One of the things that has propelled me through this week of extreme heat and bar exam hysteria is the current issue of The New Yorker. I love this magazine, a lot, but I want to sing its praises now that the week is drawing to a close.
This is the annual Summer Fiction issue, a double-week behemoth that landed with a thud in the mailbox last Monday. The first thing I do when I get a magazine is rip out all the ads, especially the ones made of cardboard or burlap or whatever material some genius "creative" decided to throw at magazine readers so we can't roll up the magazine or actually carry it around without having to crease those extra-stiff ads they're so enamored with. (You know what I'm saying?) This issue looked great from the start: the cover is by Adrian Tomine, one of my favorite illustrators and someone who is doing New Yorker covers that are as clever and vibrant and beautiful as anybody else these days. (One of his previous covers spent several happy months on our refrigerator a couple years ago.) This cover has grown on me the more I've looked at it.
Inside, there was a newly translated story from Vladimir Nabokov that was eerie and haunting. There was a hilarious review of "Sex and the City" by Anthony Lane, who clearly hated it. There was a great review of Jeff Koons' installation on the roof of the Met, which we saw a couple weeks ago. There was an interesting, surprisingly personal review by James Wood of some new books wrestling with faith, theodicy (whatever that means), and suffering. One of my favorite music critics, Sasha Frere-Jones, had a piece on Auto-Tune, the technology used by T-Pain and others to create many songs I love. There were short reflective pieces by great writers like Tobias Wolff and George Saunders on faith and doubt.
Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite novelists, had an essay on his passion for distance running and how it has impacted his life as a writer. I find him to be so brilliant, yet so accessible -- I was tickled to see the slightest connection between him and me, at least on the running front (although he seems to be a much better runner and writer than me, so what are you gong to do).
Best of all, though was the fiction. The issue lived up to the hype. I stayed at Chipotle for an awkwardly long time to finish up Annie Proulx's story, "Tits-Up in A Ditch." Reader, it was brilliant. It started off as the story of a young girl growing up unloved on a ranch in Wyoming, and went to some unexpected and grueling places. I actually, almost, sort of, got emotional reading the ending, which I was barreling towards relentlessly (and it took me 2 refills from the Chipotle soda fountain to get there, I might add). I've been thinking about this story a lot in the last few days. Please read it -- I wanted to link to it but those savvy dogs at newyorker.com are hoarding it for the print version.
I've saved myself the last major story in the issue, fiction from Mary Gaitskill, for tomorrow. How I have loved carrying this issue around, reading snippets during breaks from lectures or enjoying it over lunch. I love this magazine so passionately, and am such a nerd for it. Sometimes I have dreams where I am reading an article in the magazine, yet the words are being written as I read them -- I see the letters flying onto the page, in the familiar font into their familiar columns -- yet my dream-self is consciously reading and understanding what's being written, and understanding that it's all coming from somewhere deep inside my subconscious. The most striking thing about the dreams, though, is the fact that I'm writing something that's appearing in the New Yorker (my bizarre dream-world New Yorker, but it counts). Sometimes I find myself musing on what it would be like to be published in there. It's definitely a goal for my life.
So, I'm the kind of person who blogs about a particular issue of a magazine because he loved it so. All I can say is: thank you, David Remnick and the gang, for giving me some beauty and wisdom and brilliance to carry around with me and read for two whole weeks. Can't wait til the new issue on Monday (which will probably include something insanely boring to balance out, like the time they had a major feature on chalk production, which I really struggled with and ultimately abandoned). But that might be the best part of a weekly magazine: no matter what you get this week, hope springs eternal for the new issue coming down the pike.