In this week’s New Yorker

July 6, 2011

The article that most grabbed me was “A Woman’s Place,” Ken Auletta’s profile of Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. It’s a fascinating portrait of a really smart, successful manager (Sandberg is credited for making Facebook financially profitable for the first time) and of a new kind of businesswoman. I love the basic attitude she brings to both women and men, employees and colleagues: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Sandberg is a protege of Larry Summers, her professor when she majored in economics at Harvard. I was struck by this passage: “At her Phi Beta Kappa induction, there were separate ceremonies for men and women. At hers, a woman gave a speech called ‘Feeling Like a Fraud.’ During the talk, Sandberg looked around the room and saw people nodding. ‘I thought it was the best speech I’d ever heard,’ she recalls. ‘I felt like that my whole life.’ At every stage of her time in school, Sandberg thought, I really fooled them. There was ‘zero chance,’ she concluded, that the men in the other room felt the same.” Actually, in my experience, PLENTY of men live with the exact same existential experience, which has even been named “impostor syndrome.”

Speaking of management styles, there’s also this cartoon by Bruce Eric Kaplan:

I haven’t finished Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s short story, “Aphrodisiac,” but I look forward to it. Something else I look forward to reading is Rob Young’s book Electric Eden, of which there’s a short unsigned review in the New Yorker. It’s a study of the quirky British pop-folkies that proliferated in the late ’60s and early ’70s such as Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band. Can I just say, though, that this book starts by focusing on Vashti Bunyan, whom historical revisionism has given prominence — but I was around back then and listened avidly to all this music, and I never heard of Bunyan until a few years ago when “freak-folkie” Devendra Banhart cited her as an influence. Clearly, she was around but had nowhere near the profile of people like the late great Sandy Denny. Just sayin’.

I will never watch the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but I loved reading Anthony Lane’s review of it. Among other things, I learned that the cast of this cretinous movie includes John Turturro, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich, “hardly the first to burnish their status, and please their accountants, by putting a hand to the Transformers plow,” Lane notes. He also says,”The real [Buzz] Aldrin, now eighty-one, shows up int he film, to make nice to Optimus Prime — the toughest and most pompous of the Autobots. These, despite sounding like a new range of self-applying diapers, are well-intentioned metal dunderheads, residing here on Earth, and promising, ‘The day will never come when we forsake this planet and its people.’ Oh, God. Never?”

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