The New Yorker June 21, 2021

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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Peter Hessler (“Year of the Bunny Hill,” p. 32) became a staff writer in 2000. His most recent book is “The Buried.” Casey Parks (“Going Home,” p. 18) was a 2019-20 Spencer Fellow in education reporting at the Columbia Journalism School. Her first book, “Diary of a Misfit,” will be out in 2022. Alex Ross (“Opus One,” p. 26), the magazine’s music critic since 1996, is the author of “Wagnerism.” Anna Journey (Poem, p. 54) will publish her fourth poetry collection, “The Judas Ear,” in 2022. She teaches at the University of Southern California. Peter de Sève (Cover), an illustrator and a character designer for animated movies, has contributed more than forty covers to the magazine. Hannah Fry (A Critic at Large, p. 64) is an associate professor at University College London’s Centre for Advanced…

the mail

RETHINKING ROBO-PETS Katie Engelhart, in her article on robotic aids for homebound elderly people, describes how petlike robots, which communicate with their owners and are designed to get to know them using machine learning, are alleviating feelings of loneliness (“Home and Alone,” May 31st). Mechanical cats and dogs are certainly a sensible innovation during the loneliness epidemic, which has become a costly catastrophe. But, while it’s clear that robot pets can provide some level of comfort, the commercial interests that stand to profit from A.I. pets may divert attention from solutions that are more humane, if more complex to implement. We should not overlook less techy remedies for loneliness, which include sharing one’s housing with other people. There are millions of spare bedrooms in the United States, many of them in the…

goings on about town: this week

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many New York City venues are closed. Here’s a selection of culture to be found around town, as well as online and streaming; as ever, it’s advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements. MUSIC Ka Baird EXPERIMENTAL Last spring, as singers flocked online to perform acoustic songs from lockdown, Ka Baird premièred a different kind of quarantine concert. In closeup, Baird appeared to be trapped in a wind tunnel, holding a flute against the gale. As anxious electronic sounds built, Baird raised the flute to play, but few notes came out; the artist turned to a microphone to sing, but words failed. Rooted in the avant-garde, Baird’s loopy nightmare, hatched as a Kraftwerk tribute, seemed more attuned to the feeling of our…

tables for two: the new carry-out cuisine

A few years ago, I came across a cook-book called “Carry-Out Cuisine: Recipes from America’s Finest Gourmet Food Shops,” first published in 1982. The forward begins, “Followers of what’s new in food fashions are familiar with names like Dean & DeLuca of New York, San Francisco’s Oakville Grocery, Jamail’s in Houston. These gourmet food shops … represent an important trend in convenience food preparation.” According to the New York Times obituary for Sheila Lukins, a co-founder of the Silver Palate—an archetype of the gourmet food shop, which opened in 1977, on the Upper West Side—that trend arose to accommodate city-dwelling professional women (plus some hapless bachelors) “who were interested in good food but lacked the time to produce it.” At a gourmet food shop, you could buy curried squash soup or…

comment: viral theories

A standard device in detective stories is a map on which certain buildings are circled. Their locations are thought to be revealing, though often they just create a false trail. When four of the first cases of a strange, pneumonia-like illness seen in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, were found to have a connection to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, it seemed a key to solving the mystery of the illness’s origin. Live animals were reportedly on sale there, offering a route for pathogens to jump from wild species to humans. But then other cases, some of them earlier, were identified, with no known connection to the market. In due course, more sites were circled on the pandemic map. One was the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which contains a Bio-safety…

hustings dept.: street summit

Two summers ago, a twenty-eight-year-old man named Arsenio Gravesande was shot and killed in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gravesande was the leader of a local faction of the Crips, and hundreds of his followers held a days-long vigil on his block, on Tapscott Street. Sheem Banks, an influential member of the gang, conducted a negotiation with a Black police captain named Derby St. Fort: as long as Banks kept the mourners in line, the police would hold back. The peace was kept. “I was able to talk to you, and you were, like, ‘I’ll handle it,’” St. Fort told Banks the other day. Banks shrugged. “One hand washes the other,” he said, “and both hands wash the face.” St. Fort was back on the block last week to watch Banks…