Posts Tagged ‘david sedaris’

In this week’s New Yorker

July 13, 2018

For self-protection, I avoid TV news. I’m content to get my news of the world from the kind of deep dives that the New Yorker specializes in.

The current midsummer double-issue is extra-good, in a roller-coaster way.

Adrian Chen’s “No More Secrets,” about a guy who live-streams his mundane existence, reflects up-to-the-minute technology but in a way that fills me with despair — THIS is what people pay attention to? Yuk. But I guess it’s good to know.

David Sedaris writes hilariously, as always, about going to a shooting range with his sister Lisa (“Active Shooter”), where the instructor keeps calling him “Mike,” which he finds an amusing alternative to what he often gets when he presents his credit card (“Are you THE David Sedaris?”).

In “Tunnel Vision,” William Finnegan profiles the new head of the MTA, a Brit named Andy Byford who’s determined to overhaul the NYC subway system as he did in London and Toronto.

How cool to get a look at a mural Charles Addams painted for a Hamptons hotel in 1952, which has been quietly hanging in a library at Penn State.

Ariel Levy writes about a fascinating Iranian-American novelist named Ottessa Moshfegh (below, photographed by Dru Donovan) and her crazy romantic life (“Not From Around Here”).

And Hilton Als pays tribute to Anika Noni Rose, who’s starring in a production of “Carmen Jones” directed by John Doyle that sounds worth seeing at Classic Stage Company (“Working It”).

In last week’s New Yorker

June 19, 2017

Before even having a look at this week’s issue, I want to make some notes about last week’s unusually good issue.

First of all, I hope Rachel Aviv has a really good therapist. She consistently does in-depth, long-term reporting on some of the most grim topics in American society, exposing herself to endless accounts of trauma and abuse. Her story “Memories of a Murder” is a perfect example. In the tiny town of Beatrice, Nebraska, a 68-year-old widow was raped and murdered in 1987. The crime remained unsolved for two years until a farmer who enjoyed watching crime shows on television took on the job of unpaid private investigator and with the expert advice of a local psychologist succeeded in concocting a story that resulted in the arrest and conviction of six small-town residents, several of them mentally ill or developmentally disabled. Years later a DNA test showed that the blood and semen at the crime site belonged to a juvenile delinquent whose grandmother lived in the same building and had subsequently died of AIDS.  The point of Aviv’s long, absorbing article is that detectives and psychological professionals can be so attached to a narrative that they can convince innocent people that they committed crimes they had nothing to do with. (Online the title of the article is more pointed: “Remembering the Murder You Didn’t Commit.”)But it’s also a dismaying tale about the ignorance and preconceptions that face outsiders in a small town.

To balance out the grimness, there’s David Sedaris writing about his alcoholic mother (“Why Aren’t You Laughing?”) and another brilliant Shouts & Murmurs piece by Paul Rudnick, “Jared & Ivanka’s Guide to Mindful Marriage.” My favorite: “Family is everything. We treasure the special moments, like the time our kids used their crayons to make Jared a construction-paper subpoena. We have game nights, when we play such favorites as Pin the Tail on Whoever’s Out of Favor, Let’s Dress Jeff Sessions in Doll Clothes, and Who Can Hug Mommy Without Touching Her Hair?”

I got through college without having to read “The Confessions of St. Augustine.” Esteemed classicist Stephen Greenblatt, in “The Invention of Sex,” makes him sound even more entertainingly bizarre than I imagined, with his account of a spiritual orgasm shared with his mother and his fixation on how “some people can do things with their bodies that others find impossible. ‘Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together.’ Others, as he personally had witnessed, could sweat whenever they chose, and there were even people who could ‘produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region.”’ ”


What else? Zadie Smith writes a beautifully detailed and empathetic profile decoding the work of a young black British painter and writer named Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (“A Bird of Few Words”). I enjoyed reading Andrew Sean Greer’s short story “It’s a Summer Day,” though I couldn’t help noticing that it’s the second piece of fiction the New Yorker has published in a month that centers on a writer winning an obscure prize. I admire critic-at-large Kelefa Sanneh’s music writing, though his essay “The Persistence of Prog-Rock” indulges in some historical revisionism. When I was growing up, contemporary bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were viewed as “art-rock,” a different flavor but related to Zappa and the Mothers, David Bowie, and other arty rockers. And my memory is that the term “prog-rock” was never used in those days. It’s been tossed around familiarly only in retrospect by the people who weren’t even alive then.

In this week’s New Yorker

June 27, 2014

The single most noteworthy sentence in this week’s issue comes early in Jeffrey Toobin’s long, must-read profile of loathsome Texas senator Ted Cruz, who has spent an insane amount of time attempting (sometimes singlehandedly) to repeal “every blessed word” of the Affordable Care Act: “Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.” Could anything make this smug bastard more despicable?

ted cruz

Another remarkable sentence flies quickly by in John Colapinto’s profile (“Shy and Mighty” — great headline) of the xx, the British quietcore trio whose songs are written and sung by Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim (below, center and right), whose aural and onstage intimacy suggests that of current or former lovers: “Another defining aspect of the xx’s music — the tamped-down eroticism of the singers’ entwined voices — was also unintended, since both are gay.” Huh. I didn’t see that coming. Makes me love them all the more.

the xx
Aside from those pieces, Nathan Heller’s long profile of filmmaker Richard Linklater is worth reading, along with the always entertaining David Sedaris’s essay, “Stepping Out,” about his obsession with Fitbit.

robot pet cartoon

The New Yorker has had some stellar issues lately. Last week’s, for instance (July 23, 2014), had four very different, all fantastic feature stories:

* Jill Lepore’s “The Disruption Machine,” a meticulous takedown of of the current valorization of disruption as a business ideal, based on her close reading of the book that preached the gospel of innovation, Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma;

* Nick Paumgarten’s hilarious and intimate profile — “Id Girls” (another great headline) — of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the creators of the Comedy Central hit series Broad City, for which Paumgarten got an astonishing amount of reportorial access, a quality his article shares with…

* the great Janet Malcolm’s “The Book Refuge,” a family portrait of the women who run the Argosy Bookstore, the antiquarian bookseller on 57th Street; and

* Sarah Stillman’s long, sad, infuriating article “Get Out of Jail, Inc.,” about how the so-called “alternatives to incarceration” industry preys on the poorest Americans, exorting vast sums of money for offenses like driving with expired license plates or an unpaid parking ticket.

gift bag cartoon

The issue before that, the Summer Fiction: Love Stories double-issue (June 9 & 16), was noteworthy for me primarily for Margaret Talbot’s “The Teen Whisperer,” a superb profile of young-adult novelist John Green, completely unknown to me but now strangely prominent on my radar, to the point where I’m actually curious to see the movie based on his big hit, The Fault in Our Stars (which, weirdly, shows up fleetingly in season 2 of Orange Is the New Black).

kept awake

In this week’s New Yorker

March 28, 2012

Hilton Als lets us know that he loves Jesus, the same way Patti Smith does, but boy, does he not love Des McAnuff’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway.

Rebecca Mead provides a coolly factual portrait of Christine Quinn, who may well be the next mayor of New York City.

David Sedaris writes a Personal History essay about his favorable experience with socialized medicine (specifically his dentist) in France, in contrast to current American preconceptions: “One thing that puzzled me during the American health-care debate was all the talk about socialized medicine and how ineffective it’s supposed to be. The Canadian plan was likened to genocide, but even worse were the ones in Europe, where patients languished on filthy cots, waiting for aspirin to be invented.”

But the highlight of the issue by far is “The Transition,” an excerpt from the great Lyndon B. Johnson biographer Robert A. Caro’s next volume microscopically detailing the events of the morning of November 22, 1963. Even though the outline of that infamous day in American history is known to one and all, not so well-known aspects to the story are:  the brewing financial scandal LBJ was facing (quickly squashed when he became president), exactly how miserably he hated being Vice President, what happened inside the cars in the presidential motorcade in Dallas, how delicately thoughtful and solicitous LBJ was of Jackie Kennedy, and all the logistical details that led up to his being sworn in after the assassination. A must-read.

Then there’s the cover by George Booth, titled “Rite of Spring.” As Andy noted, what the hell are we supposed to think is going on here?

In this week’s New Yorker

October 23, 2011

The central feature is a long, absorbing profile by Ken Auletta of Jill Abramson (above, photographed by Mary Ellen Mark), the first female executive editor of the New York Times. I admire her and wish her well, and the article told me lots of things I didn’t know. (Among other things, she’s exactly my age and was at Harvard while I was at Boston University.)

David Sedaris’s “Personal History” piece about his travails as a boyhood swimmer and his unsuccessful attempts to ever get his father’s approving attention is funny and stinging, typical for Sedaris. (And if you’re a subscriber, you can hear him read the piece aloud on your app.) And John Lahr’s review of The Mountaintop and We Live Here  served the purpose of confirming my suspicions and convincing me that I don’t need to see those plays.


I also appreciated this “Critic’s Notebook” by Joan Acocella, brief enough to quote in full:

“Press releases and reviews are always telling us how our savviest artists ‘deconstruct’ the things of the past: take them apart and reveal their wrong, wrong assumptions. In fact, when today’s artists do adaptations of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or Martha Graham, it’s usually not because they scorn those old favorites but because they cherish them. Modernism was a harsh, puritanical movement. Times have changed, under postmodernism. Actually,w e should probably thank something more specific, the gay art movement of the nineteen-sixties forward. In a world blasted beige by modernism, Charles Ludlam, John Waters, and Jack Smith gave magenta back to us. But all reforms get absorbed, and John Kelly is a product of such synthesis. His 1988 dance-theatre work ‘Find My Way Home,’ which will be revived at New York Live Arts Oct. 21-29, is a modern take on Gluck’s ‘Orfeo ed Euridice.’ There is no ‘deconstruction’ here: no knowing-better. The piece is a tribute to Gluck, and a serious essay on how it is to lose the thing you loved.”

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