Martin Schneider writes:
Over the past three weeks or so, I encountered two New Yorker contributors in unexpected venues, and in both cases the takeaway was that the person might be the best at what they do. I thought I'd pass those on.
On August 11, the vastly entertaining mostly-political discussion website bloggingheads.tv posted a "diavlog" with Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Susan Orlean (billed as "Julia Roberts" and "Meryl Streep," har har). It's the third dicussion for bloggingheads.tv Orlean has done—the first two were with Kurt Andersen and Walter Kirn ("George Clooney")—and she has a tremendous knack for "casual" conversation that is in fact studded with wit and wisdom. She is really good at these things.
At the 2007 New Yorker Festival, I had the great luck to see Orlean and Mark Singer conduct a "master class" in the art of writing profiles; that session was transcendently wonderful, one of the best NYF events I've ever seen, particularly for a New Yorker junkie. Orlean is deceptive: At first blush, she gives off a mildly distracted, breezy impression, but the more you listen, the more you realize how incredibly high this woman's signal-to-noise ratio is. Over and over again, one is struck by the sheer number of acute observations, proferred with grace and insight.
Last week, at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall posted a "bleg" in which he asked his readers for guidance in finding a good, non-polemiized narrative account of the events leading up to 9/11. The overwhelming winner (as a piece of journalism) was Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower. This was a revelation to me, on a few levels. First, I had not actually known that that was the subject of The Looming Tower. But more interestingly, according to TPM's readers, The Looming Tower is pretty much the only thorough, journalistic treatment of the 9/11 attacks.
Also in 2007, Emily and I got to see Wright perform his one-man show, My Trip to Al-Qaeda, which was penetrating and fascinating and troubling. Good news, then, that Wright has a follow-up due to premiere at the New Yorker Festival and run in New York City through October.
So thank you. Orlean and Wright, for so consistently defining excellence.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, an editor, critic, copywriter, and pre-web internet nut. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent many years as a New Yorker fan blog. The project garnered some nice compliments and press.
The blog’s now treading the territories of punctuation, publications, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a brilliant brigade of culture writers, editors, and artists. You can read all about the people who've helped build Emdashes here at “Who We?” (That’s a New Yorker joke. Old habits die hard.)
I welcome submissions, questions, corrections, and ardent, obsessive contributors. I also host occasional book-related contests and giveaways. Questioners and publishers, just email me.
Jennifer Hadley designed the original Emdashes pencil logo, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.