The New Yorker

The New Yorker May 24, 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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american chronicles: it’s just too much

Burnout is generally said to date to 1973; at least, that’s around when it got its name. By the nineteen-eighties, everyone was burned out. In 1990, when the Princeton scholar Robert Fagles published a new English translation of the Iliad, he had Achilles tell Agamemnon that he doesn’t want people to think he’s “a worthless, burnt-out coward.” This expression, needless to say, was not in Homer’s original Greek. Still, the notion that people who fought in the Trojan War, in the twelfth or thirteenth century B.C., suffered from burnout is a good indication of the disorder’s claim to universality: people who write about burnout tend to argue that it exists everywhere and has existed forever, even if, somehow, it’s always getting worse. One Swiss psychotherapist, in a history of burnout…

on television: odyssey

In Barry Jenkins’s reimagining of Colson Whitehead’s popular novel “The Underground Railroad,” it is as if the land speaks. In the light of high noon, cotton fields are menacingly fecund, owing to the work of the enslaved laborers who stand painfully erect among the crop, like stalks themselves. At night, a path leading somewhere—whether to freedom or execution, we don’t know—pulses with death. We have known Jenkins, the director of “Moonlight,” as a portraitist. Here, working again with his longtime collaborator, the cinematographer James Laxton, he is a virtuosic landscape artist. With “The Underground Railroad,” a compositional achievement—pictorial and psychological—Jenkins has done for the antebellum South what J. M. W. Turner did for the sea. Amazon has curiously dropped all ten episodes of this dense miniseries at once. In the first…

books: briefly noted

Light Perpetual, by Francis Spufford (Scribner). This ruminative novel revolves around a hypothetical: what if five children killed in the London Blitz had instead survived? Spufford visits his characters at key moments in their lives, from 1944 to 2009. One becomes a shady property developer who gets rich during the Thatcher years, while others suffer as Britain’s postwar safety net is dismantled. One marries a skinhead; another, who almost becomes a rock star, struggles to reconcile herself to her life, musing, “Being somebody, loving anyone, it rules the rest out, and so it’s quieter than being young, and looking forward.” The novel’s ending verges on moralistic but offers a moving view of how people confront the gap between their expectations and their reality. The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade (Norton).…

closeup dept.: food story

One recent Monday evening, Jessica B. Harris sat at the counter at Reverence, a tasting-menu restaurant on a leafy Harlem corner, gazing down at a small bowl. The restaurant is normally closed on Mondays, but for Dr. J., as Harris’s fans call her, the chef and owner, Russell Jackson, had opened. Harris is arguably America’s leading scholar of Black culinary history. She is a professor emerita at Queens College and a prolific author. Her twelfth book on food, “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America” (2011), is the inspiration for a four-part series, which débuts on Netflix next week. “Did you say this was an oyster?” Harris asked Jackson, considering the bowl. “I can’t do shellfish, I’m so sorry.” Jackson, horrified, whisked the plate away and leaped…

fiction: the party

She fries an egg but leaves it then, lying in the pan until it is completely cold. She bites at her nails and glances repeatedly at the window, seeing nothing but her tiny empty garden and the tiny empty sky, until eventually she sighs and lowers the blind. She feeds the cat, though not with the egg, which she seems to have forgotten. While wiping the table she stops suddenly and listens. There is silence but for the usual sounds of the house in the evening and a light breeze outside—no hint of rain—and the tick of the kitchen clock. Perhaps it was that. She resumes wiping, and brushes absolutely nothing into her cupped hand, which she examines briefly then slaps against her hip. Her neighbors had knocked on her door…

goings on about town: this week

ART Monika Baer Gestural, pastel-colored atmospherics and recurring motifs—notably matchsticks rendered with trompe-l’oeil precision—bring a unifying sense of order and constraint to the airy, eerily suspenseful works in Baer’s new show at Greene Naftali, titled “loose change.” The German painter, who divides her time between L.A. and Berlin, seems to resist both stylistic and narrative coherence—instead, the events in her paintings appear to have occurred by chance. Titles such as “Yet to be titled” underscore the expectant mood that attends this new series of spare works, each of which features a back-drop-like element: a tree trunk with ominously peeling bark, a low stone wall. But however much the scenes may read as empty stages, no character ever arrives. Unless, that is, you count the jarring blue-and-red teardrop affixed to the surface of…