Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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In which various Emdashers review the issue you may just be getting to.

For me, this issue felt a bit like August scraps tied in an unwieldy bundle. David Owen (“The Dark Side,” about the disappearing night sky) is always terrific, but the truffle in this issue was Burkhard Bilger’s vivid, manly-in-a-good way “The Mushroom Hunters.” Alex Ross’s Mostly Mozart meditation was top-notch, and should be considered seriously as an award submission. I also want to single out Adam Gopnik’s review-essay about Philip K. Dick, which may be the best book review of Gopnik’s I’ve seen. It had a touch of melancholy about it, too; hope everything’s OK. And speaking of melancholy, “Driving Home” has it and much more. So there were a lot of good things in the issue. I take it back. —Emily Gordon

A little boy, a band of nature enthusiasts, a shark—so many things coming into fatal contact with an unyielding surface!

I really liked Michael Schulman’s dizzy TOTT on the tween adulation directed at Zac Efron. It’s a wonderful example of how Talks can take you anywhere in the city.

It’s wonderful to see Paul Simms’s recurring byline in the magazine—for my money, sitcoms come no finer than NewsRadio, and Conchords isn’t far behind (high praise). I expect nothing less than brilliance from Simms, and “My Near-Death Experience” was just that. I love the idea of “incidents of air rage.”

I didn’t quite buy Peter Boyer’s thesis, to wit, that Rudy Giuliani’s character flaws make him a formidable candidate in the general election—but I thoroughly enjoyed his fine, serious Political Scene entry nonetheless. One of the rewards of election years is the certainty of precisely such Lemann-esque articles, and “Mayberry Man” is an honorable addition to that canon. I can’t get enough of them.

T Cooper’s powerful story about Cambodia, “Swimming,” worked for me on a number of levels. There was a nice economy in the way Cooper earned the various emotional payoffs in the story. Good fiction, that.

I’ve recently become a twitcher, so I was particularly taken with Filip Pagowski’s evocative, near-ambiguous, smeary spot illustrations in this issue. —Martin Schneider


Burkhard Bilger’s “The Mushroom Hunters” is one of his best pieces. I like the exactness of his descriptions. A simple sentence like, “Loch parked the truck in a stand of of red-barked sugar pines and Shasta firs,” strikes me as pure poetry.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree