I have stacks of books on the floor again.
I'm trying to formulate a decision tree for deaccession, but it's still hard. I think the Dick Francis will be the next to go, as they do not comprise a series. I'll have to see what other stuff is on the top shelf. If I can move the other series to that shelf, and free up some space lower down... sigh.
You are getting within spitting distance of me!!! Not the most attractive metaphor, but heck!
I'll be amazed if I get through another NYer next week..... things are hotting up, getting busy. I am going on a trip Sept 28- Oct 4 that will involve several hours of flight time, and I like to take NYers so I can throw them away as I read. I find it so satisfying to stride through an airport terminal chucking them into bins as I go, my bag lightening up with every step, etc.
June 27, and thus June, done. Read Talk of the Town re Anthony Weiner, NAEP history scores, Hue-Man book store in Harlem. Read about Alice Walton and Crystal Bridges (aagh! the web pages slide around and won't stay put). I like the image of bidding for art while riding a horse, otherwise, well, art isn't a thing I get emotional about, whether it's in Arkansas or New York, and wow that's a lot of money. Now the architecture of building and landscape, that's interesting. Skipped ballet. Read about the financial shenanigans and trial of Raj Rajaratnam. Again a lot of money sloshing around, and this time as a game and for personal gain, with no social consciousness whatsoever. Read Adam Gopnik about learning to draw with Jacob Collins, and here art becomes interesting, described as a craft, and as an interplay of conceptual and perceptual. Read Nicholas Lehmann about cities, with references to several books: The Cosmopolitan Canopy by Elijah Anderson, The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser, Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda / Greg Lindsay (an "entity" that doesn't conform to LT's author system), Arrival City by Doug Saunders, The Agile City by James S. Russell. Skipped fiction, music, theater, art, cinema.
Don't worry. I have NO INTENTION of touching a NYer this week. I'll be curious, in fact, to see what articles grab you in this issue. I wasn't terribly grabbed by anything. -- oh and I forgot to mention a piece on a Hungarian modernist Laszlo Krasznahorkai - I've read a bunch of Gombrovitz (polish) and Handke (austrian) and some others and while.... hmm..... there is something in it, this obsessive close-up stuff, it is also, for me, side-stepping too many other ingredients of fiction-writing, becoming too narrow and too cerebral. In other words, I doubt I'll be reading any Laszlo. That said there are a few modernists I do like -- Lars Gustafson I have to make sure I've got his name right) being one -- but his work has this incredible 'soul' in it. I will say though that bits of the words and ideas of the writers I've mentioned have stayed with me, so there is something in it.
In the meantime, back in the November 13, 2006 issue, I read
- an article by Ben McGrath on bicyclists in New York, known for their actions under the name 'Critical Mass' to make biking more supported (and the police more supportive)
- an article by Janet Malcolm, 'Strangers in Paradise', about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Mostly about Alice, and mostly fascinating, bringing her more to the fore as a personality in her own right. What sticks with me most is the way Stein's heirs mistreated Alice after Stein's death, and comments by several men who met Stein on how sexy she was! Who would have thought it?
- an article by Cynthia Zarin about the Icelandic artist and designer Olafur Eliasson, which described his collaborative approach to design. Very interesting, in that it focuses on design as both an imaginative, artistic endeavor and an engineering problem.
- Rebecca Mead on the 'cosmetic-surgery cult', as she titled the piece.
- Rachel Cohen on Leonard Woolf's writing life. I didn't and don't know much about Leonard Woolf except by association with Virginia Woolf, and it was refreshing to read about him and his contributions to writing history and publishing, as well as his support for his wife.
- a review of the movie 'Fur' by David Denby that is definitely not favorable, but does praise Nicole Kidman for doing whatever odd little film that catches her interest.
I may finish 2006 before Thanksgiving!
I've been somewhat tempted to alternate new and old, but so far I've stuck with chronological order because it's less confusing and I have hopes of getting current within a couple months. If I'd done the honorable thing and kept all the magazines that I didn't read in previous years, I might be extremely tempted to stay current but intersperse the backlog.
November 13, 2006
I think I read this one!
I was such a Bloomsbury maniac that I even read old Len's journals -- he wrote well, very clearly and concisely and I kept on going even though he was rarely emotionally revealing about anything to do with his private life. A very punctilious and kind person, but on the cool side, and, seemingly suited to be dedicated to VW's health and welfare, while having a very fulfilling life of his own.
Alternating new and old wouldn't be a bad idea. I don't mean to say I never read the current issue, but I usually don't sit down to read all of it. Cartoons first (of course), and then if some title grabs me or if Jim talks about a particular article, I sometimes read it THAT VERY WEEK. Otherwise I just skim the TOC to see if something feels important to read immediately.
Did you know that Ross originally did not print a table of contents? When people objected, he said that it was meant to be read through from cover to cover. Eventually, he caved, of course, but for quite a few years, he held firm. I think I read that in Brendan Gill's Here at the New Yorker, many years ago, and it stuck with me.
Have I caught up? My goal is to finish July by the end of September.
Or excessively accessible! Completely missed the Thomas book.....
I think feasible to get current w/ NYers by the end of the year, then in 2012 I'll concentrate on catchup with other magazines.
This is a great issue and I think you'll love it too -- even the poems are worth reading -- I think you'll like both of them (before air-conditioning, dinosaurs). The story is not anything special. The Sedaris is very funny, Jaron Lanier is the 'new' person I'd never heard of, a genius clearly and an intriguing person. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook upper management fame, who I had heard of, was fascinating to read about - both her achievements and her attitudes, the article on Rwandan bicyclists was utterly riveting, heartbreaking, revelatory - Rwanda is, apparently, breathtakingly lovely.
Now I will rest on my laurels! I won't read any until I start my trip on the 28th. I will probably take four with me, two for the trip down and two for the trip back. I don't always get through them, but if there is a delay, well, I might regret having only four!
James Surowiecki's Financial Page was, in hindsight, way off the mark. He assigns the Democrats the dominance in balancing the budget, and thinks the just-passed elections will not change things much. He also cites the previous two recessions in somehow predicting that we won't have another serious one soon. Alas.
Bill Buford introduces us to a man who can literally talk Turkey - the bird, that is. Joe Hutto can converse with the wild turkeys he knows and sometimes raises, and has raised seemingly dozens of other species as well, in his role as wildlife biologist. Just the idea of talking turkey had me open-mouthed.
William Dalrymple explores the tradition of oral storytelling in rural India, a skill and way of life threatened by literacy and other forms of narrative - i.e. tv. The thought of anyone being able to recite a story over six 8 hour nights is wildly impressive, but there is a whole family profession of it in the most conservative of India's regions, and the stories are being lost as people become (paradoxically) more educated.
Peter J. Boyer actually had me reading about Donald Rumsfeld! I wouldn't have believed it, but the article on Rummy and the controversy over which kind of war our military should be trained to fight was quite compelling.
Elizabeth Kolbert scared the living daylights out of me by quantifying how much carbon is being absorbed by the world oceans, and how this will increase the acidity of those oceans and affect the food chain therein.
Anthony Gottleib got me thinking about Decartes by reviewing two new books about the scientist and philosopher, known primarily for his pronouncement taken out of context of 'I think, therefore I am.' Decartes contribution to mathematics is generally lost in the shuffle. Now I have to go back and look for it. My friend the exuberant math teacher was on it right away, explaining all the basic stuff we take for granted that Decartes invented during his lifetime.
I skipped the reviews of Deftones, Dexter, Beethoven and Shostakovich, and the then-new Casino Royale. I had gotten enough goodies from this round!
And I agree. The tropes and rhythms of oral works are designed to support our memory, and we don't use what we have as we might. Too much assistance from all our fine inventions. I suspect we have sacrificed the neural connections of memory for those of 'where to find it' - for instance, how many of us have forgotten the phone numbers programmed into our phones? Or the dates we used to memorize in history class - because we don't have to remember them anymore? The brain isn't a muscle, but it is a series of connections that need to be kept fresh, like paths through the forest that must be walked on to survive.
Oh. This makes me want to memorize poetry or speeches just for the pleasure of knowing I still can.
That's a wonderful image.
I'm so with you on the pantyhose front! I've never worn make-up beyond lipstick -- although I admit now I do use a pencil to 'enhance' my fading eyebrows just a tiny bit..... Delightfully just about no one except teen-aged girls wears make-up in VT and they don't dye their hair either..... I suppose a few do, who would know, but most don't bother. You have some all white haired women in their early forties who look fantastic!
Or maybe I have a picture in the attic.
Foundation is beyond mysterious to me. I cannot imagine putting gunk on my skin beyond a little bit of moisturizer.
Still haven't touched an August NYer and tomorrow is October....... I am relishing, for today anyway, being only one month behind.
75: I'm done with July NYer! As of this morning. Hope to write it up before the end of today, but top priority is reading the last 60 pages of the current book. Sadly, I will not finish the February Scientific American, but I should be able to increase the pace in October now that the NYer feels under control.
I should be working now...