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 ‘joan acocella’
The best reading is “Every Disease on Earth,” Rivka Galchen’s piece on Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which apparently serves the most ethnically diverse population of any in the world, and Dr. Joseph Lieber (below, photo by Stephanie Sinclair), a dedicated resident and ace diagnostician.
Also of interest: Ryan Lizza’s profile of Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, and the state’s political shift in recent years over issues of guns, gay marriage, and marijuana; Dexter Filkins’ “The Thin Red Line,” about the Obama Administration’s internal debate over what to do about Syria; Joan Acocella writing amusingly, as ever, about the new burlesque scene in downtown Manhattan (“Take It Off”); and Kelefa Sanneh’s Critic at Large essay on anarchism, reviewing a number of books inspired by the Occupy movement and explicating the crucial distinctions between vertical and horizontal movements.
The April 15 issue is dominated by four long, strong feature stories:
* John Le Carre’s remembrance of how his early novel The Spy Who Loved Me got made into a film starring Richard Burton (who knew that LeCarre goes by the name of David among his friends?);
* Nick Paumgarten’s long consideration of James Salter, making a case for the greatness of a writer who’s never been on my radar; and
* Susan Faludi’s piece on Shulamith Firestone, the once extremely influential radical feminist who quickly receded from the fray (bearing the brunt of being trashed by her comrades, in all too familiar internal divisiveness that infects progressive movements) and died last year, alone and mentally ill.
Nicholas Lemann reviews a number of books astutely analyzing the environmentalist movement and what it could learn from the original Earth Day (April 22, 1970). Sasha Frere-Jones makes me want to track down a hit single from 2002 that somehow escaped me, the Knife’s “Heartbeats.” And David Denby’s review makes me curious to see the new Robert Redford film The Company You Keep, though I probably won’t.
No earth-shattering pieces in this issue, but still several stories that engrossed me from beginning to end:
* Peter Hessler’s “Letter from Cairo,” which describes the many way that the Muslim Brotherhood has betrayed its promises and generated a lot of distrust and opposition among Egyptian citizens after the ouster of Mubarak;
* the ever-amusing Patricia Marx’s consumer report on Taskrabbit and similar apps that allow you to outsource mundane tasks;
* Rachel Aviv’s substantial and thought-provoking article, “The Science of Sex Abuse,” that focuses on laws that treat possession of child pornography as crimes equivalent to molesting children, keeping men in prison under civil commitment provisions who have never acted on their fantasies of sex with underage humans;
* John McPhee’s essay on structure, in “The Writing Life” — I’m not a big McPhee fan (who has time for a 90,000 word piece about sand?) but I was delighted to know that there are times when even he finds himself squirming on the floor in tears unable to get going with a writing task;
* “Semi-Charmed Life,” Nathan Heller’s essay about several books about contemporary twentysomethings, which ultimately I found annoying; and
* Joan Acocella’s essay about St. Francis of Assisi, triggered by two recent books about him. Acocella’s choices of subject frequently surprise me, and her plain, direct, commonsense style often cracks me up. “Francis was very ill,” she writes, for the last six years of his life. “He returned from Egypt not just with malaria but with trachoma, a searingly painful eye infection. Also, it is said, he vomited blood, which suggests a gastric ulcer. When he finally allowed himself to be examined, the doctor decided to cauterize Francis’s face from the jaw to the temple, to stop the discharge from his eyes. ..The treatment did no good, so it was decided to pierce his eardrums. That had no effect, either. This part of the story is very hard to read.”
I’ve recently subscribed to the New Yorker Out Loud podcast, which turns out to be a great way to hear what various New Yorker writers and editors sound like. Rachel Aviv, for instance, is this week’s guest. You can subscribe via the iTunes Store.
The issue starts off right with a fabulous seasonal cartoon by Danny Shanahan, closely followed by this amazing illustration by Kristina Collontes for the music listing of a show at Glasslands Gallery: “Tokyo’s Trippple Nippples, fronted by Yuka Nippple, Qrea Nippple, and Naabe Nippple, powers through overcaffeinated electronic art rock, but the music is almost secondary to the group’s outrageous appearance: they’re dressed as giant mammary glands, spewing milk, and have often swathed themselves in mud, feathers, or old spaghetti. Neat freaks may want to stay home.”
(Speaking of illustrations: did you see the amazing creation by David Plunkert that accompanied composer John Adams’ intriguing review of Richard Rhodes’ book Hedy’s Folly, about how “the most beautiful woman in Hollywood” helped design sophisticated weapons systems with George Antheil??? But I digress….)
The double-issue is devoted to World Changers, and the subject ranges wildly from how thieves are handled at a mosque in Tahrir Square (Peter Hessler’s “The Mosque on the Square”) to the austere music and wild life of 16th century Italian composer Don Carlo Gesualdo (Alex Ross’s “Prince of Darkness”). But the most compelling read is “The Civil Archipelago,” the long, well-sourced, knowledgeable Letter from Moscow written by David Remnick, the New Yorker‘s editor-in-chief and, I must acknowledge, a real culture hero of mine, for the way he has maintained if not exceeded the magazine’s high standards of journalistic excellence. (Read, by the way, his blog post about the Republicans and gay rights.)
There are also terrific critical columns by Joan Acocella, writing about Alvin Ailey, and Hilton Als, exercising his usual, admirable, self-given freedom to transcend conventional theater criticism while writing about David Adjmi’s play Elective Affinities.
Oh, also interesting to learn from Abby Aguirre’s Talk of the Town piece that Occupy Wall Street has, in three months’ of existence, acquired $650,873.59 in donations.)