Posts Tagged ‘david remnick’

In this week’s New Yorker

October 15, 2016

The “Fall Books” issue is especially loaded with terrific articles, starting with a high-powered Talk of the Town section with Amy Davidson writing about the third-party candidates; a piece about Amit Kumar, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has devised a mobile app called #NeverTrump allowing people to swap votes in swing states; and a visit to a dive bar in Bed-Stuy with Bonnie Raitt, about whom I can never hear enough.

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The feature well contains four substantial articles:

  • Ryan Lizza’s “Taming Trump,” about the succession of campaign managers attempting to counsel the Republican candidate for president (Lizza lets it be known that Trump’s de facto campaign manager is his son-in-law Jared Kushner, though the official one, Kellyanne Conway, has apparently managed to get DJT to refer to himself and his campaign as “the movement”);
  • Julie Phillips’ fascinating profile of legendary sci-fi author Ursula K. Le Guin (beautifully illustrated by Essay May, above);
  • a piece about Turkey that I thought wouldn’t interest me, but I’ll read anything by Dexter Filkins, and his Reporter at Large piece, “The Thirty-Year Coup,” provides revelatory background on Fethullah Gülen, the 78-year-old cleric who has a huge cult following in Turkey, whom he influences from his exile in the Poconos (!); and
  • the profile of Leonard Cohen by the magazine’s ever-astonishing editor-in-chief David Remnick, who among other things reports being fiercely scolded by his subject (who’s now 82 and quite ill) for showing up late to an appointment and quotes at length an incredibly sophisticated analysis of Cohen’s songwriting that he obtained from talking to Bob Dylan.

Among the several book reviews, I most enjoyed Alexandra Schwartz’s detailed summary of a book I’d like to read, Emily Witt’s Future Sex, and Adam Gopnik’s overview of novels based on Shakespeare plays.  And the best cartoon in this issue is Barry Blitt’s Sketchbook:

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Quote of the day: SONGWRITING

October 15, 2016

When people talk about Leonard [Cohen], they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like “The Law,” which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres. In the song “Sisters of Mercy,” for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . but the tune is anything but predictable. The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen. His tone is far from condescending or mocking. He is a tough-minded lover who doesn’t recognize the brush-off. Leonard’s always above it all. “Sisters of Mercy” is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. The first line begins in a minor key. The second line goes from minor to major and steps up, and changes melody and variation. The third line steps up even higher than that to a different degree, and then the fourth line comes back to the beginning. This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.

That song “Hallelujah” has resonance for me. There again, it’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves, and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The “secret chord” and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.

I like all of Leonard’s songs, early or late. “Going Home,” “Show Me the Place,” “The Darkness.’ These are all great songs, deep and truthful as ever and multidimensional, surprisingly melodic, and they make you think and feel. I like some of his later songs even better than his early ones. Yet there’s a simplicity to his early ones that I like, too.

I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin, maybe the only songwriter in modern history that Leonard can be directly related to. Berlin’s songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere. And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical-music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.

–Bob Dylan, interviewed by David Remnick in the New Yorker (“Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”)

leonard-cohen-by-graeme-mitchell                               Leonard Cohen, photographed by Graeme Mitchell for the New Yorker

In this week’s New Yorker: food, travel, and the Queen of Soul

April 2, 2016

There’s a bunch of good stuff in this week’s Food and Travel Issue of The New Yorker. Lauren Collins’ piece on the Salon International de l’Agriculture made me wants to check out that legendary annual Parisian food fair. Dana Goodyear’s “Mezcal Sunrise” reminded me that I’ve always meant to investigate that smoky intense agave spirit, which my friend David Lida raved about to me years before it became trendy. Carolyn Kormann’s “The Tasting-Menu Initiative” gave me a peek into Bolivian food culture and almost made me want to check it out. I’m still looking forward to reading the dispatch about a Himalayan glacier by the great reporter Dexter Filkins. And I’m inspired to following Roz Chast’s disappearance down the rabbit-hole of looking at Japanese product labels printed between the two World Wars.

aretha by avedon

But nothing interested me more in this issue than “Soul Survivor,” editor-in-chief David Remnick’s article about Aretha Franklin (above, photographed by Richard Avedon), which is stuffed with fascinating tidbits. To name just a few: Miss Franklin will not go onstage to sing until she is paid in cash (“small stacks of hundred-dollar bills”), which she puts in her purse and takes onstage with her, keeping it in her sight at all times. When she goes to the theater, she buys two seats, one for her mink coat. A film exists of the gospel concert Franklin gave in Los Angeles in 1972 that she released as a live album, Amazing Grace — originally filmed by Sydney Pollack, it’s been tied up in technical and rights issues that are on the brink of being resolved and is reportedly unbelievably great. And the Queen of Soul, who sensational performance of “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors last December brought tears to President Obama’s eyes, is seventy-four years old.

In this week’s New Yorker

September 22, 2013

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The Style Issue contains a bunch of stories in a row that I found engrossing, often to my surprise:

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Lizzie Widdicombe on Bryan Goldberg, a cocky young entrepreneur (above) who is launching an online magazine for women, Bustle.com, that he hopes becomes as popular and financially successful as his sports site, Bleacher Report, was with men;

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* Calvin Tomkins on David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British architect (above) who is designing the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, which made him sound so appealing that I ordered his book of photographs of the architecture of African capitals;

* Rebecca Mead on Andrew Rosen, the schlubby founder of the fashion company Theory, a profile that doubles as a succinct history of the garment district;

eileen fisher
and a fascinating profile of modest but chic women’s clothing designer Eileen Fisher by Janet Malcolm. Fisher is a smart feminist who runs her company according to principles of non-hierarchical management and simple Buddhist kindness, and Malcolm plays a strange game with her of pretending not to understand the language she uses to describe how the business runs. Her language is slightly vague not not jargonistic, and it’s curious to watch Malcolm play dumb in print. But she is one of the New Yorker’s shrewdest veteran writers who is very open with her subjects about the duty of journalists to betray the people they write about, so I suppose it’s part of her strategy. On the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, editor-in-chief David Remnick’s Letter from the Archive acknowledges that readers may be surprised to see Malcolm writing about a fashion designer. But Remnick also reminds us that she wrote the shopping column, On and off the Avenue, for a while. He steers Malcom fans to a couple of other surprising profiles from years past, “The Window Washer” and “A Girl of the Zeitgeist” (a memorable story about Ingrid Sischy, then-editor of Artforum, in which the august New Yorker published the word “asshole” for the first time, in a direct quote). Remnick also mentions Katie Roiphe’s Paris Review interview with Malcolm, which I have bookmarked to read very soon.

The New Yorker has done a major redesign, especially in the front of the book. I’m not sure I like it, and the iPad app is very buggy. But I’m prepared to wait and see how it shakes out over the next weeks and months.

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In this week’s New Yorker

April 26, 2013

Another week of exemplary reporting. Editor-in-chief David Remnick literally overnight called on his years of experience reporting from Russia to post on the magazine’s website his amazingly thorough, thoughtful, deep Talk of the Town piece on the Tsarnaev brothers and the Chechen culture they came from.

With his typically tenacious reporting and dry-eyed scrutiny, William Finnegan reports (“The Deportation Machine”) the horrific story of Mark Lyttle, a 35-year-old biracial mentally ill American citizen from North Carolina, who  — through a series of bureaucratic mishaps that even Kafka might have considered far-fetched — was deported, shoved across the Mexican border with three dollars in his pocket, and forced to spend four months wandering (sometimes on foot) through Central America until the American Embassy in Guatemala contacted his family and sent him home. Except that he was arrested at the airport in Atlanta under the assumption that his newly issued passport was a fake.

Then there’s Luke Mogelson’s “Letter from Aleppo,” a soul-wrenching dispatch from the bloody midst of Syria’s raggedy civil war. Mogelson’s piece focuses on the people who have assumed the task of burying the corpses that get pulled out of the River Queiq that runs through Syria’s largest city (234 in recent months) and the heavily-traveled bridge on which Syrian Army snipers shoot commuters “in order to bait rebel fighters and would-be rescuers,” except that most of the victims turn out to be women, children, and old men who can’t run fast enough to escape.

I confess that after reading Finnegan’s and Mogelson’s pieces, I was relieved to turn the page and read Ian Parker’s profile of filmmaker Noah Baumbach.

Also in the issue: excellent piece about writing by echt New Yorker staffer John McPhee, who makes a case for the dictionary being a writer’s best friend; a portfolio of pieces (including “Onlookers,” below) by photographer Roger Ballen, whose images fueled Die Antwood’s stunning music video “I Fink U Freeky”; and a column in the Current Cinema department that reminds me that the way to brighten anyone’s day is to read aloud Anthony Lane’s movie reviews out loud.

bollen onlookers

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