Monday, February 12, 2007

Vampire Bats, Schjeldahl in the First Person, Poor Miss Shawn

Feb 12 issue.

I wouldn't want to miss Darwin Day. Does The New Yorker know about this holiday? And is that why they - oh so contrarian - published that excellent essay on Darwin's double, who "combines both halves of the debate over the meaning of evolution, cooling articulating the materialist mechanisms by which the simplest organisms morphed into human beings while arguing that our existence offers evidence of divine agency." (76)

Read all about Alfred Russel Wallace.

Carolita Johnson is right, that line about the beetles is outstanding.

I also liked that Rosen said of his subject, that he learned "the best defense against vampire bats" but did not tell us what that defense was! I'm dying to know.

But isn't every day Darwin Day at The New Yorker? Is there any other magazine that so responsibly covers the history of science?

Schjeldahl on Tintoretto is less easily quoted. But Carolita is right, again, there should have been more, and more appropriate pictures. I could hardly read the whole thing because I so badly wanted to pick up my computer and find the paintings. "So vast as to be essentially unseeable" (86) is one thing, but give it a chance, at least.

Schjeldahl's essays doesn't take to excerpts though, because the thing, from start to finish is an experience itself. I love the first person throughout and here, at the very end, the second person to - Schjeldahl asks, ""Who is Tintoretto's viewer?" [...] It might as well be you or me as some cinquecento ingrate, and, if we happen to think of people we know who might be interested, the artist encourages us to contact them without delay." (87)

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Gopnik on total war is strong and in any other issue, it's the piece I'd be posting on and praising. The fancy footwork that opens the article is right on, military history is experiencing a critical renaissance. Or something like that. I think it's due to an increased interest in the history of technology, but that's just me.

My least favorite moment has got to be, though, in the short review of Allen Shawn's book, "... Shawn, the son of a former editor of this magazine, analyzes the impact of coping with an autistic twin sister, who was institutionalized at the age of eight. He also lovingly and honestly traces phobic tendencies in his parents, who glossed over their daughter's condition and adopted "an across the board policy of secrecy" in front of their remaining children." (85)

Remaining? I would have chosen another turn of phrase, no matter how wordy it might have been.

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Blogger juniper pearl said...

i have an inordinate fondness for beetles! particularly frog-leg beetles, who are lovely and all-over rainbowed like oblong beads of oily water on newly laid tar. but i love all of them--even the roaches, who are doing the best they can. perhaps this will make up for my occasional lapses in cleanliness.

i guess defeating vampire bats is one of those skills that can only revealed by a sensei to a student. we among the ignoble masses have not yet earned that secret.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Pyewacket said...

"other" isn't wordy and would have done.

2:37 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Well put, Pyewacket.

Juniper Pearl, meet Patrick, a very disciplined chronicler of the hyphen. Patrick, meet Juniper Pearl, my long-suffering reader and punctuation critic. Nice hyphens, JP.

And I have no idea if my hyphen is where it should be.

8:38 AM  
Blogger juniper pearl said...

that's a lovely hyphen, zp. i couldn't have placed it better myself.

10:55 AM  
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