Tuesday, November 16, 2010

free plug for The New Yorker

When I first subscribed to the New Yorker, lo these fifteen or so years ago, I thought it was a good bargain. Not only did it have good, often great writing, but it was a weekly. I adored getting a magazine once a week, especially back fifteen years ago before everything was on the Internet.

And speaking of which - thanks to the Internet the New Yorker is an even better value - more than twice as worth it as it was fifteen years ago because the archives of the entire run of the magazine - from 1925 - is available to subscribers online. And what's really neat is that the archives are images of the original magazine, not just text. So you can see all the antiquated advertisements. Like this one, which is kind of poignant considering it's from the July 20, 1929 issue, just three months before the big stock market crash:

Your boat is apparently a yacht. The radio probably cost almost as much as the boat.

Many of the advertisements from the 20s are very elegant line drawings, but there's no mystery. They're trying to sell you silk stockings, or a Packard automobile or Spud cigarettes.

But the cartoons are absolutely inscrutable... I mean... wha?

Wikipedia tells me that Payne Whitney was a famous rich guy of the time... but I still don't get it.

Until I checked out the back issues of the New Yorker online I had always thought Dorothy Parker's book review column was called "Constant Reader" but it was actually signed by Constant Reader and called "Reading and Writing." It was in the October 20 1928 issue in which she reviewed A. A. Milne's book and famously ended it with: "And it is that word 'hummy' my darlings, that marks the first place in "The House at Pooh Corner" at which Tonstant Weader Fwowed up."

This is the cartoon that appears on that same page... whah???

I guess the joke is that she's asked for a book about a cardinal who has a mistress. And the guy behind her is embarrassed? Maybe?

I was curious to see what the New Yorker had to say about the Beatles over the years, but was disappointed that for the most part it was pretty uninspired stuff. But I found this little slice-of-Beatle-life interesting, from the February 22, 1964 issue:
The ones they screamed loudest for were Ringo, the drummer, and Paul, who was doing most of the singing because George, who usually does most of the singing, had laryngitis or something.

Afterward, I went around backstage to the dressing rooms where the Beatles were changing their shirts. 'I'm soaking,' said the Beatle named John. 'Got a ciggy? John and Ringo and George left in their limousine for the Plaza, where the Beatles were staying, but Paul got left behind, so I climbed into a taxi with him and one of the public-relations men. At first, there was a taxi full of Beatle fans behind us, but it got swept away by traffic. Paul said that the Beatles had never had an audience at a rehearsal before and that it made them feel good to be playing before people instead of just into space. Then Paul said New York traffic was bad but London traffic was just as bad and Paris traffic was worse, because Frenchmen were maniac drivers. Then the public-relations man said he had lost fifty pounds, and Paul said he couldn't tell how much that was unless it was translated into stone.
Apparently the writer confused John with George because anybody who knows anything about the Beatles knows that George was most certainly not at any time in the history of the Beatles in the running for the Beatle who usually does most of the singing. But at least the cartoons were much more scrutable by the 1960s. In fact the cartoon that is on the same page as this Beatles piece would not be entirely out of place in a recent issue of the New Yorker. Although the couple would probably be a bit more attractive.

But there's so much more over the years - there's the Salinger story Hapworth 16, 1924, which was never published anywhere but in the New Yorker; there is the legendary Vietnam articles; there are all the contemporary reviews of plays and novels and movies, and on and on. Right up to the present day, and the hugely important article on the Koch brothers which I blogged about the week it was published.

So I guess I will have to read every issue of the New Yorker now.

And "The Cardinal's Mistress."