Posts Tagged ‘evan osnos’

In this week’s New Yorker

April 3, 2012

A bunch of stories I skipped: Steve Coll on ExxonMobil, Rivka Galchen on the German public’s fixation on American Indians, Ben McGrath on the Miami Marlins. I did, however, devour Evan Osnos’s “Letter from China” about the gambling industry in Macau, which takes in five times as much dough per year as Las Vegas does. That story introduces a man who has become mythical in China as “the God of Gamblers,” just as the narrator of Jonathan Lethem’s short story “The Porn Critic” identifies himself as a “Conceptual Lesbian.”


Jeffrey Toobin’s good editorial joins the chorus of pundits shaming the Supreme Court for straying into politics.

You probably almost never notice the “spots,” tiny drawings that appear throughout the magazine to help even out the columns and break up large chunks of text. This week’s, by R. Kikuo Johnson, all depict people in hoodies. Way to go, New Yorker.

In this week’s New Yorker

October 16, 2011

Travelling abroad for two weeks, I finally got used to and even learned to like reading The New Yorker on my iPad. I don’t think it’s just because I was on vacation and had plenty of time to read that I found these last two issues to be really strong anthologies of articles. The most recent issue was chock full of good stuff, starting with Barry Blitt’s wonderful cover illustration of Steve Jobs checking in with the concierge at the ultimate Genius Bar.


And it continues with Nicholson Baker’s lovely tribute to the guy responsible for “being able to carry several kinds of infinity around in your shirt pocket” and the device Baker describes as “this brilliant, slip-sliding rectangle of private joy.”

Adam Gopnik contributes an illuminating salute to The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s book I’ve heard about, never read, and never knew that the great cartoonist Jules Feiffer had anything to do with. Adam Kirsch, writing about H.G. Wells, reveals him to be a bad writer but a prodigious fornicator (a similar conclusion reached by Joan Acocella in her piece the previous week about Georges Simenon). James Wood’s essay on Alan Hollinghurst manages to be admiring and respectful while mercilessly exposing the novelist’s tics and careless repetitions. The publication of a long-lost Eugene O’Neill one-act reminds me of everything I hate about O’Neill — the bloated, unnecessary stage directions and the corny, outlandish attempts at reproducing dialect.

The center of the issue contains three smart, riveting, vastly different fact pieces. Michael Specter reports on how Portugal treats heroin addiction as a medical issue rather than criminal activity. Tad Friend’s story about Andrew Stanton, Pixar’s star screenwriter-director, reveals lots of good moviemaking detail. “He read and reread Lajos Egri’s ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing,’ which taught him to distill movies to one crisp sentence before making them. For Finding Nemo it was ‘Fear denies a good father from being one,’ and for Wall-E  ‘Love conquers all programming.’ ”

Best of all is Evan Osnos’s long, detailed, scary “Letter from Fukushima,” which recounts every step of how workers at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station dealt with the dangerous destruction to the plant by the tsunami in March. Besides dropping in some fascinating geeky tidbits (nuclear workers willing to jump in and jump out of high-dose conditions are nicknamed dose fodder, glow boys, and gamma sponges), the article traces a few half-forgotten pockets of Japan’s nuclear history. I was only dimly aware of the impact on Japan of US hydrogen bomb testing in the Bikini Atoll. Osnos reports: “The ordeal caused a panic in Japan; a petition against further hydrogen-bomb tests secured the signature of one in every three citizens. it was the start of what became known as Japan’s ‘nuclear allergy.’ In less than a year, Japanese filmmakers had released Godzilla, about a creature mutated by American atomic weapons. ‘Mankind had created the Bomb,’ the film’s producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka, said of his monster, ‘and now nature was going to take revenge.’ Godzilla’s radioactive breath and low-budget special effects were campy to the reset of the world but not to the Japanese, who watched the film in silence and left in tears.”

The previous week’s issue (cover date October 10) had a similar trio of quirky business articles at its core — Joshua Davis on the inventor of the currency of the future, the bitcoin; Akash Kapur’s “The Shandy,” about a cow broker in India; and Calvin Trillin’s droll coverage of duelling jewellers in Toronto’s cash-for-gold business. I couldn’t care less about Taylor Swift but read every word of Lizzie Widdicombe’s thorough profile of her. (Okay, I was on a bus Florence to Siena.) But if there are only a couple of must-reads in the issue, one is very long (Jane Mayer’s report on villainous Art Pope, one of the major funders of all the worst right-wing Republicans coming down the pike) and one is very short (Patti Smith’s memoir about shoplifting the World Book Encyclopedia and getting caught).

In this week’s New Yorker

June 29, 2011

Two interesting long pieces — a profile by Evan Osnos of the young Chinese pop novelist (and race car driver!) Han Han, and a reporting piece by Nick Paumgarten about online dating services, specifically covering OK Cupid, Match.com, and eHarmony. The most remarkable fact in Paumgarten’s story is that he has only been on two dates in his entire life — he’s been married for 23 years to the second woman he dated. Also commendable: Lauren Collins’ “Letter from Luton,” about the English Defense League, a product of the anti-Muslim-immigration sentiment in the U.K. The racism of the EDL lads is very disturbing, but so is a sheik’s refusal to shake a female reporter’s hand.

In last week’s New Yorker…

April 21, 2011

I seem to be running a week behind at this point. But in the “Journeys” issue I enjoyed reading Evan Osnos’s report about travelling through Europe with Chinese tourists. Hilton Als’ review of the new revival of Anything Goes starring Sutton Foster was so interesting it made me want to see the production, which otherwise I’ve been ignoring since the Lincoln Center production is still so fresh in my mind. Sasha Frere-Jones astonishes me by repeatedly writing interesting pieces about pop musicians I’ve never heard of who have already made 13 albums already! The latest is Bill Callahan, whom he makes sound quite intriguing. Since he turned me on to Of Montreal and Bon Iver, I tend to pay attention whenever Frere-Jones writes about music.

But my favorite piece in this issue is by Geoff Dyer, the novelist whose Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi impressed me very much. He writes about a pilgrimage he made to two famous earthworks, Walter De Maria’s “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico and Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” in Utah. Dyer is a fantastic writer, and his observations are worth reading. In passing, he refers to an essay D.H. Lawrence wrote about Taos, which he compares to the monasteries of Europe. I was particularly struck by this passage because Andy and I recently watched Into Great Silence, the engrossing documentary about the very austere Carthusian monastery in the French Alsp called the Grand Chartreuse, which made us question what purpose such isolated temples of worship and study serve in the bigger picture. Lawrence provides a very interesting perspective on that question:

“You cannot come upon the ruins of the old great monasteries of England, beside their waters, in some lovely valley, now remote, without feeling that here is one of the choice spots of the earth, where the spirit dwelt. To me it is so important to remember that when Rome collapsed, when the great Roman Empire fell into smoking ruins, and bears roamed in the streets of Lyon and wolves howled in the deserted streets of Rome, and Europe really was a dark ruin, then, it was not in castles or manors or cottages that life remained vivid. Then those whose souls were still alive withdrew together and gradually built monasteries, and these monasteries and convents, little communities of quiet labour and courage, isolated, helpless, and yet never overcome in a  world flooded with devastation, these alone kept the human spirit from disintegration, from going quite dark, in the Dark Ages. These men made the Church, which again made Europe, inspiring the martial faith of the Middle Ages.”

In this week’s New Yorker

March 26, 2011

For a fashion issue, this week’s New Yorker is remarkably substantial. Of course, the disaster in Japan looms over the issue and our minds. Evan Osnos writes a terrific “Letter from Japan” with on-the-ground reporting of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, noting among other things the notable and very Japanese calm in the face of catastrophe (no looting) as well as the fantastic stories that have rushed into the vacuum of the government’s stingy information about the nuclear crisis. Osnos compares the current tragedy to past earthquake-related disasters in Japan and includes this bit of information new to me: “After the 1923 quake in Kanto, rumors swept Tokyo and Yokohama that Koreans were committing arson and poisoning wells. And so, amid the still smoking ruins of those cities, angry mobs, some including members of the police force and other officials, murdered thousands of Koreans—a massacre that remains a source of shame today.”

A bridge in Nishinomiya, Japan, fourteen miles from Kobe, after an earthquake struck on January 17, 1995

I’m not a huge fan of Karuki Murakami, so I didn’t read his short story “U.F.O. in Kushiro,” but it’s illustrated with amazing pictures taken of the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe (above).

Peter Schjeldahl’s review of the inadvertently timely art show at the Japan Society called “Bye Bye Kitty!!!” makes me definitely want to see the show.

Among the fashion stories, I was surprised to find myself riveted by Alexandra Jacobs’s story about Sara Blakely and the invention of Spanx (and its related industry of shape-slimming underwear) and also by Lauren Collins’s extremely well-written and intimate profile of shoe designer Christian Louboutin, he of the red soles. One thing I love about the exceptionally sophisticated coverage of fashion in both the New Yorker and the New York Times these days is the almost inevitable and matter-of-fact way that high-end designers’ homosexuality is acknowledged — something that was just not done even a generation ago.

Malcolm Gladwell contributes an astonishing encapsulation of what sounds like an unusually good book, Ruth Brandon’s “Ugly Beauty,” which is a double biography of two cosmetics magnates, Helena Rubenstein and Eugene Schueller (creator of L’Oreal). Gladwell’s piece, which includes a side visit to the history of Ikea, muses on the interplay of politics and business — it’s a dense good read.

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