In this week’s New Yorker

January 22, 2012

Another stellar batch of cartoons!


Along with fine reporting by Ariel Levy on Callista Gingrich, Steve Coll on “Looking for Mullah Omar,” and William Finnegan, who traveled to Madagascar with club and restaurant superstar Eric Goode to observe his passion for saving rare breeds of tortoise. The latter piece is a real vocabulary expander; I picked up “chelonian,” “gular scute,” and “opuntia cactus.” Lots of astonishing tortoise lore: “Chelonians actually predate many dinosaurs. They have been lumbering around for more than two hundred million years, and have changed very little in all that time. Nobody knows how long individual plowshares live. Captain James Cook took away a radiated tortoise, the plowshare’s closest relative, and gave it to the King of Tonga, in 1777. It died in 1966.” And the next time there’s a lull in conversation over dinner, try telling your guests “Endoscopic turtle sexing will not become common practice in Madagascar any time soon.”

Poet Donald Hall contributes a poignant Personal History essay on aging, “Out the Window,” and Anthony Lane applies his characteristically droll erudition to reviewing Ralph Fiennes’ film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “The movie unfolds in a modern setting, and in modern dress. This will obviously be disappointing to any Gerard Butler fans who hoped to see their man reprise his majestic outfit from 300, which consisted of helmet, cloak, and pull-up Spartan diaper.” And whichever poetry editor has been slipping lyrics by pop songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon into the magazine has now added to the list Leonard Cohen. As usual, the lyric doesn’t fly so well on the page, but on the website you can scroll down and hear the track “Going Home” from Cohen’s forthcoming album, Old Ideas, hotly anticipated by me.

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