I read Nicholas Lemann’s profile of SEC chair Mary Jo White from beginning to end, though I’m not sure why. Ditto Jill Lepore’s piece on “Doctor Who,” even though I’m not a fan and don’t really understand the appeal (unlike Andy, who is a rabid fanboy excited that he’s been invited to watch the 50th anniversary season-opener broadcast live in a movie theater). I loved Joan Acocella’s breezy digest of competing translations of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Emily Nussbaum almost convinced me that “It’s Sunny in Philadelphia” is worth watching. In her review she says “It’s as unhinged as ‘Monty Python’ but as polished as ’30 Rock.” Which sounds impressive, except that I’m not a fan of either show. (One of the great things about good writers reviewing television is that they tell all the best jokes, so you don’t actually have to watch the shows.)
My favorite piece in the magazine this week is Dan Chiasson’s essay about Marianne Moore, on the occasion of Linda Leavell’s new biography Holding On Upside Down. Moore’s life story is quite amazing: her father went mad before she was born and so she virtually never knew him; her mother had a ten-year love affair with a woman while raising her daughter; and after her mother broke up with her lesbian lover, Moore and her mother moved in together and shared a bed until the mother died when the poet was 60 years old. Chiasson’s piece is terrific, as is his conversation with Sasha Weiss on the New Yorker Out Loud podcast this week. (Apparently, the poet’s first name is pronounced as if it were Marion, not Mary Anne. Who knew?) One great factoid: “Ford famously hired her to name its much anticipated new model for the year 1958. The episode has struck some as pitiful—a great poet pandering to the crassest patron—but her submissions are unforgettable: Mongoose Civique, Utopian Turtletop, Pastelogram. Ford said no thanks, and went with Edsel.”
Posts Tagged ‘emily nussbaum’
I found all four of the feature stories absorbing:
* Xan Rice’s “Now Serving,” about a brave Somali who opened a string of restaurants and hotels in Mogadishu and continues to operate despite being attacked by the Shabab, the same band of crazed thugs who shot up the shopping mall in Nairobi this week;
* Josh Eells’s “Night Club Royale,” about the dance nightclub industry in Las Vegas, where certain clubs pull in half a million dollars a night from drinks alone and star DJs get paid astronomical fees;
* I kept telling myself, ugh, I don’t want to read any more details about the distressing/hopeless situation in Syria, and yet the great reporter Dexter Filkins’s piece “The Shadow Commander” tells us about a figure it’s important to know about, Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian operative who has been calling the shots in Iraq and Syria for the last fifteen years;
* Ariel Levy’s “The Perfect Wife,” about how marriage equality activists and lawyers selected Edie Windsor as the case to take to the Supreme Court — and what a wild gal she is, even today.
I read with interest Emily Nussbaum’s essay about “Key and Peele,” a TV comedy show by a team of biracial comedians I’ve never heard of — I definitely plan to check them out. I also liked Cora Frazier’s hilarious Shouts & Murmurs piece, “To The N.S.A.: Some Explanations.”
Still not loving the newly designed Goings On Around Town, though I did admire this illustration accompanying Joan Acocella’s Critic’s Choice about two dance pieces based on Othello:
But the best thing in the entire issue is Ian Frazier’s Talk of the Town piece about Shaina Harrison, a young community activist working hard to educate kids about guns in Red Hook. I liked the piece so much I reproduced it in full here.
There’s been a long, headache-inducing debate about the question of straight male actors “playing gay”—whether it’ll ruin careers, whether audiences will find the actor hot, and on and on. It’s a nonsense issue that social progress has begun to render irrelevant, and Michael Douglas’s spectacular performance as Liberace demonstrates a rarely discussed benefit. Freed from his trademark macho sulk, Douglas gains all sorts of unexpected charisma—he’s genuinely funny and surprisingly sexy, even with his toupee off, looking like an unshelled tortoise. His eyes lit with amused intelligence, Douglas’s Liberace is your classic “bossy bottom,” a gleeful narcissist who treats his hangers-on as a mirror (sometimes literally: he pressures Scott [Thorson, his boyfriend] to get plastic surgery to look like a younger version of him). And yet the man’s a charmer. He’s playful, even when he’s selling the world a line. In bed, the two have loving, affectionate exchanges, candid about their histories. Liberace jokes with Scott about the rumors—ones he encourages, of course—that he’s engaged to the Olympic champion Sonja Henie. “As if I would marry an ice skater,” he scoffs. “Please. I mean, those thighs!”
The movie is frank, and often very funny, about Liberace’s sexual appetites, which he pursued without seeing any contradiction between them and his devout Catholicism. He has a penis implant, likes porn, and late in their relationship he pressures Scott to take risks that seem crazy for a closeted star, like sneaking into a sex store in ankle-length matching furs. When the camera captures Liberace peeking over a booth with a grin, the movie doesn’t pathologize his good time—from one perspective, he’s a sex addict; from another, a madcap adventurer. During an argument about what Scott will and won’t do in bed, Liberace does a hilariously profane imitation of the couple as a gay Ricky and Lucy. “Why am I the Lucy?” Scott complains. “Because I’m the bandleader,” Liberace explains, with impeccable logic. “With the night-club act.”
– Emily Nussbaum, reviewing Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra for The New Yorker
Three very interesting complicated narratives dominate the issue:
* Nicholas Schmidle’s “In the Crosshairs” tells the compelling story of Chris Kyle, the highly decorated military killing machine and co-author of the best-seller American Sniper, whose well-intentioned efforts to help Iraqi veterans suffering from PTSD brought him in contact with Eddie Ray Routh, with disastrous results.
* In “The Manic Mountain,” Nick Paumgarten writes about an intense fight on Mt. Everest between elite white European climbers and the local sherpas who make the slopes safe for commercial tourism.
* Jill Lepore’s sharply negative review of Neil Thompson’s new biography A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley manages to achieve a capsule portrait of not only Ripley but also Goeffrey T. Hellman, who wrote many in-depth New Yorker profiles, including one of Ripley that ran in two successive issues in 1940.
I enjoyed reading Alex Halberstadt’s profile of Kim Gordon, even though I have never managed to get anything out of listening to Sonic Youth’s music. And I have to admit that I loved Emily Nussbaum’s review of Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra — I pretty much agree with everything she says about the movie.
Oh, and great timely cover by Marcellus Hall:
Some great stuff:
* Adam Gopnik’s lead editorial, “Military Secrets,” which includes this brilliantly succinct comment: “Benghazi is a tragedy in search of a scandal; the Petraeus affair is a scandal in search of a tragedy”;
* Victor Zapana’s sad, brave “Personal History” story about his mother, who was famously convicted in a notorious/controversial instance of “shaken baby syndrome”;
* Nick Paumgarten (above) totally geeking out, at considerable length, about being a “Deadhead” — since he’s an editor at the best magazine in the world, he gets incredible access to cool stuff, and online he posts a list of his thirteen favorite live recordings available for free streaming or downloading from an amazing website I never knew about, archive.org;
* “Queer Eyes, Full Heart,” Emily Nussbaum’s detailed mash note to Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story, and other TV shows (who knew Nussbaum could be so gay-savvy?); and
* Jill Lepore “Tax Time,” which takes one of the most boring subjects on earth and gives it her diligent reporter’s all, ending with this eloquent take-home:
“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, for modernity, and for prosperity. The wealthy pay more because they have benefited more. Taxes, well laid and well spent, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare. Taxes protect property and the environment; taxes make business possible. Taxes pay for roads and schools and bridges and police and teachers. Taxes pay for doctors and nursing homes and medicine. During an emergency, like an earthquake or a hurricane, taxes pay for rescue workers, shelters, and services. For people whose lives are devastated by other kinds of disaster, like the disaster of poverty, taxes pay, even, for food.
“What’s surprising, given how much money and passion have been spent to defeat a broad-based, progressive income tax over the past century, and how poorly it has been defended, is that it has endured – testimony, perhaps, to American’s abiding sense of fairness. Taxes are a pact. That pact needs renewing.”