OK, so I got a little behind digesting my favorite magazine and passing along links. I had a busy January. I’ve been a little cranky about all the snarky commentary about Spiderman — Turn Off the Dark, but I have to say I did find the cover of the January 17 issue pretty funny, and everything Joan Rivers said to Julie Taymor, as reported by Patrick Healy in today’s Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times. A lot of people, including rumblings from the esteemed Times, have been acting like it’s some heinous crime against humanity for STOTD to be playing weeks, even months of previews without getting reviewed. But I don’t get what the BFD is. Theatergoers who bought tickets thinking the show would be finished and have been reviewed already can always ask for their money back. Meanwhile, because of all the publicity, anybody who sees the show nowadays has tremendous bragging rights, especially if the show has to stop to fix some technical glitch or if somebody gets hurt. (Dancers get hurt every day of the week, but nobody ever gets self-righteous about how dangerous New York City Ballet is for its performers.) Maybe the show is crappy. But I’d rather wait til the artists making it say it’s done before judging it. Then the gloves are off.
Going back a few weeks: the New Yorker has been providing great fodder for all kinds of geeks and obsessives lately. Daniel Mendelsohn’s story on the Vatican Library gives bibliophiles and scholars a satisfying peek at that inner sanctum. I’ve never heard of the designer Tomas Maier but enjoyed reading John Colapinto’s profile of this hunky guy. I just noticed that the striking photo that ran with the story is by famed painter/artist Robert Longo. (I’m also struck by how thorough matter-of-fact both the New Yorker and the Times are these days in writing about subjects who are gay and their domestic partnerships.) In the same issue, Jeffrey Toobin wrote a thorough and sad story about a young prosecutor whose participation in the case against Alaska congressman Ted Stevens ended tragically. And David Denby wrote a lively piece about Joan Crawford.
The following week, another juicy issue with Mike Peed’s fascinating reported article on bananas, how they’re bred, and the disease that is threatening the world supply of this beloved fruit (well, beloved by me and everyone else except Roz Chast), Ian Buruma on how Belgium threatens to implode, Evan Osnos on psychoanalysis in China, and Joan Acocella — hilarious as ever — on the strange saga of best-selling mediocre author Stieg Larsson, who died before even his first novel came out.
Last week forced me again to spend several hours reading absorbing articles on subjects I didn’t know interested me: the evolution of theories about preventing food allergies in children (by Jerome Groopman), the science of crowd control (John Seabrook, who details the weird and distressing story of how a 6’5″, 485-pound stockroom employee was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart on Long Island on Black Friday, 2008), and the monster-making imagination of Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth and other arty horror films (profiled by Daniel Zalewski, whose article provides the only glimpse we will ever see of what would have been del Toro’s take on Tolkein’s The Hobbit). And then there’s Joan Acocella again, writing another hilarious and trenchant essay about another excellent, underappreciated writer and one of my faves, J. R. Ackerley — note again the astonishing bounty of details about his (rather pitiful) homo sex life.
Plus, the cartoons.