Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Each week, the staff of Emdashes (the unflagging Martin Schneider, faraway but beloved intern John Bucher, and me) put the blue ribbons on the outgoing issue’s buttermilkiest Wilburs.

Michael Crawford’s Chekhov cartoon made me laugh; why do people think you’re looking for a conversation if you’re reading in public? It is just the opposite, friend. As for the caption contest: Two of the three entries are quite decent, including David Wilkner’s “I’d like to get your arrow count down” (though Phyllis Mass’s “Have you tried sleeping on your side?” is clearly the funniest, and besides, she’s Phyllis from Philly! How can the judges resist?), and one (“Native American craftsmanship”—sorry, Norm Tabler of Indianapolis) is in surprisingly bad taste. And David Baker’s poem “Never-Ending Birds” is terrific: the best I’ve read in the magazine in recent memory.

In John Colapinto’s Paul McCartney profile, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” McCartney laughs to think of the classically trained musicians who were too snooty to clap on “Hey Jude”; in “How I Spent the War,” Günter Grass shivers to think of the German soldier “Wedontdothat,” who was too—what? we’ll never know—to hold a gun for the Reichsarbeitsdienst. I thought I sensed a note of ambiguous envy in Grass’s description of this perfectly Aryan pacifist.

By the way, ever since I started Emdashes on New Year’s Eve Day, 2004, I’ve been aiming for the perfect reading rhythm wherein I consume the magazine from cover to cover, with nothing omitted, before the new issue arrives. Yesterday, I reached my goal—that is, not only reading everything, but having that feel perfectly natural and reasonable. Now it’s hard to believe it once seemed like an uphill hike, and I read other things this week as well, in case you were wondering. It’s all about gradual conditioning, and you can do it, too! Anyway, that means I have a few more issue favorites to add, and I probably will, as is my wont. Also, if you were as keen on Paul Theroux’s Turkmenistan travel story as we were, you’ll also want to read Theroux’s interview on the subject with Radio Free Europe. —EG

All the best blogs in the left-wing blogosphere were discussing and debating Jeffrey Goldberg’s fine Letter from Washington about the Republican Party’s recent woes. As the caption for the expert Finn Graff illustration inquires, “Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove—who’s most to blame for the Republican Party’s disarray?” Really, the proper question is, Why stop at those three? Also worth a look is the centerpiece advertisement, for the 2007 Blue Planet Run, an around-the-world relay undertaken by twenty runners (!) in an effort to finance “safe water projects around the globe.” The first runner left New York City on Friday. Two MoMA-related items: Nestled in TOTT is an ad for the upcoming Richard Serra exhibition; the pic just looks cool. In GOAT, on pages 24 and 25, is a remarkable photograph by Israeli artist Barry Frydlender—he’s got a solo show at MoMA all summer long. I saw it last week; highly recommended. —MCS

This issue had three things I tasted, recoiled from, and then decided were pretty good: Adam Gopnik’s refusal to, like, edit the shibboleth of youth out of Lacy and Lily’s museum-trip musings; the seamless dramaturgy of David Sedaris’s Reflection on Jackie, the neighborhood child molester; and Paul McCartney’s marveling at the luck of being Paul McCartney (“And there was one guy who wrote ‘Yesterday,’ and I was him”), in an excellent article by John Colapinto. —JB


Was it just me or did that centerfold ad have the wrong number of continents on it? I don’t have the issue at hand, but I think it said something like “20 runners run across five continents” but as near as I could tell the route illustrated was confined to North America, Europe, and Asia.


My pick is the cool black-and-white-charcoal-and-pink Riccardo Vecchio portrait of Hank Jones that accompanies Gary Giddins’s superb “Autumn In New York.”

driedcharJune 04, 2007

Josh: It actually says “four continents,” but aside from that there’s nothing to dispute in your observation.

I am close to achieving the PRR, also. That it should happen as summer approaches surprises me. I’ve always thought I read more in winter.

Good for you, Bill! There were times pre-Emdashes when issues of The New Yorker piled up unread in my apartment, knows God, but daily rides on public transportation are so great for magazine reading. Especially these days, when (despite the genuinely lovely new LCDs on the L) one never quite knows where the subway is going and when. I read books at home and when traveling, which is working out well. Besides, the magazine’s like an iPod—if you’re not in the mood for Talk right now, you’ve got book reviews, and vice versa.

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