Posts Tagged ‘george packer’

In this week’s New Yorker

April 5, 2014

There’s some fine reporting by Evan Osnos on West Virginia’s environmental crisis, George Packer on recent examples of war literature, and Emily Nussbaum on Norman Lear and his impact on TV. But nothing beats “Elicitation,” John McPhee’s essay on the craft of reporting, specifically of conducting interviews. I associate McPhee exclusively with long and, frankly, boring New Yorker pieces (a three-part series on sand!), but he was a staff writer at Time magazine writing about entertainment in the 1960s, and his reminiscences here include succinct and fascinating portraits of Woody Allen, Jackie Gleason, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Maggie Smith (the last three on the set of The V.I.P.’s), along with a well-placed dig at Truman Capote.

Here’s a choice passage about Taylor: “In comparison with a great many of the actresses I had met in my years of writing about show business, she was not even half full of herself. She seemed curious, sophisticated, and unpretentious, and compared with people I had known in universities she seemed to have been particularly well educated. From childhood forward, she was tutored in the cafeteria at M-G-M.”

And, of course, another great Roz Chast cartoon:

27-year itch cartoon

In this week’s New Yorker

July 20, 2013

new yorker 7-22 cover
Three major reporting stories dominate: Rachel Louise Snyder’s very detailed, very upsetting, very informative article, “A Raised Hand,” about domestic violence and a tool that social service agencies have developed to successfully gauge the level of risk for lethal attacks by deranged partners (mostly husbands); “The Beach Builders,” John Seabrook’s fascinating story about how the Jersey Shore has been repeatedly repaired after storm damage, most recently after Hurricane Sandy; and Peter Hessler’s Letter from Cairo, which really helped me figure out how to understand the ouster of President Morsi and the current state of affairs in Egypt and educated me about Tamarrod, the inspiring ad hoc grass-roots political movement that managed to oust Morsi with phenomenal speed. Hessler’s lengthy report capitalizes on little glimpses I’ve absorbed — reading in an email recently about how the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to shut down Egypt’s opera houses and ballet companies — and accompanies George Packer’s lead editorial, which succinctly encapsulates the existential crisis that Egyptian politics faces. “The core political problem in Egypt,” writes Packer, “is one that almost always arises from years of dictatorship: a culture of suspicion and confrontation, a mentality of winner-take-all. Islamists and secular-minded Egyptians regard one another as obstacles to power, not as legitimate players in a complex game that requires inclusion and consensus…Nothing good will come of the overthrow of Morsi’s bad government if Egypt’s next transition doesn’t find a place for all of the country’s legitimate factions.”


In this week’s New Yorker

May 25, 2013

new yorker may 27
Some fascinating stuff in the issue, including Jane Mayer’s detailed account of how right-wing conservative zillionaire David Koch has poisoned the independence of public television with his tainted philanthropy, Jeffrey Toobin’s profile of New York City Judge Shira Scheindlin and what part she’s playing in opposing the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy, and George Packer (Silicon Valley native) on how newly rich tech-world giants are dipping their toes into politics.

penicillinBut nothing is more riveting than Tad Friend’s “Crowded House,” which reports one insane individual’s amazing ability to scam almost 100 different people into simultaneously subletting his apartment illegally in Manhattan.


In this week’s New Yorker

October 26, 2012


The Politics issue of the New Yorker this week has some very strong good stuff: the long thoughtful endorsement of Obama for re-election; Jane Mayer’s fantastic story about Hans von Spakovsky, the reprehensible villain who is single-handedly responsible for the Republican push for voter-ID laws to disenfranchise populations who don’t favor Republican candidates; and the mesmerizing saga written by George Packer of Jeff Connaughton, someone who has toiled behind the scenes in politics as a speechwriter, lobbyist, and assistant for decades. But the single best story is Dexter Filkins’ “Atonement,” in which the New York Times reporter (pictured below) witnesses the highly emotional meeting in California between severely traumatized Iraq veteran Lu Lobello and the surviving family of three civilians Lobello killed on April 8, 2003, when U.S. forces moved into Baghdad. I wept nonstop reading the story.

In this week’s New Yorker

December 4, 2011

A lot of terrific stuff in this issue, starting with the cover by the great comic-book artist Daniel Clowes, “Black Friday” — notice the amount of shelf space in the “bookstore” available for actual books…. The ever-excellent George Packer contributes a closely reported piece focusing on a representative Occupy Wall Street regular (“All the Angry People”). Calvin Tomkins, one of my all-time heroes as an arts journalist, profiles Carl Andre, a once-prominent visual artist whose work most American art followers haven’t kept up with largely because of the mystery surrounding the death in 1985 of his wife, Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta. Andre was charged with her murder and acquitted, but many people harbor the belief that he was to blame. Tomkins, as usual, provides a clear-eyed 360-degree portrait of this artist.

I learned more about contemporary politics and economics from Nicholas Lemann’s Reporter at Large story on Brazil than I have from any other political reporting I’ve read this year. It is ostensibly a profile of Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, the incredibly smart protege who was hand-picked as successor by the hugely popular former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula. Rousseff, raised in an affluent family, was radicalized in reaction to the 1964 coup that established Brazil’s military dictatorship. She and her former husband, Lemann writes, “are said to have planned the single most financially successful operation of the militant resistance: the 1969 theft of two and a half million dollars from a safe in the home of the mistress of a former governor of Sao Paolo. In early 1970, the military finally caught up with her. She spent three years in prison, where she was reportedly subjected to extensive torture with paddles, electric cattle prods, and other devices.” And now she’s President!

Lemann’s piece serves more generally as a survey of Brazil’s journey from being a low-functioning democracy with an enormous poverty-level population to a country that become a world economic power while increasing political freedom and income equality. Lemann spends some time with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the two-term president who succeeded in turning the economy around. “Cardoso has spent his life analyzing Brazilian society. He has an ability, rare in a politician, to pull back emotionally from the field of play. In his memoirs, he says that he first discovered that poverty existed, as a child growing up in an overwhelmingly poor country, by reading John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ But distance isn’t the same as dispassion. Another anecdote has George W. Bush, in one of their talks, asking him, ‘Do you have blacks in Brazil?’ Cardoso was shocked. About half of Brazil’s population is made up of people of African descent.”

I was impressed with this unflinching observation about American politics from Governor Sergio Cabral, who may be a future president of Brazil: “The Republican opposition is different from the opposition here. I think the anger against a black man as President should not be enough to put the country in trouble. They disrespect Obama because of his race. It’s not just bad for Obama — it’s bad for the country. In Brazil, the opposition tried tricks against Lula, but the people made solidarity with Lula. The worker, the black man, the workingman, the woman. The world is changing. Thanks God.” But I was most impressed with Lemann’s fascinating conversation with Lula, a straight-talking man of the people. I wish I could provide a link to the whole article, but it’s worth buying the issue or, if you’re a subscriber, not skipping over it but sitting down with this article for 45 minutes.

Elsewhere in the issue: I don’t get fantasy fiction, but I get the truth of what Adam Gopnik says in his long essay about the genre. “Of all the unexpected things in contemporary literature, this is among the oddest: that kids have an inordinate appetite for very long, very tricky, very strange books about places that don’t exist, fights that never happened, all set against the sort of medieval background that Mark Twain thought he had discredited with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” I also don’t really get hip-hop’s new superstar, Drake, whose chorus of praisers is joined by Sasha Frere-Jones, but he sure is handsome.

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