A Critic Takes Aim at the Aug. 5 & 12 New Yorker

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Photo by the author. Public domain image.

got off to a good start this week again. I always begin with the inside back page, the Cartoon Caption Contest. I can’t believe how many times I look at a cartoon and have no clue how to write a funny caption. Then a couple weeks go by and you have three finalists, all usually amusing, some making you laugh out loud.

Next, it’s the front of the book. Let’s take a peek at The Mail. Sometimes there’s a nudge to re-visit previous issues. Good letters this week. No nudge.

The Goings On About Town is strictly designed to make the rest of the world feel jealous. There’s always so much to see and do. I miss the Big Apple but am glad to live in a small Midwest town, and not just any small town. (Bob Dylan was born here.) I’d never have time to write if I were there.

For the record, though, “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion” at the Brooklyn Museum doesn’t do it for me. Throughout the decades I’ve seen numerous art museums with fashion featured, and I always ask myself “Why?” Am I really supposed to like this stuff? O.K., I get it. The same people who love these fashion exhibitions are probably asking themselves why the MoMA would have a Ferrari F1 race car on display.

Page nine has two probably unintentional Dylan references, but I get a thrill anyways. There’s a review of Mitzi E. Newhouse’s The Rolling Stone at the top of the page. No, it has nothing to do with Dylan per se, but you can’t help feel a buzz by the title if you’re a Dylan fan.

Then at the bottom of the page is a blurb about Joan Osborne closing out City Winery where she’d performed when it first opened a decade ago. It’s been quite a while since I’d shot heroin in that SoHo neighborhood, which ended all my prospects for giving blood over the next half century. Bummer, because my blood type may have saved a few lives since then.

Oh, so you wonder what Joan O has to do with Bob Dylan? In May, she performed here in Duluth the evening before Dylan’s 78th birthday. She’d recorded an album of Dylan covers a couple years back and guess, what? It was a really great show.

Next, we’ve got a little political stuff here in Talk of the Town and a funny cartoon about feudalism, followed by a few more cartoons and a pretty lame Shouts & Murmurs titled, “Self-Care For Men.” One of the worst for this page, which I usually read before everything else, except the Cartoon Caption Contest, of course.

The Alan Dershowitz article beginning on page 32 has been bookmarked (or Post-It noted) to be read later. This guy Dershowitz… well, let me put it like this. When I was 15 a few friends and I had glommed together a light-weight kinda suburban gang and called ourselves The Scumbags. Naturally we were too young to know what a scumbag was… and my mother, a bit more streetwise and somewhat shocked at how open we were with all this, pretty much dissuaded us with a few raised eyebrows and disapproving looks.

It’s funny how much our seemingly innocent moms know about things. When I was in seventh grade my friend was calling people jerk-offs. I didn’t know what it meant at the time. One look from Mom when I used the word was enough. I don’t she had to say a thing.

O.K., can I assume you made the connection? I’ll be reading the article soon.

Now to the Main Point

I like The New Yorker generally, but what the heck is this eight page Mr. Ware cartoon doing here? What a waste of good real estate. I’d have taken a pass altogether (you need a magnifying glass to read the dialogue) but if one is going to make a few remarks about something like this, one should at least make an effort to “get it.”

There were some interesting elements in the page layout. I didn’t “get” the story, or the point about looking up the girls’ skirts. Maybe it requires a better understanding of a backstory?

[This paragraph has been re-written and deleted four times. I am going to leave it deleted.]

That’s enough. I’ve said my piece. I didn’t get it.

But I’ve added another Post-It to this issue for the five-page review of the P.T. Barnum book subtitled, “What P.T. Barnum understood about America.” You can’t make this up.

Thank you, New Yorker staff. It must be hard to keep such a high bar for yourselves all these years. Just keep doing the best you can. And since I can’t moderate the comments, please don’t beat me up too bad.

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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