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The Squib Report: The Best American Complete New Yorker

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Martin Schneider, the man behind the admirably focused and semi-extant Between the Squibs, has kindly agreed to contribute an occasional column, in which he’ll spelunk into the Complete New Yorker archives and tell us what he’s uncovered. Here’s the column’s debut. Martin filed this yonks and yonks ago (as Georgina and Brian would say), but I got all busy and distracted, so I’m just posting it now; mea culpa! I’m sure you’ll agree it’s well worth the wait.
Recently I started Between the Squibs, a blog about the New Yorker DVD set. And then ever so slightly more recently I abandoned said blog. Fortunately, some months later, Emily has kindly granted me a little space here in her demesne. Some friends of mine and also some kind blog-commenters let me know what a shame it was that I’d given up “BtS,” and I found it hard to explain why I found it hard to write to a public consisting of the purchasers of a DVD set, hard to write about content that has a $60 price of entry and is not easily duplicated.
And then in September, long after “BtS” had gone dark, right about when I started here, I began cultivating some inklings about hidden utility, hidden Emdashes utility, in the “Best American” series. You know, those Houghton Mifflin books, The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, The Best American Short Stories…there are others. Those books, you see, almost exactly fulfilled the mandate that I had originally laid out for “BtS”: to act as a sensible and independent (in the sense of existing outside of my head) guide to genuine highlights to be found in the Complete New Yorker DVDs. At least for recent years.
Because—and surely this will not come as a surprise—The New Yorker really does dominate those books. It’s the rare volume that doesn’t have three New Yorker articles reprinted in full and another dozen listed in the appendix. I know, because I went to my local library and copied down all the New Yorker titles in every “Best American” book I could find—specifically the Travel, Essay, and Story ones. Right now I have 19 “Best Travel” articles pinned to my CNY’s reading-list panel, 133 “Best Essays,” and 93 “Best Stories.” “Best Science”? I’ve only got 15 of those so far. And all of those lists are far from complete.
“BtS,” your days always were numbered. But I’ve had a ball dipping into those volumes, and you’ll be hearing about some of my discoveries in the weeks to come. In fact, maybe I’ll even release the spellbook to the apprentice wizards reading this and just, doggone it, compile a list of the New Yorker pieces that have been cited in those books as a resource, and then Emily can post it here so that you all don’t have to swarm actual, physical libraries and even, heaven forfend, pester actual physical librarians for the treasures. Stay tuned for that.
I’ll leave you with this: the first significant discovery to emanate from my Mifflin Hunt was David Schickler. I didn’t have the vaguest idea that he was this good. He may be a little showy, but I prefer to see it as “originality” and “verve” just now, thank you. “Jamaica” is definitely the best story I have ever read that combines the hobbies of archery and book clubs—and “Wes Amerigo’s Giant Fear” is even better. Go read.


I would like to see someone comment on
the new faster version of The Complete
New Yorker. What are they like? I’m
also wondering whether Emily will comment
on the multiple Chris Ware covers on this
week’s issues, and finally, I’ve discovered
two Charles Addams calendars that have
been released for 2007.

Great to see you back in action, Martin. I await with anticipation the illumined depths of your future spelunking expeditions.

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