Posts Tagged ‘john lahr’

In this week’s New Yorker

September 16, 2014

I haven’t even gotten to this week’s issue, but I just finished last week’s, which is remarkably loaded with good substance, notwithstanding its enigmatic untitled Saul Steinberg cover.

I was taken by virtually all the major features:

* Kelefa Sanneh’s “The Eternal Paternal,” a profile of Bill Cosby that brings up but never satisfactorily addresses accusations of sexual assault;

* Jerome Groopman’s highly technical but engrossing report on a breakthrough in leukemia treatment;

* John Lahr’s profile of Al Pacino, full of weirdly specific mundane details; and

* William Finnegan’s “Dignity,” a moving portrait of the budding labor movement among fast-food workers and an admirable demonstration of a male gringo reporter identifying with a non-English-speaking Latina McDonald’s employee.

Also surprisingly gripping: Alex Ross’s essay on the Frankfurt School of early 20th century intellectuals, centering on the combative friendship of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno and their various takes on pop culture (Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in their 1944 book Dialectic of Enlightenment, opined that the culture industry offered “the freedom to choose what is always the same”).

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.”

In this week’s New Yorker

May 28, 2011

Yes, it’s farmer’s market season again — yay! And hooray for the clever New Yorker cover with that reminder.

Two excellent pieces in the magazine this week: John Colapinto’s “Strange Fruit,” telling you everything you want to know about the harvesting of acai and the marketing of its (possibly overhyped) medicinal properties; and Rachel Aviv’s “God Knows Where I Am,” the sad tale of a patient who refuses to accept a diagnosis of mental illness and how that plays out in her life. Key quote from the latter: “Today, there are three times as many mentally ill people in jails as in hospitals.”

I was mildly interested in Andrea K. Scott’s profile of Cory Arcangel, whose show at the Whitney I’m mildly interested in seeing. John Lahr is one of those theater critics who so falls in love with artists that he profiles for the New Yorker that I find his always-glowing opinions of their subsequent work to be suspect — cf. his review of Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss in Chicago. But I’ve yet to be grabbed by any of Ruhl’s work. If I had time to read Adam Kirsch’s piece on Rabindranath Tagore, I’ll bet I’d glean stuff that would interest me. And I hope to get around to reading Kate Walbert’s short story “M&M World.”

In this week’s New Yorker

March 9, 2011

The crunchiest, good-for-you feature in the magazine this week is a long slog — a meticulously reported piece by Raffi Khatchadourian (who wrote the now-famous profile of Julian Assange for the New Yorker) about the clean-up effort after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The takeaway is quite surprising: what sounded like the most heinous and irreparable environmental disaster ever perpetrated by humans has actually been dispersed with remarkably little lasting harm, or much less than anyone feared. This is partly because everyone involved, especially Louisiana residents riding herd on British Petroleum with President Obama weighing in and kicking ass, threw every resource available into the cleanup. But the other hidden bit of information is that ocean has remarkable properties for absorbing and disarming toxic wastes. I keep forgetting that the earth is an organism that has its own quite powerful immune system.

Other than that, I appreciated John Lahr’s reviews of That Championship Season and Good People, which confirmed my suspicions. He especially voices my sentiments about David Lindsay-Abaire as a playwright of the Paint-by-Numbers school.

And the single most delightful story is a second helping from Tina Fey’s forthcoming book Bossypants, “Lessons from Late Night,” which includes my favorite footnote since Mary Roach’s book Bonk. In the section where she says  “the staff of Saturday Night Live has always been a blend of hyper-intelligent Harvard boys…and gifted visceral, fun performers,” she notes, “I say Harvard ‘boys’ because they are almost always male, and because they are usually under twenty-five and have never done physical labor with their arms or legs. I love them very much.”

Theater review: LA BETE

December 11, 2010

I dragged my heels about seeing the Broadway revival of David Hirson’s La Bete because I’d seen the original production, a valiant and smart but short-lived production, and felt like I’d already checked it off the list. I knew people were raving about Mark Rylance’s performance in the central role, and I know he’s a fine actor (above left, with David Hyde Pierce), but I saw him last year in Boeing Boeing and just thought the show was stupid and his performance overrated. Nevertheless, reading John Lahr’s review in the New Yorker inspired me to understand the contemporary political significance of the play, so I arranged to see it, and I’m glad I did. It is indeed a smart and provocative play about culture today, but it’s also a ripping good show. You can read my CultureVulture review online here.

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