Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
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Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


You may be here seeking my sentences. I’ve started a writing portfolio for my copywriting and journalism. My Twitter (and Instagram) handle is @emdashes, and I compile the Tumblrs The Beautiful Sentence and Obscure Controversies. Here’s my LinkedIn profile. These days, I’m a scholarly publicist and editor at the Yale School of Management and am working on a book about cavemen. Will I ever blog about The New Yorker again? Probably not. Will I start blogging about something else? It’s not impossible. In the meantime, I’m getting ready to refresh this site so it’s a little easier to find things, so if you’re here, thanks and check back again in a few months! (continued)

Fourteen! If this blog were a child, it’d be a smart-mouthed teenager. I founded it in 2004, dedicating it to the superb writer Donald Antrim. So what is Emdashes? It’s either a pair of long dashes in a sentence—like these—or a culture blog whose original tagline was “The New Yorker Between the Lines.” In its active days, it was a New Yorker magazine fanblog. More on all of that here.

Here’s a long-winded description of me if you’re here for the first time: I’m a writer, editor, and digital strategist; my keenest interests are books and culture, politics and social issues, technology and design. I was a staff theater critic for Time Out Chicago; here are those reviews. As a book critic and feature writer, I’ve interviewed Edward Gorey, Aisha Tyler, J. K. Rowling, Lewis Lapham, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nick Hornby, Cathleen Schine, Françoise Mouly, Paul Auster, and gifted young designers, among many others. (continued)

comments are off

Not in the literal sense. But certainly in a spiritual sense. I’m happy to say I began work this week at Oglivy & Mather as its Newsroom Editor. As for here, I don’t know how Emdashes will evolve in the future, in this, its tenth year. To judge from my radio silence, I’ve been drawn to other magnetic things, among them the Tumblrs The Beautiful Sentence and Obscure Controversies, as well as Peekskill Rocks, a city site I founded with the punk-rock developer Joe Sepi. But I would never, ever let go of my dearest place online.

So, I’ll return, tweed-clad and pipe in hand, and tend to this overgrown plot when I can. (I see, for instance, that there’s some messed-up code up there on the right rail. And I know, how minuscule is that type in the header and footer? What are we, tarsiers?) If you’re reading this, hi! Thanks for reading. Thanks for everything. This blog has opened so many incredible doors and continues to do so. The explanation “It originally started as a meta-superfanblog about The New Yorker” makes sprockets spring out of some people’s ears. But luckily, enough people have shared my obsessions that it made obsessing all the more delightful. (continued)

He Put the Hop in the Lindy | Frankie Manning, the Last King of Swing

By Emily Gordon and Robert L. Fouch

Imagine this scene: In a packed ballroom, hundreds of women edge closer to the dance floor, angling for a chance with that handsome fellow with the brilliant smile, the one who moves with such power and grace. Never mind that the man is 85 years old. This is the legend of lindy, the king of Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in its heyday, who danced for royalty and has sidestepped old age as he would another couple on the floor. This is Frankie Manning, and as the song begins to swing, the women clamor to be one of his 85 partners—one for each of Manning’s remarkable years. (continued)


Poetry Without Pain: National Poetry Month roundup (Newsday)
How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love With Poetry, by Edward Hirsch
How to Read a Poem…And Start a Poetry Circle, by Molly Peacock
A Grain of Poetry: How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make Them Part of Your Life, by Herbert Kohl

Poetry Anthologies After September 11 (Newsday)
Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, ed. Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians
110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11, ed. Ulrich Baer
Poems of New York, ed. Elizabeth Schmidt

Speaking From Memory (Newsday)
Handwriting: Poems, by Michael Ondaatje

Above an Abyss (The Nation)
Meadowlands, by Louise Glück
Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, by Jane Kenyon

Pollitt, Poet (The Nation)
The Mind-Body Problem: Poems, by Katha Pollitt


Ted Hughes (Newsday)
Iris Murdoch (Newsday) (continued)

Poetry Without Pain | Averse to verse? Good! For National Poetry Month, here are three books to stir the stanza lover in you.

By Emily Gordon

HOW TO READ A POEM: And Fall in Love With Poetry, by Edward Hirsch. Harcourt Brace, 352 pp., $23.

HOW TO READ A POEM…And Start a Poetry Circle, by Molly Peacock. Riverhead, 209 pp., $22.95.

A GRAIN OF POETRY: How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make Them Part of Your Life, by Herbert Kohl. HarperCollins, 175 pp., $23.

Otherwise sensible people are always going around saying they don’t like poetry. Not “Emily Dickinson perplexes me” or “haikus give me the heebie-jeebies”; nope, they tried it, and it didn’t agree with them. “It’s just not my thing,” they say with inexplicable pride, as though staking a claim for verbal democracy. Often, these are folks who savor words and delight in the pleasures of reading. Yet somehow they can justify dismissing a whole genre of literature, which spans thousands of years and countless phases of human creativity, out of hand. You don’t hear anyone declaring that they’ve never really seen the point of paintings, or “This Gustav Mahler—why doesn’t he just come out and say what he means?” So why is poetry so scary? (continued)

It’s spring in Emdashes’ tenth (!) year. These days, I’m working on grants and web content at The Center for Jewish History, right next door to the Margaret Sanger Clinic House. Sanger was a friend of my great-grandmother Dorothy Gordon, and I wish I’d known both of them and could have joined even one of their conversations. Here’s Dorothy (known as Ooma) on her ’50s and ’60s TV show, The New York Times Youth Forums, where a multicultural panel of brainy youth debated serious subjects of the day along with a distinguished guest.

Dorothy herself had a great sense of humor, I’m told, and had been a singer of folk songs on the radio and an opera singer before that. She put herself forward when host positions were scarce for women, to say the least, and refused to weave those cheesy ads into her shows (“Friends, do you have tired blood?”) because, she said, children can’t distinguish between the show and the advertising.

I don’t normally write about myself, and I don’t think I’ve ever written about any member of my family. But I have chutzpah and bravery on the brain as I work on grants with meaningful purpose; finish a book proposal; think about the new documentary about Vivian Maier, who never showed her city-capturing photographs; rewatch the classic (as far as I’m concerned) 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan.

No one can be Madonna except Madonna. Nobody can be Aidan Quinn except Aidan Quinn, either. (Those searching, uncertain blue eyes.) And most of all, no one can be Susan Seidelman, who directed a movie so celebratory, suspenseful, subtly feminist, and generally badass that it instantly, completely, dare I say desperately, made me decide to move to New York as soon as possible. And I did. And the movie is still wonderful. And Rosanna Arquette’s character has the courage not to be Madonna/Susan, but to make her own goofy way that’s just as cool. If not cooler. I’m certain Ooma would’ve liked her. (continued)

Happy ninth anniversary to Emdashes! I could go on, but there’s so much to attend to in these waning hours of the year that I’ll just refer you to this five-year-anniversary hurrah, which pretty much says it all. Plus, may I recommend this punctuation-themed post with a headline dear to our hearts? Yes, it’s “The Singular Beauty of the Em-Dash,” with a plum quote from our scholarly pal Ben Yagoda.

Thank you, dear people, for being here—especially since other projects have kept the Emdashers from posting often. We’re also working behind the scenes to freshen things up, so if you see a bug or two, our trusty back-end compatriot is on it. (Block that metaphor!)

A very happy new year to you all, and we have lots of new plans for the big ten. Not the football Big Ten. Our very own. (continued)

dumbquotes_radarcollectiveconsulting.jpgThere are smart cookies and dumb bunnies. (The latter term can apply to men and women alike, as far as I’m concerned.) There are smart moves and dumbfounding decisions. And, as every discerning typophile, copy cat, and design devotee knows, there are smart quotes and dumb quotes. The image to the right is a succinct visual summary. The Society of Publication Designers feels so (justly) strongly about it that they made smart versus dumb quotes lesson number one in their essential-vocabulary series.

Most recently, John Brownlee at Fast Company’s Co.Design defines the problem and provides the solution: (continued)

A Fan’s Notes

By Emily Gordon

“For the first, but certainly not the last, time, I began to believe that Arsenal’s moods and fortunes somehow reflected my own,” wrote Nick Hornby in “Fever Pitch,” a memoir of his obsession with his local English soccer team. At the time, this proved to be a faulty theory, but today it seems perfectly apt. Just as Arsenal captures the soccer grail - winning the league championship and the FA Cup in the same season (“an event that’s happened only six times this century,” he reports) - Hornby is scoring writerly goals with his new novel, “About a Boy” (Riverhead, $22.95). On a tour wedged into the off-season, ending just before the World Cup, Hornby stopped to talk at lunch in New York. (continued)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree