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New Yorker Magazine

October 20, 2014

Because I left my computer behind when I went on my vacation and waiting for re-issuance of my debit card for security reasons, (apparently it had something to do with the new computer virus everyone is concerned about), I have not read any books for the past week or so. I can however rant about The New Yorker Magazine with which I have a love hate relationship.

Like most people who pick up the magazine in the doctor’s waiting room or at someone’s home who for whatever reason subscribes, when I read the New Yorker I skip most of the articles and flip first to the cartoons. I do not find them funny. Someone from the New Yorker once told me with a Eustace Tully like sniff, they’re supposed to be amusing not funny.

Most of the cartoons appear to me to depict characters either collapsing into the ground like slowly deflating balloons or hovering on the verge of transparency. The captions often are snide (which I like) or point out one or another character’s social embarrassment, somewhat at the level of releasing a fart in a crowded room.

The poetry is atrocious. It can be described as poetic excrement. By the time I get to the second line I’m usually furious.

No one I know has admitted to me that they actually read the fiction pieces. They are usually written by a relatively famous Northeast alcoholic, sex-obsessed (or repressed) author, or someone who wishes to be. They really need to now and then try something like publishing the lyrics to a rap song. It would improve the poetry too.

The interesting thing about the non-fiction articles other than their length is that they all begin with great topic sentence that makes you believe you will be greatly informed if you read on. Alas, before I have even finished the first page, new themes are introduced or new characters and I either forget why I started reading the article or, if I have not forgotten, hope I will find it on the following page, often a forlorn hope. When I plod on to the end of the article, to the final paragraph, I frequently discover it lacks any sense of the immediacy with which it began. Or to put more or less into the words of T.S. Elliot it usually ends not with a bang but a whimper.

Now do not get me wrong, I like the New Yorker very much. It reminds me of rainy days and snowy nights on the East Coast with a fire burning in the fireplace or a notoriously dangerous exposed coil (glowing orange) electric heater, depending on one’s socio-economic status. Now and then there would be an article that would knock my socks off and I will always remember it. I love the covers. The magazine also always maintained its grammatical and stylistic standards even as it struggled to remain contemporary. And, I can pile them into stacks in my room for dipping into later (like one does with back copies of National Geographic) and it never looks like clutter.

The following are two quotes from the N.Y. Times that I think catch some of the essence of the magazine and the people who read it:

“The New Yorker magazine has announced that its complete 80-year archive will soon be available on eight computer discs. Some people found this development interesting. But to many, many, many others — and you know who you are, hoarders of America — the idea of being able to own eight DVDs containing every page of the 4,109 issues of the weekly magazine published between February 1925 and February 2005 was life-changing.”
Mimi Avins, July 14, 2005,

“Eleanor Gould Packard, the grammarian for the New Yorker magazine for 54 years whose search for logic, clarity and correct usage in sentences won her grateful as well as grudging admirers among the staff, has died. She was 87. She died Sunday. Her family did not give the cause of death. The first, last and only grammarian at the magazine got her start there in 1945 after sending a letter asking about job openings. In it she pointed out several errors she found in a recent issue.”
Mary Rourke, February 18, 2005

A RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE:

I like to post some of the well written and interesting comments I receive about things I have written here. This came from Stevie Dall:

“Over half a century ago as an 11-year-old growing up in a California railroad town that, for all I know, still doesn’t have a book store, I had the good fortune to make friends with a recent transplant from New York whose mother subscribed to The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, The Saturday Review AND (always my favorite) , The New Yorker.

This was definitely a horizon widener over the Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Boys Life (my brother’s), True Magazine (my father’s — and mine), True Story Magazine (my mother’s), Saturday Evening Post, and Newsweek (mine) that we received at my house, and my grandparents’ Life, Look, and Reader’s Digest, all of which I read from cover to cover.

The one thing they (almost) all had in common were cartoons, and I attacked every new issue from the back thumbing through quickly to read every one of the cartoons as quickly as I could. In The New Yorker, though, I would again go through, once more starting from the back, to read the poetry, followed by the book and movie review.

Only then would I turn to the fiction (there were frequently multiple stories, as I recall, at that point) to savor it the way I do the last morsel of lobster or abalone, leaving everything else to be read (of course I read everything else — there were just so many books one could carry back and forth to the library on a bike!) haphazardly, in no particular order.

That’s still the way I read The New Yorker. I did attempt reading the electronic version on my iPad but gave it up when I couldn’t even muster the interest to make it through the cartoons, which don’t seem to read as well from front to back…

This past issue had a Shirley Jackson story — almost 50 years posthumous — but I keep hoping something new and exciting will come along, and I’ll read it in The New Yorker :o)”

MY ANSWER TO STEVIE:

The Huffington Post reports:

“The New Yorker led the pack Thursday night at the annual National Magazine Awards, winning four prizes…

Love the magazine as I do I still find its Poetry inept, the articles too long and at times insipid and the cartoons, amusing but not funny. I suggest that some rap lyrics could greatly improve things.

big_mac_rap_lyrics_by_nicoletheawesomehog-d5m59xv

According to Matt Daniels (http://rappers.mdaniels.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com) a designer, coder and data scientist at something called Undercurrent in New York City, after analyzing the percentage of unique words used by various rap artists with Shakespeare, fifteen rappers use of unique words exceeded The Bard’s for roughly equivalent sets. Aesop Rock came in first by a mile followed by Wu-Tang Clan, Kool Kieth and Cunnlynguists.

So, no apologies this time.

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