New Yorker 2012 (1)
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Loose ends from 2011: I've got one more December NYer to go after this one and then I will be (briefly) 'caught up' -- but really -- I'll have to get right on the January NYer that just came in. So December 12 First article on placebos is intriguing, but actually interfacing usefully seems like a nightmare to me..... I have to go look at what Q wrote about it in December 2011, so maybe I'll come back. Shouts was almost funny but labored. Skipped football. Tried to read at least some of the Sarkozy piece attentively, gosh, that whole Qaddafi visits Paris episode was appalling, I'd forgotten about it. The Massacre in Jamaica was something I did not know about, but why does it not surprise me? The US 'overseeing' of it all is, of course, the most disturbing aspect to me as an American. The story was an interesting one, with some unexpected turns, but I did not see, when I went back over it, how the end was 'earned' - I'm saying - the revelation at the end was too much of a surprise to have the right resonance. I will say though, as a Gentile, after reading Anne Frank, I thought about how we would hide a family in our house. Tried to read about Smiley, but while I liked the Alec Guiness series, I never could stick with the books themselves.
Skimmed the review of Tattoo since we are thinking of going to see it. I'm less sure I want to now I've read the book, but I am curious how Salander will be portrayed on the screen. None of the poems grabbed me. One very funny Roz Chast which is going on our fridge: "The Faith-Based Family". NOW I'll go and see what you wrote Q!
I haven't read that article yet, although I did see it. I'll try to get to it sometime this week, after I finish the Jan 2 issue.
Dec 12-26 Peter Hessler more or less camped out in a mosque central to the demonstrations in Egypt. It's too big a situation for any one view to capture or predict what will happen next. Category Weird and Strange, Alec Wilkinson on Guinessport addicts -- people who endlessly try to add to their records and record-holdings. A knock-out piece by Elif Batuman on the megaliths of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.... built by hunter-gatherers it is thought in around 9000
B.C. they are oldest megaliths anywhere. They also, by existing, turn a lot of the theories about what humans were up to 11,000 years ago upside-down..... a cart before the horse kind of thing -- maybe agriculture happened because people wanted to build these things so badly that they had to find a way to subsist while staying in one place....... Batuman does go off on a tangent about how some anthroplogists are thinking that agriculture has been nothing but a disaster for the planet and for us...... I like that kind of turn-the-rock over thinking. Creepy story about a 16th century murderer-composer, not my kind of thing, though I would like to listen to one of the madrigals. Tried but couldn't read about the people resisting Putin. Me? The writing? I was just too unengaged by it. Then another winner -- a piece by B. Bilger on the 'Great Green Wall'' -- the idea to plant trees in a 15 kilometer wide belt across Africa to halt the advance of the desert. Crazy stuff, but brilliant too -- Bilger examines a few different possible ways to do it and some alternative approaches. Zipped through a piece on John Jeremiah Sullivan the essayist..... new to me but he sounds worthwhile. Of course, I AM NOT BUYING ANY BOOKS for awhile.
And that, is that!
I am not buying any books for awhile either. :-)
I'm looking forward to yr. comments Darryl.
People I've Never Heard Of (PINHO): about the internet show Portlandia's inventors and stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen..... Portlandia came to my attention a couple of weeks ago and I've been wondering about taking a look at it. I will now. The next piece also PINHO is about the woman behind Biocon, which I have heard of, and her efforts to bring health care to India's greater population. I'm not sure who wrote which article, but I found the first one easier to absorb, pretty entertaining really, and usually I read the latter kind of article quite attentively. Could have been me. Skipped the high school football --( we're counting on you Darryl). Heart-wrenching and very disturbing piece on a young man who shot his grandfather impulsively and is now in prison for life. Life. I'm less concerned with his personal story than that a person who is 14 can be tried and sentenced as an adult. The short story was short..... I read it twice..... I'll take it as it stands because I like the way it moved, but I'm not sure. A bit like the story the week before it's the kind that opens out.... moves from prosaic to fantastic (in this case in a story) tangling up real life and fiction. Nussbaum convinced me to check out Parenthood eventually and I just this second noticed a big Typo in the Table of Contents. -- BOOKS is not placed right. I skipped the Velazquez although I have the grace to feel a bit of guilt. I won't see any of those movies. Neither poem grabbed me.
I have a plane ride Monday, so I'll wait to read the next one. I can't believe I'm caught up...... !
My thought precisely. :-)
Margaret Talbot re "Portlandia": Not sure why I began reading this, but it turned out to be kinda fun, especially since I lived out that way for a few years. A blurred distinction between real and parody.
Ariel Levy re Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw: Bangalore! And the "two Indias" of high tech and poverty. She began in her father's beer brewery, developed a number of transferable skills, and founded biopharmaceutical company Biocon Now she's establishing health clinics, with emphasis on education and early detection.
Ben McGrath re HS football: Nah. I made it through a few pages of an article about sports in a recent issue, not even gonna try with this one.
Rachel Levy re a teenager tried for murder as an adult: He was 14. His thinking was... adolescent. There was a loaded gun by the door. He shot his sleeping grandfather in the head. Sad sad sad, for the entire family. Life imprisonment, though redemption would appear to be possible with maturity.
Emily Nussbaum re "Parenthood": I've seen snippets and would probably like it, but I like more not getting sucked into TV drama and the need to check in every week.
Peter Schjeldahl re Velazquez and The Surrender of Breda by Anthony Baily: Noting for the record, but I did not read the article.
Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Trying a new format. Main articles only unless something else stands out, author first because I want to keep track of who's who. I generally skim Talk of the Town, skip fiction, glance at music, theater, cinema, TV just in case.
Kelefa Sanneh re Newt Gingrich: Anything new here? Not that I noticed.
Ken Auletta re Marco Rubio: A battle with Univision, tension over views on immigration.
Patrick Radden Keefe re oil in Ecuador: An lawsuit against Texaco / Chevron, which discovered oil in the Amazon jungle in 1967 and departed in 1992. The company claims it conformed to the laws of the time. An obsessed US lawyer for the plaintiffs has devoted 18 years to the case. Meanwhile, the people in the jungle live among open pits of toxic sludge.
Peter Hessler re the yakuza of Japan: Actually more about his hometown acquaintance who became a crime reporter in Japan and did not remain wholly disentangled from his subjects.
Adam Kirch re Rome: I dutifully began reading this, but couldn't maintain sufficient interest.
Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
John Seabrook re YouTV: YouTube's future.
Patricia Marx re New York groceries: Surely more entertaining if you live there, but I read it anyway.
Wendell Steavenson re novelist Alaa Al Aswany of Egypt: Vaguely skimmed.
Connie Bruck re Philip Anschutz of Los Angeles: He has lots of money and owns lots of stuff. I didn't read about it.
David Remnick re The Obamas by Jodi Kantor: This article seems unnecessarily long, and a book is much longer...
Adam Gopnik re God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy: Inquisitions past and present. "People torture other people everywhere for any reason at hand. The real issue is why and when they ever stop."
Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Now there's a provocative statement...
I joined this group but have been a very absent non-participant. The New Yorker used to be my go-to for my bus commute, but with trying to read 75 books in a year, well.....
Speaking of which -- I did knock of January 9 on the plane today......I read about Newt but have no idea what to say! There is something forever 12 years old about him. Shouts wasn't funny enough for me, Marco Rubio of Florida sounds too problematical to be the golden boy for the hispanic vote for Republicans -- the criminal rellie being less of an issue than his stand on immigration. The article about the lawyer fellow taking on Chevron I guess counts as 'the person I've never heard of" - Why do people do this to themselves? It's interesting, though the question of just what he is after - not really helping the Ecuadorians I would say, but in making it possible to sue huge companies. But if that was his goal why didn't he play a cleaner game, he had to know that Chevron would come after him? No? Oh yes, and another person I'd never heard of, the American reporter Jake...... (I left the mag in the plane, so I have no names..... ) who has studied and written so much about Japanese organized crime, he was interesting to read about. The short story was not a good one -- in fact -- it was terrible. I see the attempt -- write about two toxic, self-indulged people, but it simply fell flat. Who gives a ..... about such self-absorbed people? It never went anywhere, just dragged whiningly to an end. Roseanna Warren's poem Glaucoma was very moving.
Overall I would say it was a fairly boring issue, lackluster somehow.
Thankyou, but I think you do a better job than me usually!
Rebecca -- my bro and I have been complaining that we have been finding the NYer less interesting overall -- there is an occasional issue now that I read just about every word.... but overall??? There's got to be riveting stuff out there, just waiting to be written about, no? In fact, I'm having a brainstorm, I might rate each NYer to get some idea about that..... I would say that so far January is not impressive.
US politics itself is tedious and doesn't improve w/ exposure in writing?
Jan 2 and Jan 9 had two articles each that I'm glad I read. Jan 16... my life would not be worse if I'd misplaced the magazine.
I am watching The Atlantic pile up, not ready to cut my losses and stop the subscription, but I also want to read BOOKS. Wondering how I might rearrange focus on Scientific American, New Yorker, Atlantic to make all three subscriptions worthwhile w/o increasing magazine time.
And oh horrors, I have realized that this is a FIVE ISSUE MONTH. Didn't we just HAVE one of those recently????
Maybe this should be offered by the LT store.
FIVE ISSUE MONTH
Indeed. Remember the interminable October? 52 weeks in a year, 4 "extra", so we're due.
- YouTube's future Yep, that about sums it up
-Patricia Marx re New York groceries: It is The New Yorker after all so I guess they are allowed one of these every now and then.
-Novelist Alaa Al Aswany of Egypt I haven't read Aswany's blockbuster but I have read a lot of Mahfouz and some other Egypt-related stuff over the years and so read with some interest. It does seem a measure of how much real repression a country exerts if the fiction writers have a political role to play.
-Philip Anschutz of Los Angeles: This week's PINHO - specialized developer - stadiums.
-The Obamas by Jodi Kantor: I liked this quote "The first black president doesn't want to give any insight into being the first black president."
Q doesn't read the fiction, I do, poor me. Haven't I've read this seriously dreary and unoriginal story before? Paul Auster wrote a whole novel about a pointless war, I believe.
-Adam Gopnik re God's Jury: "People torture other people everywhere for any reason at hand. The real issue is why and when they ever stop." Definitely the best line.
-Briefly Noted: I don't read it.
-The Romney send up in Shouts was almost funny.
-Ah, Merce Cunningham!
-The two reviewed movies will probably turn up at our local theatres, so worth reading..... mostly the NYer seems to review the sort of movies I know I don't want to see or that will never come anywhere near where I live......
Finito. #4 is already sitting there, balefully. I would give this one a C- maybe even a D +. Or even a D, I really didn't care about any of it. The worst yet, this January.
Last night when I couldn't sleep I read more of the January 23 issue, but was also underwhelmed. I learned a little from the article by Steve Coll (whose Ghost Wars was a great informative and chilly read) about Mullah Omar, but felt it was a little long, skimmed the TV column about "Luck" and "Downton Abbey" and the review of Houellebecq's novel (got turned off by the sex quotes), gave up on the article about Madagascar tortoises, and left the Bolano story for later.
I also read the article "Shelf Life" by James Wood, more or less about disassembling his father-in-law's library, in the November 7 issue, which I'd been saving for some time and enjoyed, partly because it's always nice to read about other people's libraries and partly because I had to deal with the thousands of books in my parent's apartment (I come by this book obsession honestly, if not genetically!).
Phew, what an outpouring. I even thought of writing him a letter. I was that upset. Really, I am just too obsessed with books, hm?
- Callista Gingrich. A very definite sort of person: defined, definite, determined....
- Shouts -- almost funny, not quite.
-Donald Hall on growing old. Around 15 or so years ago I took my mother to hear him read at Breadloaf (not v. far from where I live) and after she wanted to thank him, and they clearly liked each other and talked for a little while. Lovely piece if a bit scattered. He's entitled.
-Mullah Omar. Struggled through. I don't have great hopes for Afghanistan. Q is can any Taliban figures be useful to Afghan stability after we depart. Why do I think the answer is no?
-Plowshare turtles in Madacasgar -- this is the PINHO piece which also includes an animal I didn't know about as well, endangered, of course. Eric Goode, entrepreneur and Chelonian (turtle/tortoise nut - my new word for the day or week or possibly even month) trying to breed and protect a rare tortoise that is much coveted by collectors.... oh wait... he also is a collector, but a benign one because he is trying to make sure the breed survives. The writer of the piece struggled a bit with that apparent contradiction.....
- the Bolano short story lost me when he described the woman's hair on the far right of the picture as being 'short'. It's up in a bun!
-I'm not sucked into Downton Abbey and, most definitely not interested in racetracks.
- Houllebecq - non et non. Il ne m'interet pas.
My turtle conservationist friend struggled with that apparent contradiction for years.
I had another thought, after I post a message on fuzzy_patters's Club Read thread. I also want to read some of the magazine articles and stories by some of the legendary New Yorker writers of the past, particularly A. J. Liebling, Joseph Mitchell, John Cheever, John Updike, Ann Beattie and Vladimir Nabokov. I'm about to start reading "The Swimmer" by John Cheever, a short story that appears in the July 18, 1964 issue. Would this be an appropriate place to post comments about these articles and stories?
I would propose threads based on the well known New Yorker writers, including the ones I mentioned above. If it's okay with Lucy, I'll start a John Cheever thread shortly, and post my comments about "The Swimmer".
You'll have to pry her from the puppies for a moment to get an opinion...
'The Swimmer' is one of the great great great short stories --- of course -- there are so many short stories and so many that are great..... but it is one of Cheever's best and simply one of my favorites ever. ENJOY! I look forward to your comments.
....Did someone say .... puppy?......
I seem to have finished issue #5, Jan 30 which I can give a much higher grade than the previous 4. Out of the 7 articles that I read, 3 were very good to excellent, 1 a slog but readable, the story was ok, and only one piece didn't interest. So I guess this issue rates about a B? Maybe even a B plus -- I sat down intending only to read one piece and kept going, very good sign!
-Groupthink - A nice readable precis of work that has been emerging about the pros and cons of brainstorming.
-a well-written and very enjoyable piece about a real character, a barman former boxer, this weeks PINHO. A delight!
-shouts was almost funny. I think my lips might have quivered once or twice, when I wasn't checking to see the weather, thinking about what we might have for dinner....
-Obama - well - I like the man which puts me in a weird demographic, I guess, of the truly hopelessly unidealistic moderate. What kills me reading a piece like this is knowing that both my friends who are more and less conservative will hate it equally.
- Not interested in chefs or Tijuana
-Alice McDermott is a reliably good writer. However, she fits in my category of -- I read her books anyway, I don't need to read one of her stories in the NYer.
-I'd love to see Spacey being Richard III but I know I won't.
-Gopnik on prisons and crime. Thinking and writing up to his potential in this one. Kudos!
I'm on track w/ reading, finished a book today too, don't seem to be getting anywhere w/ reviewing. Procrastinating... by starting another book.
Ariel Levy re Callista Gingrich: Meh. And wasn't there an article about Newt a couple weeks ago?
Donald Hall re aging: "Generation after generation, my family's old people sat at this window to watch the year." As he watches, he sees present and past together. Quietly drew me in. Also there's the bit about condescension toward old people.
Steve Coll re Mullah Omar: I spot read this. It's... complicated. I could read forever and still not understand and still not know what to do.
William Finnegan re plowshare tortoises: Eric Goode of the Behler Chelonian Center, which breeds endangered species. The plowshare is in Madagascar. I like his mother, Marilyn Goode, who would rather he focus attention on the Pacific pond turtle native to California.
Briefly Noted: Haiti by Laurent Dubois is of interest.
Jonah Lehrer re groupthink: Brainstorming, churning out ideas w/o criticism, doesn't work as well as supposed. Turns out, unstunningly, that feedback and discussion prompt people to think further. The ideal collaboration is a combination of familiarity and novelty, concludes a study of Broadway musicals. And there is the "magical incubator" of MIT Building 20, deemed temporary so people could reconfigure as they wished, and allowing informal interactions among people who might otherwise have been isolated in separate departments.
Nick Paumgarten re Bob Bozic: A New York bartender and former boxer from Serbia who "delights in surprising people. He almost wants to be mistaken for a lunk so that he can prove otherwise."
Ryan Lizza re Obama: Poring through White House memos. Somehow the behind-the-scenes process is comforting, even if the result is sometimes frustrating.
Dana Goodyear re Tijuana: I spot read this. The effort to transform a city is of interest, artful presentation of food is not.
Adam Gopnik re crime: "How is it that our civilization, which rejects hanging and flogging and disemboweling, came to believe that caging vast numbers of people for decades is an acceptably humane sanction?" He traces it to Northern and Southern explanations. The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William Stuntz blames the Bill of Rights, which emphasizes procedure rather than principle. The City That Became Safe by Franklin Zimring analyzes New York crime decrease: about half reflects national crime decrease, but the other half is local, a result of strategic policing. It is not necessary either to solve all social ills, or to deem some people inherently bad and remove them from society. Two efforts stand out: placing more police in crime hot spots to reduce opportunities, and the controversial stop-and-frisk.
Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Well, I'd rather be reading than writing reviews, so of the various tasks that I ought to have done yesterday, I failed to do the oughtest. But I do feel better when I procrastinate with a lesser ought rather than with nothing in particular. This morning I am procrastinating on beginning the work week.
My bro went to MIT in the building 20 era..... he LOVED that place! They all did. At that time my bro literally got his shoes out of trashcans, not for financial reasons, just .... rampant nerdiness..... as in, he's walking around barefoot because he 'lost' his shoes and oh look, goodie, there's a pair in that box..... My mother asked him, where did you get those peculiar shoes. 'I found them'. You mean a trash can, sez my mother, bemused. Rolling eyeballs. All this to say, the inside and atmo of that building was a bit like a great big dustbin. I got a tour oncet!
- The Talk of the Town: I didn't read it.
- Bottle Rocket (The Political Scene): Article on Newt Gingrich, who isn't worth more than two minutes of my time; accordingly, I read this article for that long before I abandoned it.
- Center of the Universe (Shouts & Murmurs): Trivial, at best.
- War of Choice (Annals of Communications): Article about Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who may become the VP nominee this year. Mildly interesting, but too much of the focus of the article was on Rubio's brother-in-law, a convicted drug trafficker, and not enough was spent on Rubio's view of immigration, and how it compares to the Republican mainstream (whatever that is).
- Reversal of Fortune (A Reporter at Large): I didn't read it.
- All Due Respect (Profiles): Another mildly interesting piece, about an American who reports on the activities of the yakuza for Japan's largest newspaper. As was mentioned previously, the article is more about the writer instead of the yakuza, unfortunately.
- Expectations (Fiction): I didn't read it.
I didn't read anything else from this issue, which I'd give a C minus grade, at best.
- President Romney Meets Other World Leaders (Shouts & Murmurs): Moderately enjoyable piece about Mitt Romney's quirky comments when he meets new people, which he continues to use when he meets fellow leaders at his first G-8 summit.
- Writing the Revolution (Letter from Cairo): This was, IMO, an excellent profile of Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, who has become very active in the democracy movement there.
- State of the Union (Books): Interesting article about The Obamas, a new book about the couple, their relationship with each other and the President's staff, and about the role of the current and past First Ladies.
- Inquiring Minds (A Critic at Large): David Remnick reviews and comments about God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy, which describes the Spanish Inquisition and attempts to make the case that it has had ramifications throughout history, including the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
My grade for this issue: a solid B.
Placebos -- not enough meat in this article for me, and/or it could have been shorter.
Jamaica -- shocking and scary
Review of le Carré -- I'm pretty much in agreement about the books and movies
Dec. 19 & 26
Sanctuary/temple built by hunter gatherers -- fascinating
Putin and civil disobedience -- interesting, but maybe too long
Fighting desertification -- wanted to be interested in this, but just skimmed
Atwood story -- a little obvious
Marco Rubio -- interesting and scary
Chevron lawsuit -- ho hum; would have liked more about the Ecuadorians
Yakuza -- already commented on this article
Roman empire books -- some sound interesting and I might look for them
Jonah Lehrer on groupthink -- I"m sure I read about this somewhere else recently and, as with a lot of Lehrer, it was longer than necessary
Bartender -- interesting only because I used to work near Fanelli's and went there frequently
Food in Baja -- who cares?
Gopnik on prisons -- I found this thought-provoking, if not entirely new
Sorry for such brief comments; they're what I wrote down before I threw the magazines away and I can't go back and think of anything more inspired. On to February!
I know that I really found the Lehrer groupthink piece compelling - mostly because of timing - I read it right before a meeting where we were trying to get a group of very smart and very different people to work together..the detail was just what I needed!