Posts Tagged ‘steve coll’

In this week’s New Yorker

August 11, 2012

By far the most compelling reading in this issue is Atul Gawande’s long fascinating study of how chain restaurants manage to produce tasty food — he uses the Cheesecake Factory as his case study — and the ways in which hospitals would benefit from reproducing such systems. If you’re like me, you probably think you don’t want to know too much about what happens in restaurant kitchens, fearing the worst. But Gawande’s account surprised and impressed me — of course, it makes sense for there to be strong accountability in restaurant management, otherwise they wouldn’t stay in business. And it’s accountability in several directions — to proper health standards; to the customer; to keeping costs affordable and waste to a minimum — that the author sees as key and makes a persuasive case for. As a physician employed by a hospital himself, he acknowledges the resistance that doctors have to systematizing procedures, but he also reports on several cases where hospitals have adopted these systems successfully. His article makes me realize that we, the public, have gotten accustomed to healthcare (the scheduling, the costs, the recommendations) running for the convenience of the doctors, when it should be the other way around.

Another healthcare-related high point in the issue: James Surowiecki’s Financial Page column, “Downsizing Supersize,” a very sensible analysis of Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to limit the size of sodas for sale. Some express outrage and consider this a form of governmental micro-managing, but I have to say I support the idea 100%, and Surowiecki lays out the case superbly.

What else? Having gotten caught up in various Olympics dramas, I found Ben McGrath’s report from London to be entertaining. I have a strange ambivalence about Lena Dunham — I can’t tell if she has real talent, or just a high tolerance for self-exposure — but I read her Personal History essay on “First Love” anyway. I’m intrigued with those writers who are managing to incorporate up-to-the-minute social media in their stories — Justin Taylor’s “After Ellen” is nominally fiction, and narrated by a man, but otherwise it’s in the same category as Dunham’s piece.


Steve Coll’s profile of Imran Khan, former cricket star now running for top office in Pakistan, gives me some hope that that country can avoid falling completely under the sway of Islamist fundamentalists. And Adam Gopnik’s book review/essay, “I, Nephi,” proves that no matter how intelligently you’re willing to discuss Mormonism, there’s no way that the religion doesn’t come off as absolutely crazy-pants.

And now that Mitt Romney has named his running partner, you may want to go back and read Ryan Lizza’s recent profile of Paul Ryan — yes, he’s handsome and well-spoken, but like Romney committed to economic policies that unavoidably benefit the 1% more than the rest of us folks.

In this week’s New Yorker

January 22, 2012

Another stellar batch of cartoons!


Along with fine reporting by Ariel Levy on Callista Gingrich, Steve Coll on “Looking for Mullah Omar,” and William Finnegan, who traveled to Madagascar with club and restaurant superstar Eric Goode to observe his passion for saving rare breeds of tortoise. The latter piece is a real vocabulary expander; I picked up “chelonian,” “gular scute,” and “opuntia cactus.” Lots of astonishing tortoise lore: “Chelonians actually predate many dinosaurs. They have been lumbering around for more than two hundred million years, and have changed very little in all that time. Nobody knows how long individual plowshares live. Captain James Cook took away a radiated tortoise, the plowshare’s closest relative, and gave it to the King of Tonga, in 1777. It died in 1966.” And the next time there’s a lull in conversation over dinner, try telling your guests “Endoscopic turtle sexing will not become common practice in Madagascar any time soon.”

Poet Donald Hall contributes a poignant Personal History essay on aging, “Out the Window,” and Anthony Lane applies his characteristically droll erudition to reviewing Ralph Fiennes’ film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “The movie unfolds in a modern setting, and in modern dress. This will obviously be disappointing to any Gerard Butler fans who hoped to see their man reprise his majestic outfit from 300, which consisted of helmet, cloak, and pull-up Spartan diaper.” And whichever poetry editor has been slipping lyrics by pop songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon into the magazine has now added to the list Leonard Cohen. As usual, the lyric doesn’t fly so well on the page, but on the website you can scroll down and hear the track “Going Home” from Cohen’s forthcoming album, Old Ideas, hotly anticipated by me.

In this week’s New Yorker

October 7, 2010


It’s the Money Issue, with two really long upsetting stories worth reading.

Ryan Lizza’s detailed report on the attempt by John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joseph Lieberman to write epochal climate-change legislation and then rally enough support in the Senate to pass it is as depressing and infuriating a picture of how the U.S. government works as any I’ve read. The sheer idiotic partisan politics of assholes like Mitch McConnell (“the Republican leader and architect of the strategy to oppose every part of Obama’s agenda”) would theoretically outrage the voting public…except that the populace turns out to be equally idiotic. Nobody comes off looking good, including the Obama Administration.

Then there’s Philip Gourevitch’s survey of the modern humanitarian-aid industry, which centers on Dutch journalist Linda Polman’s book The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?, which deals with a lot of ugly truths about the Red Cross and other humanitarian efforts and how they paradoxically perpetuate suffering by relieving warring countries and insurgencies from cleaning up their own messes.

This kind of eyes-open, well-written, hard-headed journalism is what I read The New Yorker for. It’s nice to have a balance, though, so I also really enjoyed Nora Ephron’s piece “My Life as an Heiress.” Nora Ephron is just a fantastic storyteller, don’t you think?

Not to mention a beautiful Chris Ware story as the fold-out cover and a terrific lead Talk of the Town piece by Steve Coll about shaky U.S. relations with Pakistan.

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