Posts Tagged ‘nicholas lemann’

Quote of the day: BULLYING

October 13, 2015


[LinkedIn founder Reid] Hoffman persuaded his father to send him first to a private school in Berkeley, and then to the Putney School, a progressive boarding school in Vermont, which another classmate was planning to attend… Once he got there, his relationship with his friend from Berkeley turned sour and another student started a bullying campaign against him. He compared it to the organized cruelty in “Lord of the Flies,” saying, “Little harassments, the techniques of trying to demonstrate power and dominance—that was my first experience of betrayal.” Hoffman used game logic to solve the problem: “The way you deal with bullies is you change their economic equation. Make it more expensive for them to hassle you.” He went to the chief bully, and said that if he continued to hassle him, “ ‘I will break everything you own.’ He stopped.”

–Nicholas Lemann, “The Network Man” in The New Yorker

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In this week’s New Yorker

July 20, 2014

wrong answer
I read with interest Seth Mnookin’s “One of a Kind,” about how blogging has helped patients with extremely rare diseases find each other and more treatment options, and Nicholas Lemann’s profile of Janet Yellen, which explained a lot about the mysterious institution known as the Fed which has already evaporated from my brain. The reporting piece that hit me hardest was Rachel Aviv’s “Wrong Answer,” which details how well-meaning teachers get snared in the insane negative consequences of testing-based No Child Left Behind education bullshit. And Greg Jackson’s remarkable short story, “Wagner in the Desert,” contained my single favorite sentence in the issue: “Eli walked over to ask if I wanted lunch, or anything, or what did I want, and I said ‘no,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘later,’ in some order, and then I realized that there was something I wanted, though it wasn’t exactly a group activity, which was to lie on the bathroom floor and masturbate until I died.”


In this week’s New Yorker

November 10, 2013

new yorker cover nov 11
I read Nicholas Lemann’s profile of SEC chair Mary Jo White from beginning to end, though I’m not sure why. Ditto Jill Lepore’s piece on “Doctor Who,” even though I’m not a fan and don’t really understand the appeal (unlike Andy, who is a rabid fanboy excited that he’s been invited to watch the 50th anniversary season-opener broadcast live in a movie theater). I loved Joan Acocella’s breezy digest of competing translations of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Emily Nussbaum almost convinced me that “It’s Sunny in Philadelphia” is worth watching. In her review she says “It’s as unhinged as ‘Monty Python’ but as polished as ’30 Rock.” Which sounds impressive, except that I’m not a fan of either show. (One of the great things about good writers reviewing television is that they tell all the best jokes, so you don’t actually have to watch the shows.)
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My favorite piece in the magazine this week is Dan Chiasson’s essay about Marianne Moore, on the occasion of Linda Leavell’s new biography Holding On Upside Down. Moore’s life story is quite amazing: her father went mad before she was born and so she virtually never knew him; her mother had a ten-year love affair with a woman while raising her daughter; and after her mother broke up with her lesbian lover, Moore and her mother moved in together and shared a bed until the mother died when the poet was 60 years old. Chiasson’s piece is terrific, as is his conversation with Sasha Weiss on the New Yorker Out Loud podcast this week. (Apparently, the poet’s first name is pronounced as if it were Marion, not Mary Anne. Who knew?) One great factoid: “Ford famously hired her to name its much anticipated new model for the year 1958. The episode has struck some as pitiful—a great poet pandering to the crassest patron—but her submissions are unforgettable: Mongoose Civique, Utopian Turtletop, Pastelogram. Ford said no thanks, and went with Edsel.”

In this week’s New Yorker

April 14, 2013

The April 15 issue is dominated by four long, strong feature stories:

* John Le Carre’s remembrance of how his early novel The Spy Who Loved Me got made into a film starring Richard Burton (who knew that LeCarre goes by the name of David among his friends?);

* Joan Acocella’s extremely entertaining profile of puppet master Basil Twist;

* Nick Paumgarten’s long consideration of James Salter, making a case for the greatness of a writer who’s never been on my radar; and

* Susan Faludi’s piece on Shulamith Firestone, the once extremely influential radical feminist who quickly receded from the fray (bearing the brunt of being trashed by her comrades, in all too familiar internal divisiveness that infects progressive movements) and died last year, alone and mentally ill.


Nicholas Lemann reviews a number of books astutely analyzing the environmentalist movement and what it could learn from the original Earth Day (April 22, 1970). Sasha Frere-Jones makes me want to track down a hit single from 2002 that somehow escaped me, the Knife’s “Heartbeats.” And David Denby’s review makes me curious to see the new Robert Redford film The Company You Keep, though I probably won’t.

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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