An Issue that Shows Just How Good The New Yorker Could Be

I’ve been complaining about the excess of politics in The New Yorker forever. I don’t mind a little bit, but the editors of some publications think their place in life is to bring everyone over to a specific political point of view. Left or right, activism is annoying, and The New Yorker has been quite guilty lately, especially in the opinion pieces and reviews that open the mag. Someday, people are going to point at those columns and laugh at the lack of professionalism (which seems to be a common factor in the media today – we need a little more journalistic objectivity to regain our respect for the profession).

And then, in mid-rant, I run into a brilliant issue.

So, what happened to make me like this one so much? The key is on the flap which I don’t put in the illustration, because the cover art is one thing the magazine can definitely remain proud of. It says: Food & Drink – An Archival Issue.

I thought that might mean something like a collector’s issue. It doesn’t. It means that the editors went back into the archive to pull out awesome stuff about food and drink.

And when the fiction is a story by Nabokov… well, you already know it’s better than what we’ve been getting lately.

The criteria for selection of articles might have been to ensure an all-star cast (Anthony Bourdain, Zadie Smith, Steve Martin, and the aforementioned Nabokov all participate, among others), but though I’d normally yawn at using name recognition as the criteria, this time I applaud it.

Why? Because the silliness of identity politics is absent for the most part. Representation seems to have been ignored (the horror) and the obligation to have a certain quota of ethnicities represented was apparently waived for this issue everywhere but in the opening review section where the indoctrination continues (everything by an underrepresented group is, by definition, good; everything by white males is, by definition, less important, and quality has nothing to do with the review process), and, best of all, the names selected delivered the goods.

That Bourdain article makes being a chef in a New York restaurant read like a thriller, and the Nabokov story reminds us what we’ve been missing for so long on the fiction front.

Even stuff less than ten years old reads better than the current politically-obsessed stuff, so once past the opening segment of editor’s comments, I enjoyed this one all the way to the end.

I miss the days when quality was the only reason to review art, and quality was the criteria for inclusion in TNY. I will never care about representation (in fact, I will always be against affirmative action) in areas that should be purely competitive with quality as the only consideration. And writing is one of those areas.

Gustavo Bondoni has recently completed the Emily Plair Trilogy with the final novel, Amalgam. Find out what happens to each of the characters in the satisfying conclusion, which you can purchase here.


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