Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Best of the 12.08.08 Issue: Disaster Capitalism and Its Discount Garments

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This is the issue with Barry Blitt’s cover image of Barack Obama interviewing the dogs, a flight of fancy that manages to capture something essential about the serious, careful president-elect, I thought. I found the juxtaposition of Larissa MacFarquhar’s Profile of Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, and Patricia Marx’s look at recessionary fashion most intriguing.

In transit from West Coast to East, Benjamin Chambers was able to register his impressions via iPhone (I really must acquire one of those things):

“Some things I’ve liked this week:
“P. 19, brief review of a show of artifacts from 12 cultures circa the Bronze age. Quote: ‘Battalions of pitilessly educational wall texts and labels beseige about three hundred and fifty often tiny, mostly terrific objects in ivory, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and lots else. Duly benumbed, you may slip the odd item of power or caprice into a pocket of memory, to take home.’

“E. Kolbert’s TOTT comment on the Big 3 bailout is sharp, a useful summary, and challenges Obama to address the root issues. Quote: ‘It would, of course, be foolish to allow the American economy to collapse in order to make a point. And it’s possible to conclude that the Big Three deserve on every front to fail and still decide to rescue them. But such a decision will itself be a form of temporizing, and will only pass the problems on to the next Administration. Real change—as opposed to the kind in slogans—is hard and, by definition, disruptive. If Obama has any intention of fulfilling his campaign promises, sooner or later he’s going to have to face up to that.’

“Graeme Wood’s Afghan piece feels truncated, but nails the difficulty of the forgotten war and the drawbacks of pitting ethnic minorities against each other. Also chock full of mini-stories that cry out for dramatization: e.g., the police unit that took heavy losses, and, shamed into patrolling, sang songs and wrapped their rifles in flowers. Or the army unit that attack a position and steal grapes along the way.”

If you have strong feelings about an article in any current issue, by all mean write us and let us know!


Martin - I just saw this. I love the headline. That’s a hilarious pun.

Thanks! If you mean the echo of Freud, I’m chagrined to confess it was accidental. I only “saw” it after the post was up. I think my unconscious totally got it, though, which is fitting because … Freud.

Even though I can’t stand rap music, I decided to plunge into Ian Frazier’s “The Rap” on faith that this great writer, possibly the greatest in the magazine’s history, is incapable of writing a boring sentence. A line in the second paragraph - “Derrick can tell you who shot Tupac Shakur and Jam Master Jay, and he has a fair idea of who killed Biggie Smalls” – hooked me and I read the rest of the article straight through, lapping up the names – Larry Low-Top, Busta Rhymes, Lil’ Kim, Jam Master Jay – and enjoying immensely the “ride-around” in the Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx housing projects. Frazier’s description of his visit to the Bada Bing strip club is for me the highlight of the piece. It contains the following inspired sentence: “I watched Barack Obama’s speech, close-captioned above the painfully percussive music, on ceiling TV monitors through a writhing forest of dancers on poles.”

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