The New Yorker December 7, 2020

Founded in 1925, The New Yorker publishes the best writers of its time and has received more National Magazine Awards than any other magazine, for its groundbreaking reporting, authoritative analysis, and creative inspiration. The New Yorker takes readers beyond the weekly print magazine with the web, mobile, tablet, social media, and signature events. The New Yorker is at once a classic and at the leading edge.

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Larissa MacFarquhar (“Solomon’s Dilemma,” p. 36) is a staff writer and the author of “Strangers Drowning.” Paul Theroux (Fiction, p. 58) published the book “On the Plain of Snakes,” about Mexico, in 2019. His new novel, “Under the Wave at Waimea,” will come out next spring. Brenda Hillman (Poem, p. 42), a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California. Her latest poetry collection is “Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days.” Adrian Tomine (Cover) is a cartoonist and an illustrator. His most recent book, a graphic novel, is “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist.” Carrie Battan (The Talk of the Town, p. 18), who has been a staff writer since 2018, began contributing to The New Yorker in 2015. Raffi Khatchadourian (Portfolio, p. 48) has been a staff writer…

the mail

THE DOOMED HEROINE OF HENRY JAMES I enjoyed Merve Emre’s piece on the academic Sianne Ngai’s book “Theory of the Gimmick,” and especially its closing critique: “if the propensity for gimmickry is all around us, then it is also nowhere in particular” (Books, November 16th). But I wonder whether Emre inadvertently reproduces Ngai’s tendency to overstate the gimmick’s purview. As she points out, Henry James observes in his preface to “The Wings of the Dove” that exposure to death or danger makes a character inherently interesting. But James’s recognition of what Emre calls a literary gimmick doesn’t stop him from conferring a terminal illness upon one of the novel’s main characters, Milly Theale. Indeed, the preface justifies the choice: “Why should a figure be disqualified for a central position by the…

goings on about town: this week

DECEMBER 2 – 8, 2020 The most memorable moment in Heartbeat Opera’s “Fidelio,” from 2018, was a video of several prison choruses—dozens of men and women, including Michael Powell (pictured)—singing. Heartbeat’s new streaming show, “Breathing Free” (Dec. 4-12), pairs excerpts from the Beethoven opera with spirituals and works by Black composers to consider the racial disparities in classical music, the prison system, and beyond. Powell, who was released from prison in May amid a COVID-19 outbreak, joins a panel discussion on Dec. 5. ART Art Club 2000 Is it possible for a project to be a flash in the pan while playing a long game? Yes, judging by an engrossing retrospective of the short-lived New York-based collective Art Club 2000, whose meta-critical photos, videos, and installations look both dated and prescient at Artists Space.…

tables for two: edys grocer

During the first few years of his career, the chef Edouard (Edy) Massih, who started a Brooklyn-based catering company when he was twenty-two, got into the habit of lying about his age. If anyone asked, he was thirty. “New York has a really bad problem with ageism,” he told me the other day. “Nobody takes you seriously if you’re in your early twenties. You’re just another millennial who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” Plenty of clients who hired him to pull off lavish events, including weddings and bat mitzvahs, were none the wiser, and none the worse for it; their glowing recommendations were how he built a booming business and became a darling of the fashion world, completely by word of mouth. But the person who gave him perhaps his biggest…

comment: real news

Presidents have always complained about the press. At awards ceremonies and journalism-school conferences, Thomas Jefferson is often remembered for his principled support: in 1787, he wrote to the Virginia statesman Edward Carrington, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.” Yet, by 1814, having endured the Presidency, Jefferson was not quite as high-minded, whining by post to a former congressman about “the putrid state” of newspapers and “the vulgarity, & mendacious spirit of those who write for them.” You could hardly blame him. How would you like to read that one of John Adams’s surrogates has branded you a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow”? No President escapes scrutiny or invective. In 1864, Harper’s…

dept. of values: whats a life worth?

During a recent Zoom lecture, Terry Iverson, an economist at Colorado State University, posed a question to the students in his introductory economics course. It was one that Americans have been mulling all year. “What’s the value of a life?” he asked. “And how do we compare lives saved with the value of lost economic activity?” For professors, particularly those in the social sciences, COVID-19 has provided a real-time trove of case studies on which to center syllabi. Iverson began developing his course, The Economics of COVID-19, in April. He specializes in climate change, and as lockdowns were starting he began to draw connections between ecological disaster and global pandemic. In the lecture, he told his students, “If we think about COVID, we might want to add up the costs and…