A Slightly Confused Issue

The last issue of The New Yorker I read was skewed way too far left for its readers, but at least it appeared to be competently written and edited.

The March 29, 2021 edition has completely other issues. Sure, some of it is still virtue-signaling left that no one really believes, but, much worse than that is the fact that this issue starts off with a bunch or articles that–dare we say it (or even note it?)–are a poorly-written muddle. And you can agree or disagree with the political takes in the magazine, but “poorly-written muddle are not the kind of words you normally associate with The New Yorker.

Okay, I’ll admit that I wasn’t shocked when the article entitled “Knitters vs. Trolls” turned out to be a hot mess. The “trolls” here were initially regular conservative knitters who wanted to create Trump-branded stuff… which was banned completely from the site as was all GOP stuff, because nothing says “this is a nice group of people” like declaring the politics of half the country despicable – while allowing the other half to express themselves freely. Of course, once they did that, they started getting real trolls… and probably deserved them. (BTW, I’m a true neutral when it comes to US politics. I’m from Argentina. We have a completely different set of issues… and I a think Trump is a goon… but either ban politics altogether or allow everyone to play as long as the material isn’t directly hateful or offensive).

Then there was a meh feature on posture. Another subject that has its pitfalls in the sense that it isn’t inherently interesting, and even less couched as a critique of the beauty industry.

The one that surprised me for pointlessness and lack of editing was the one about HGTV’s expansion plans. The buildup was interesting–I was hooked by how they’d built a success story on cable platforms… and then the article kind of fizzled out, going around and around the same points as if the author had been told to fill a certain number of pages and forgot what they were trying to say. Too bad, because this was an interesting topic.

Then came a story about a black female dressmaker. I wasn’t enthused… but it turned out to be really, really good (again, the caveat is there, that if you can’t stand all the identity politics that are obligatory in this kind of article, you should refrain from reading it).

And the issue took off from there. The fiction story, a piece that I usually find weak in TNY, sneaked up on me to turn into a wonderful read. It’s called “Future Selves” by Aysegül Savas, and I recommend tracking it down if you can.

As if to make up for the lead stories, the back half of this issue was a wonderful romp. In fact, I’ve been finding this to be so on the scattered and random selection of issues I buy. I feel that the editors know how to select decent material, but feel pressure to lead with the stuff that might resonate with the current iteration of the culture war, and leave the decent writing for later.

As always, interesting.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest literary book is a collection of linked short stories entitled Safe and Sorry. You can check it out here.


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