Tag Archives: The New Yorker

WHAT TO READ: “The Christmas Miracle” by Rebecca Curtis

The Christmas Miracle 2

Rebecca Curtis must be working on a novel. “The Christmas Miracle,” her new story in The New Yorker, follows the same characters as “Fish Rot,” her recent story in n+1. Both are available in print only, so if you’re not a subscriber you’ll have to go on a little treasure hunt to find them in magazines. But any story by Rebecca Curtis is worth the newsstand price. If you’re impatient (or broke) you can read an older story, “The Wolf at the Door,” here, and check out her latest interview.

- Brian Hurley


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“Face-fucked by Satan” in The New Yorker

face-fucked in print

The magazine of record has printed the words “like being face-fucked by Satan.” This has to be a first. Search the New Yorker archives and you won’t find another instance of anyone being “face-fucked” by anything, let alone Satan.

Evidently the proper spelling of “face-fucked” includes a hyphen. This was unclear in The New Yorker’s print edition because the word was split across two lines. (Photo above.) But in the online edition the word is not split, and it still includes a hyphen. (Photo below.) The magazine’s fact-checking and copyediting departments are famously the best in the business.

“Like being face-fucked by Satan” is a quote from Maxim magazine. It appears in Lauren Collins’ article on the search for the hottest chili. You can read all about it here.

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The Disappointments of Emily Nussbaum

FA Sex_and_the_City_(book_-_cover_art)

Editor’s Note: Following our previous post about books in TV shows, here is a post about a TV show that once was a book, Sex and the City. Our author responds to Emily Nussbaum and her contention in the New Yorker that the show has not gotten its due, especially side-by-side with other shows like The Sopranos. As our author makes clear, “I like Nussbaum.  I like Sex and the City.  I am a man,” we shall also make clear that his views do not necessarily reflect those of everyone at Fiction Advocate (especially in my case, since I have not seen more than a few episodes of either show) though we all agree that they are worth reading. – MM

With the sudden death of James Gandolfini and the return of Breaking Bad for its final season this week, the internet is replete with nostalgia for the golden age of television, pre-obituaries for our era’s amazing serialized dramas and their signature anti-heroes: Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Jimmy McNulty, Walter White.  Writing in the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum nominates an addition to the list: Carrie Bradshaw.

In her defensive paean to the show that brought zipless fucks into the twenty-first century, Emily Nussbaum argues that both Carrie and her vehicle, Sex and the City, haven’t gotten a fair shake. But the aim of her essay—a pushback against “the reflexive consensus on the show,” that it is merely a “guilty pleasure” inspiring “self-flagellating conversations”—is much broader than the resuscitation of a lone, storied series. It is peppered with implications, never quite made explicit, about the rampant sexism of television criticism and American culture generally.  It’s there in Nussbaum’s complaint that any show will be considered inferior if it’s “stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively)” and in her lament that new shows with female protagonists must be distanced from Sex and the City rather than compared to it.  (And yet, reading this, one wonders how many Hollywood pitch meetings have begun, “It’s Sex and the City meets…”?)

But because she is so reluctant to make this argument explicit, what she says is so narrow as to be absurd: that Sex and the City was just as good a show as The SopranosThat SATC’s reputation is unfair and unwarranted and sexist and would be as good as its HBO brother if only so many critics weren’t men. Continue reading


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“Everyone in the theatre will go home mortified and full of good cheer.”


The New Yorker asks: “Is Louis C.K. our Gogol?

I couldn’t tell you. I always just assumed that Yakov Smirnoff covered the entire Russian canon. But this seemed close enough to literary to warrant a link.

– Michael Moats

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So much happened in the first half of 2012/YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE that it turns out I missed a few things. On 21 February, Wallace’s birthday, Berfrois ran “The Depressed Person in The Marriage Plot,” in which Daniel Roberts takes a closer look at the connections between Wallace and the character Leonard in Jeffrey Eugenides’ latest book. Adding to the steady march in April, Publishers Weekly began a two-week countdown of “The Top 10 Infinite Jest Characters,” starting with #10 (Barry Loach) and moving toward #1 (see here). Also, on 21 April came the long-awaited (by me at least) end of the “live” part in “Words, Words, Words: The Infinite Jest Liveblog.”

After a relatively uneventful May and June, YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE came roaring back in July. The monthly issue of GQ featured an interview with Nick Offerman, better known as Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation,” in which Offerman talked about being “halfway through Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – a writer who escaped my notice until a few years ago, when posthumously his final novel, The Pale King, came out.” In the very same issue of GQ, a Wells Tower piece on the pornstar James Deen made a Wallace-esque mention of one of Deen’s colleagues: “Kayden Kross, a wholly winning and improbably bookish young woman who reads the short fiction of David Foster Wallace between takes.” On 8 July, as noted, Roger Federer won Wimbledon, which led to Wallace-Federer references in The Telegraph, The Daily Beast, The Week, and GQ.com. There was even a weird piece on Wallace’s faith titled “Roger Federer Killed David Foster Wallace,” as well as an anti-Federer piece on the LRB Blog which noted that “‘Federer Moments’, as David Foster Wallace famously called them, are part of what I dislike. ‘Federer as Religious Experience’ says more about Wallace’s genius than Federer’s.” The following day, Michael Cunningham took to The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog to explain why Wallace (and others) didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Also on 9 July, the “Nieman Watchdog” at Harvard University offered “Lessons on covering politics from the late David Foster Wallace.” On the 11th, Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians books used his first impressions of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story to talk about hysterical realism. On 13 July, Page Turner posted a piece about subsidized time. Federer’s victory was still yielding DFW alerts when there came, on 16 July, the other significant non-book event in the YODFW: the launch of “Infinite Boston.”  The project was an ambitious effort by William Beutler to photograph and write about the real-life equivalents of various IJ locations:

I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage…now I am pleased to present what I am calling “Infinite Boston”: a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.

“Infinite Boston” attracted broad interest, showing up on The Millions, The Rumpus, National Geographic’s The Radar, Fast Company’s Co.Create blog, and from there the technology section of nbcnews.com, among others. The notice was well deserved. “Infinite Boston” is thorough and artfully done — well worth exploring for anyone who loves Infinite Jest, or is currently working their way through it. The project also had a number of spinoffs, including the super cool, Google-maps enabled “Infinite Atlas” and some other cool stuff available for sale at the Infinite Shop.

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The first few weeks of July were pretty good — but the end of July illustrated the scope of what was happening in YODFW. On the 19th, CNN ran an online story about porn stars using Twitter to gain mainstream fame. One of the stars the mentioned was Kayden Kross, upon whom they bestowed the title “The Smartest Woman in Porn” and mentioned: “She often tweets about her favorite authors, David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo.” Four days later, the Wall Street Journal reported on a past meeting between DFW and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The two men had lunch and bonded over their shared enjoyment and rigor over language and grammar. Apparently the meeting led to some book Scalia wrote, which is not important. What is important is that, within the space of a few days, we could read about how a porn star and an arch-conservative Supreme Court justice both have strong affinities for our man.


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Year of DFW Tiles
David Foster Wallace would have had his 50th birthday on February 21, 2012. If he had lived, and maintained the course he was on, he probably would have been the subject of articles about “David Foster Wallace at 50,” “Boy Genius Grows Up,” etc, covering important topics like his shorter haircut, his apparently happy marriage, and his steady teaching job. If Wallace had let The Pale King see the light of day by now, you can bet we would be reading reviews about the “mature” and “grown up” successor to the kinetic Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace Moves to the Suburbs. Instead, 2012 passed without much notice of the milestone, which four years after his death only serves to remind us that Wallace didn’t live to see it.

But it turns out that the world was not at all silent on the matter of David Foster Wallace this year. In the last 12 months, Wallace was the subject of three books, and author of one posthumous collection of essays. This level of attention is significant in and of itself, but it was not all that happened — not by a long shot. Over the year there came a steady flow of news, blog posts and small insights. There were stage adaptations, a Pulitzer controversy, displays of affection from a porn star and a Supreme Court Justice, and references in TV shows, a commercial, a web video and a proper movie. There was a conference and a year-end fundraiser and an unfortunate moment of our present looking too much like Wallace’s near-future dystopia. The internet – which, it was revealed this year, Wallace once referred to as “the bathroom wall of the U.S. psyche” – would not stop saying his name* Four years after his death, David Foster Wallace is on our minds more than ever.

Some of this was foreordained. There is now an annual cycle, starting mid-May and running through June, of pieces referring to Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon University commencement address. His remarks have become a standard against which the hot speeches of the season are measured, and the address tends to show up on Best Speeches lists and be offered as wisdom that the Class of 20-whatever should take to heart.

A similar phenomenon took place with the 2012 Republican primary and presidential election. Wallace’s John McCain piece “Up Simba” (or any of the various names it was published under in magazine and book and anthology forms) became relevant again, and was often cited as the kind of meaningful political journalism we long for in today’s sorry-ass punditocracy.

But four books and a few recurring occasions do not a YEAR OF make. Most of what happened took place independent of annual or quadrennial events, spontaneously, a result of whatever weird energy was flowing in 2012. It was an event that was both random and regularized that sealed it for me. In early July – just as I was beginning to think that “Boy, I am really hearing a lot about David Foster Wallace this year” – Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to win his 7th Wimbledon. Writers, journalists, bloggers and WordPressers across print and online media launched a thousand pieces with some variation of, “The late author David Foster Wallace once called Roger Federer…etc.” and Google alerts lit up my inbox like a DFW-themed Christmas tree. That was when I knew. Welcome to YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE.

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The Story of the Pulitzer that Never Was, Part II

In the second half of his piece on the Pulitzer selection process, Michael Cunningham continues the discussion on the, like, third most important prize in literature — maybe fourth, depending on how you feel about The Critical Hit Awards — by worrying over the question of “How to Define Greatness?”:

It’s easy to attribute past oversights to some imaginary band of the cowardly and nearsighted (one pictures them in dowdily sensible outfits, owl-eyed, prim, and self-righteous, speaking to one another in carefully rehearsed boarding-school accents). And, yes, the cowardly and nearsighted do exist in the realm of literature. They sometimes thrive.

It’s more interesting, though, to think about how elusive greatness can be before history delivers its verdict, even to those who are neither prim nor self-righteous.

End of quote.

Read the thrilling conclusion at Page Turner.

– Michael Moats

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The Story of the Pulitzer that Never Was

On The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog, novelist Michael Cunningham opens the curtains on the Pulitzer Prize process:

We were, all three of us [jurors], shocked by the board’s decision (non-decision), because we were, in fact, thrilled, not only by the books we’d nominated but also by several other books that came within millimeteres of the final cut. We never felt as if we were scraping around for books that were passable enough to slap a prize onto. We agreed, by the end of all our reading and discussion, that contemporary American fiction is diverse, inventive, ambitious, and (maybe most important) still a lively, and therefore living, art form.

And yet, no prize at all in 2012.

How did that happen?

The board’s deliberations are sealed. No one outside the board will ever know why they decided to withhold the prize.

I did, however, learn a good deal about how short lists are formed, how “best” books are selected—a process that had hitherto been mysterious to me.

Cunningham’s post is the first of two, and offers an interesting look into how the three finalists were selected out of 300 books, before being sent to the Pulitzer Board for nothing to happen.

The post also intrigues with descriptions of the books that came close, but were eventually eliminated:

A ravishingly beautiful, original novel went down when one of us pointed out that, lovely as the book was, Toni Morrison had already told a version of that particular story, to similarly powerful effect, in a single chapter of “Beloved.”


A third fell under the wheel (and this one was particularly heartbreaking to all of us) when we reluctantly acknowledged that although it was wonderfully written and fabulously inventive, its central love story, while moving, was insufficiently complicated and a bit sentimental; that it failed to depict the body of darker emotions that are integral to love: moments of rage, disappointment, pettiness, and greed, to name a few. All three of us wished love to be as simple as the author imagined it to be, but we acknowledged that love, as far as we could tell, is not only not simple, but that part of its glory is its ability to survive incidents of rage, disappointment, and etc.

Any guesses on which books these are?

Read the full post at Page Turner.

– Michael Moats

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