Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We'll Take Manhattan

Over the years I've subscribed off and on to The New Yorker - first in print then after a decade or more of just picking up a copy occasionally at a news stand I began subscribing online last year.  At one point I purchased a 5 CD set of the complete New Yorker - from its first edition through until 2006.  Sadly it was one of the most cumbersome, badly designed programmes I had ever seen.  Yes a treasure trove was available but the awkward search engine and a habit of system crashing made it so frustrating that I simply shelved it never to be inserted into disc drive again.  Which was a crying shame as it can be argued - and I think successfully - that no magazine has influenced writing in America as strongly as The New Yorker.   Over its eight-seven year history it has introduced short stories, profiles, poems, commentaries, reviews and essays by many of the greats of the English literary world - and it has also introduce the world to many of those greats before their greatness was recognized.  Given that rather inauspicious use of technology I wasn't sure what to expect with the Internet edition.  Well someone at Condé Nast learned their lesson - the tablet version of the magazine is a welcome and successful marriage of the old and the new.  

"View of the World from 9th Avenue"
Saul Steinberg's iconic cover from March 29, 1976
First published in 1925 as a weekly magazine,  founder Harold Ross announced in its prospectus "that it is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque."  Its accent was to be on sophisticated humour as an anecdote to periodicals like Captain Billy's Whiz Bang and other "humour" magazines of the time.  Though primarily aimed at a New York - more specifically a Manhattan - readership it soon became a successful publication even in Dubuque.  And despite ups and downs is still thriving when other magazines have faded from the scene.  According to recent figures 53% of its current circulation is outside the New York area and its current renewal rate stands at 85%; one of the highest in the magazine publishing field.

In those early years as a subscriber I always turned to Andrew Porter for the classical music scene, Penelope Gilliat or Pauline Kael for movie reviews and John Lahr (son of everyone's favourite Cowardly Lion) for theatre.  But there was also the short stories - Mavis Gallant being one of my favourites - and fascinating Profiles of people in the news.  And of course the cartoons - the marvellous grotesques of Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson and sly social comments by William Steig and almost dadaist renderings of Saul Steinberg.  Steinberg created - after Eustace Tilley - the best known cover in the magazine's history: the 1976 "A Parochial New Yorker's View of the World" - which guyed the self-centred view New Yorkers had of the world.  So many of the covers were classic in their own right - for years we had a series of culinary covers from the magazine hanging in our various kitchens around the world.

Does anything really have to be added to Barry Blitt's cover for the January 21, 2013 issue?
I think it pretty much says all that has to be said about the current situation in Washington.

As I say after more than I decade I began to subscribe again on-line - 47 times a year (they changed the publication schedule a few years ago) I get The New Yorker delivered to my iPad/iPhone.  Though many of those contributors I enjoyed when I first started subscribing have disappeared from its pages a new crop has appeared to take their place.  The writing is still the crisp New Yorker style as are the fascinating little vagaries of spelling and punctuation (my Lara would be so pleased at the use of the serial comma); the cartoons are still funny (if the language a bit saltier) and the covers still make some of the most powerful statements on the current world.  The content has become more political, more attuned to current events - this past week's Letter from Jerusalem included a profile of Jewish Home Party candidate Naftali Bennett - and even perhaps a little less - gasp - New York.  But in the past year I can safely say there has not been one issue that I haven't found three or four interesting essays, commentaries or stories - and the humour quotient is still pretty high for the cartoons.  And some of those covers - this week's internet animated version shows how far they've come at New Yorker since those pathetic CDs - are sure to become classics.

Our Nora loves this Charles Barsotti cartoon and highly endorses the sentiment.

 Renewal time is shortly - looks like  I'll be amongst that 85%.

All images on this post come from The New Yorker magazine published by Condé Nast.

While working on this post I found an interview with Mary Noriss, a copy editor with the magazine.   It gives insight into what goes into creating one of the most assiduously fact-checked and edited magazines published today.

22 January - 1877: Arthur Tooth, an Anglican clergyman is taken into custody after being prosecuted for using ritualist practices.

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

I must confess that my favourite part of The New Yorker has always been the cartoons and the covers, rather than the articles and stories. There's just too much to read for a weekly publication.


I have a book of all the cartoons from 1925-1950. I read it off and on..still funny.