Wednesday, August 01, 2007

odd ducks, all

Two profiles of men with tough jobs. Neither gentleman seemed more dishonest than the job required, or, really, than any average co-worker. My two favorites from the July 30 issue.

Tad Friend does well in a serious "Letter from California, Dean of Death Row, The man who was Mr. San Quentin."

Remnick writes "Letter from Jerusalem, The Apostate, A Zionist politician loses faith in the future."

Also, Alex Ross is held as a paragon of arts reviewing, at the Determined Dilettante. But you know that I, for one, also have a fondness for Schjeldahl. Here's a peep at his "groovy sweaty" period. I had no idea.

10 Comments:

Blogger Raquel Laneri said...

That commune reminded me of that crazy commune Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper stumble across in Easy Rider...

I like Schjeldahl too, and I think it's for the same reason you like Ross, because he writes about things about which I know very little -- but about which I wish I knew more -- and so I find him really interesting and informative. Also, I'm impressed by people who know a lot but don't demonstrate their knowledge in a boisterous way.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous I Feel Crazy said...

my vote is always with schjeldahl, who is the iron chef master of having "been there at the time." also, he's got those great glasses--always a plus.

i know this is way off-topic, but i just remembered that incomprehensible, maddening article about chalk a couple of months back. did you read that one?? am i off-base, or was that written in the style of a spam e-mail?

3:29 PM  
Blogger zp said...

My feelings about Schjeldahl (and his glasses) are so complex, so powerful, that I have been struggling for days to put them into words . . .

I know a bit more about Schjeldahl's subjects than Ross's. So it's not that with me and Schejeldahl.

For me, S. foregrounds pleasure. But in a funny way, by doing this, he's sort of throwing up a screen in front of his rather vast knowledge, disguising his expertise as immediate experience. So you get both. I think too, that this creates the effect of not "demonstrating knowledge in a boisterous way."

I love the recent aside in the Hopper essay about how he (Schjeldahl) couldn't sketch, but liked to. How typical!

Once upon a time, I got an anonymous email from someone who HAD met Schjeldahl at a party. Or something. She wrote,

"let me tell you, he is a kook. Not in a bad way [...] He's pretty much a doddering old guy who streams a running monologue."

She also informed me that the name is pronounced "shell-doll."

It only makes me love him all the more. As they say.

11:48 AM  
Blogger zp said...

ps. I love off-topic emails but I cannot claim to have any idea what you are referring to, IFC. Chalk?!

11:49 AM  
Anonymous IFC said...

it's this article:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/12/070312fa_fact_mcphee

even reading the abstract makes me dizzy with annoyance!

5:01 PM  
Blogger zp said...

The style of those abstracts is insane, though this one did bring to mind the original article. Of which I don't think I read more than the first sentence or two.

McPhee. Hm. My new favorite local food blog (that is, since I moved to New Haven it is my local fave) is mrsdelicious.blogspot.com and she saved (the paper copy of!) and raved about a McPhee article on fiddleheads. Which I may someday try to find.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous grimrosary said...

I have loved Scheldahl for years, reading him first in the Voice, then briefly in Seven days, then back to the Voice. So I am delighted that you, zp, struggled to so well articulate his rewards for you as a writer.

I agree with what you all have written here about the value of his writing. I would add that there is not an essay he writes that does not contain at least one insight, aperçu, or original formulation forcing you to reconsider an artist you thought you knew, the relationship of that artist to the wider culture of art or the world, or the relation of art to life at large.

Peter’s writing can do that. The energy of his prose and the intensity of his intelligent attention are riveting, and a gift to us. Each essay is an occasion for a concentrated performance—there are no throwaways among Peter’s pieces which read like an Oscar Wilde from the East Village (via the Midwest). Peter’s reviews proceed like a mesmerizing conversation in which your unpretentious interlocutor is able to put you at ease and explicate the hydra-headed art scene by legibly rendering his aesthetic impressions for your understanding. Peter has been for more than three decades our American Baudelaire, a flaneur and demimondain who, as chronicler of our art world, embodies an Emersonian ideal of openness and clarity.

I'm glad to have this opprtunity to express this enthusiasm.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Raquel Laneri said...

re: "I would add that there is not an essay he writes that does not contain at least one insight, aperçu, or original formulation forcing you to reconsider an artist you thought you knew, the relationship of that artist to the wider culture of art or the world, or the relation of art to life at large."

I agree, and though it's rare, it's what every cultural critic should be doing. I imagine it's harder in certain fields and publications than others, and I think the New Yorker's critics are lucky because they seem to, for the most part, write about what they would like to write about (I know this isn't always the case like when, zp, you wrote about Anthony Lane reviewing Spider-Man 3), and they are given pretty generous space.

Re: "disguising his expertise as immediate experience". Yes! That is so much more eloquent than how I put it. Also, he sounds adorable. Glasses make the man.

2:57 AM  
Blogger zp said...

grimrosary, Thanks for gracing this (ostensibly) anti-New Yorker blog with your enthusiasm for Schjeldahl! You nicely expressed my reasons for reading his work first, whenever I see it.

I forgot about you and glasses, Rachel!!

9:36 AM  
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