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On Preventing New Yorker Fatigue (and a bit about Anthony Lane)

June 30, 2008

A couple of years ago, I did something that few self-respecting persons with graduate degrees and aspirations to literary careers dare do in this country: I cancelled my subscription to the New Yorker.

The reasons for cancelling were largely to do with a bad case of New Yorker Fatigue (NYF). The magazine's reporting style is so uniform that by the time I reached the Financial Page, I would frequently run out of steam. I didn't see much point in paying all that money for a publication that remained largely unread every week. And there was quite a bit of guilt associated with not getting around to swallowing those long, worthy articles about the war in Iraq and the latest shenanigans at the White House. So I decided to cut myself loose.

Following a two-year break, I recently found myself ready to subscribe again. And I'm happy to report that this time around, I've come up with an effective strategy for preventing NYF. It's quite simple, really: Instead of opening the magazine at the masthead, I turn it around, as one might a Hebrew Bible, and read it from back to front.

The New Yorker's critics have such individual voices and methods of approaching their respective art forms thtat I find myself sailing through their reviews. Then I'm all juiced to launch into the big, fat reported pieces in the middle of the book. And the Talk of the Town and arts listings make surprisingly nice chasers.

I definitely recommend this approach to anyone suffering from NYF.

On another note: It's been a while since I'd read Anthony Lane's movie criticism. I was turned off the writer a long time ago when I realized that if he likes a movie, he's quite boring to read. He's only ever any good when he's tearing a film he hates to shreds, which basically means he's only ever any good when he's writing about big, summer, Hollywood blockbusters.

Like the Mad Dog who walks out in the midday sun, the Englishman revels in Hollywood's sunny summer movie madness. Lane's review of the Angelina Jolie flick Wanted from last week's issue is a case in point. Lane's opening paragraph is one of the best film review ledes I've ever read. Here it is:

"What is it like being Timu Bekmambetov? No artist should be confused too closely with his creations, but anybody who sits through Wanted, Bekmambetov's new movie, will be tempted to wonder if the life style of the characters might not reflect or rub off on that of the director. How, for example, does he make a cup of coffee? My best guess, based on the evidence of the film, is that he tosses a handful of beans toward the ceiling, shoots them individually into a fine powder, leaves it hanging in the air, runs downstairs, breaks open a fire hydrant with his head, carefully directs the jet of water through the window of his apartment, sets fire to the building, then stands patiently with his mug amid the blazing ruins to collect the precious percolated drops. Don't even think about a cappuccino."

If only Lane could come up with this kind of stuff for movies he actually likes.


  • Not to mention the Sex in the City ditty. He is at his best with his scathingly ironic jokes, isn't he? But he often makes a very good point. Whereas David Denby just gets pissy when he is not amused. To bad, because Anthony suggests we laugh at failure rather than, as in David Denby's corner, we raise our noses and walk away as if we were better than that.

    And I don't know a better demonstration of Bloom's Taxonomy in the Cognitive Domain than the Talk of the Town-Comment essay. Those New Yorker rascals can really get to the past/present/future heart of a matter.

    I know what you mean about the fatigue thing. I suffer guilt because of this. There is no better sleeping pill than a New Yorker at night. I find early morning, early early, is the only way to really really read the magazine. And the short stories...

    I could go on. It is the only magazine I read. Otherwise I would get nothing else done. And I hardly get anything done with those silently screaming things laying all over my home anyway.

    I'm wasting my time here just writing about the New Yorkers I shouldn't read because I have a deadline that is more important...or is it?

    Queenie, if I had the power I would fire David Denby and give you his job. I mean that.

    If only.

    Mr. Stick

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 30, 2008 at 5:53 PM  

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