The Desiccation of Wit

Thursday, April 20, 2006

eating my words

Okay, I've screwed up my courage and I'm just going to say it: Yes, damn it, I subscribe to The New Yorker. It's a pompous and arrogant periodical that is not as good as it was in the [insert editor of choice] period. It reviews opera in long format, apparently presuming that there is still a large segment of the public that arranges its life around when a favorite mezzo might appear. It persists in using an umlaut when a prefix ending in a vowel runs up against another of the same vowel (coöperation), which I think died as a general practice around the same time as Caesar. (Julius, not Augustus.) Sometimes I don't understand the cartoons. I never understand any of the ads.

But it still publishes poetry (poetry!) in a general interest magazine. Sometimes the cartoons are very funny. The profiles, all superciliousness overlooked, are often brilliant. And there's still some very good original investigative journalism in its pages, albeit heavily influenced by the Local Color and the I State This Blandly While You Catch My Other Meaning* schools of journalism.

This week's issue, however, has reminded me thrice over of why I do subscribe:

Nancy Franklin's lovely simile that crops up in, of all places, a restaurant review: The restaurant is just a hundred yards or so away from the mayhem of Union Square, with its hordes of young people running after a good time as if it were about to roll under a couch.

Anthony Lane's use of the much forgotten "conurbation" in an article on European budget airlines, a word he must have pull out from under the aforementioned couch and dusted off expressly for this article.

Finally, Jonathan Stern's "The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment." While weak in spots (you're horny, we get it), the parody of a much-beloved but perhaps too-big-for-its-britches-becoming publication does an excellent job of lampooning the guidebook's mission of making its readers feel at once intrepid cultural explorers (More adventurous eaters might try standing over the sink, as the locals do.) and safe in their new society (Dangers & Annoyances: The ongoing economic recession has led to a large increase in petty crime. For the most part this is limited to the "borrowing" of personal items and the occasional accidental disappearance of the neighbor's newspaper.)

Go forth, wordsmiths! Go forth and… smith. Produce for me these things of beauty in your Upper East Side sort of way. Make of your smirk a sword of insight. But please stop trying to convince me that I need to buy a roll-up Panama hat handwoven from straw in Ecuador (p157) or a ring with my family crest (research included!—p155). Affording the subscription price has meant giving up lunch for a month.

*This is sometimes referred to by British commentators as the "Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge School."


Blogger dw said...

I will my polis-pride aside for a moment and take issue with only one thing in your post, Lex, though a few raised my eyebrows, if not my ire:

The two dots over the second vowel in words such as 'pre-emption' or 'co-operation'. is not an umlaut. It's a dieresis. Umlauts make vowels long; diereses split up diphthongs into separate syllables.

To wit:

1a. The division of one syllable into two, esp. by the separation of a diphthong into two simple vowels.

1b. The sign [¨] marking such a division, or, more usually, placed over the second of two vowels which otherwise make a diphthong or single sound, to indicate that they are to be pronounced separately.

2:17 PM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger Mandy said...

yeah okay, nuyorker is all that. but the poetry sucks. i had to say it. the poetry sucks. i usually skip over - no, not even. i usually close my eyes when turning the page away from the poems for fear that reading even so much as a word will contaminate me. cause new yorker poems suck. witness that stupid piece of shit by that woman whose name i forget that was published either last week or two or three weeks ago about swimming with her lover in the ocean and then she likens herself to FISH as her lover swims "INTO" her (a fishly penetration of fish??!!!) and oh my god, my eyes, my eyes, why did i read that??!!

you know who publishes good poems? cause i sure don't. no wait, iowa review. that's it.

9:59 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger dw said...

By the way, I also take issue with your issue with the issue's use of 'conurbation', which is vastly preferable to other appellations with which people have come up recently. If you've ever heard of the purported BosWash Metropolis (within which we are situated, as the crux) perhaps then you know what I mean.

6:34 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger lex said...

Mandy: that was the worst poem I've ever read. It made me feel physically ill. And then I read about noodling in the NYT.

dee-dub: I don't have an issue with the issue's use of "conurbation." I, in fact, wrote an entire post precisely in order to praise, among other things, that very usage. I think I have an issue with your misreading of my post, though.

11:56 PM, April 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:12 PM, March 16, 2007  

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