Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

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


Grafs and Tidbits: That Origami Guy, Disney Weddings, Specter on Video, &c.

Filed under: Headline Shooter   Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A physicist has more than a quark’s worth of interesting stuff to add to Susan Orlean’s profile of the folding chair.

The Times ran a story in part about Rebecca Mead’s book on the wedding industry; the piece itself is styled just like chick lit, which probably means few men have read it. That’s a shame; this is riveting stuff, especially the Disney wedding business, with which I am fascinated. Fantasy is good. Childlike play is good. But letting Disney define your adult romantic vision, with the same tools it uses to hook five-year-old girls on pink princess culture—that is very strange to me.

A New Republic debate on Giuliani’s chances, begun by Mike Tomasky and Fred Siegel.

Marshall Brickman has a caustic, comic letter to the editor in The San Francisco Chronicle (via Scratchings).

Michael Specter on video!

This guy’s friend is a finalist in the caption contest.

Poets are talkin’ about that provocative Poetry Foundation piece by Dana Goodyear.

From the Voice:
Whitney Balliett’s synesthetic metaphors and similes defied imitation (I learned the hard way), but not parody: In Donald Barthelme’s “The King of Jazz”—a 1977 short story that I doubt I was the only person to read as one New Yorker lifer’s inside joke on another—a character likens a trombone’s roar to “polar bears crossing Arctic ice pans,” “a herd of musk ox in full flight,” “male walruses diving to the bottom of the sea,” and on and on for a few paragraphs. Along with Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams, Balliett—who died from cancer on February 1—reinvented jazz journalism starting in the 1950s. Hentoff introduced a sociopolitical element, whereas Williams brought to the subject an analytical rigor borrowed from Edmund Wilson and the New Critics. Balliett’s contribution was his shapely prose style, his concern for poetic image and cadence. When he and Pauline Kael happened to appear in the same issue of The New Yorker, the magazine’s back pages whistled with tension. In Kael’s case, the tension was between the magazine’s genteel sense of itself and its readership on the one hand, and the unruliness of the movies she championed and her perceptions about them on the other. Balliett on jazz was as perfect a match for the magazine’s sensibility as Herbert Warren Wind on golf—but as with Roger Angellon baseball, the tension resulted from taking such a mannerly (and mannered) approach to a music born on the wrong side of the tracks. Even so, coming out from under the influence of Balliett’s exquisite word-pictures of a typical (or maybe just idealized) Ben Webster or Doc Cheatham solo has been a rite of passage for all of us forced to write about music impressionistically, from a layman’s perspective. And those of us also hoping to detail musicians’ lives have no better model than his flinty profiles. In his own way, he was as imposing and grand as Coleman Hawkins or Art Tatum, as peculiar and sui generis as his beloved Mabel Mercer and Pee Wee Russell.


Throughout the Goodyear piece I was hoping for an argument and was mostly disappointed. On the whole I found it to be too easily satisfied with “money + poetry = bad” line of thought (espoused in those words by blog author above). I wished Goodyear had a chance to take on the more serious points about poetry’s parochial readership and disjuncture from other cultural enterprise; e.g., those brought up by Jarrell (is it in “Poets, Critics, Readers”?) or the ones Larkin makes in “The Pleasure Principle” and elsewhere. It was a suitable news piece (though not terribly timely), but not as conversant with the problem (or willing to make a case for either side) as one could have hoped.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree