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Put It In Your Pocket, and a Chorus for Dorothy P.

Filed under: On the Spot   Tagged: , , , , , ,

This past Wednesday, realizing I didn’t have The New Yorker or anything else to read at lunchtime (even a speedy closing-week lunch is grim without reading material), I took an L magazine out of its traffic-cone-orange box on the street, and consumed it without looking up once. And marveled, as I’ve done before: This almost makes me want to stop reflexively hating twentysomethings. Here their smartass, heartless culture seems smart and heartfelt! It’s designed to be read easily and pleasurably; it’s well edited; the features are witty and relevant (check out this week’s “myface.com” profiles, which match, for instance, stoners, ardent Marxists, and proto-masters of the universe with career-rejuvenating, actual courses at local colleges to restore their washed-up dreams ten years on). There are all the venue-grouped music ads you used to pick up the Voice to tear out and save, just quite a bit smaller. (The whole magazine is hiply wee, hence its tagline, “Put it in your pocket.”) The writing is knowing, but not annoying. I’m giving this micro-generation another big chance.

That night, after work, I stopped by the Dorothy Parker birthday celebration at the Algonquin, hosted by the indefatigable Kevin Fitzpatrick, whose countless efforts in toasting and promoting her are surely making Mrs. Parker blush and grin from somewhere—finding herself, at least temporarily, without a barb to sling. (She’d recover, though.)

As Kevin reports, there was a spirited, natty crowd there, drinking expensive but excellent martinis (I would really rather not capitalize “martinis”) and, as the cake was served, singing a tuneful “Happy Birthday,” which brought appreciative smiles from the other patrons. Among them, the crowd I mean, were Jessica Weil and Brian Diedrick, with whom I started chatting about this fall’s Parkerfest. It turns out that Diedrick is a regular L contributor, oddly enough, and one of the writers who does the taxicab interviews (which list not only cabbies’ opinions on the week’s given subject—in this issue, “What Was Your Favorite Subject in School?”—but the previous profession of each) that are one of the magazine’s standout features. Further evidence, perhaps, that we are not completely doomed. Now all we need to do is solve nuclear proliferation, &c. (Incidentally, I notice there’s a critique of the recent New Yorker story “Nawabdin Electrician” by Daniyal Meenuddin on the L magazine blog; I haven’t read either yet.)

And R.I.P., Grace Paley. About ten years ago, I was taking a poetry class at the 92nd St. Y; our classroom was in the library. We were all reading something to ourselves when suddenly our concentrated silence was broken by the sound of Paley’s voice over the loudspeaker—she was reading a story in the auditorium below. Of course, we all turned one ear toward the ethereally elevated but unwavering sound, and listened till she was done.

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What makes a man? Is it, being prepared to do the right thing? Whatever the price? Isn’t that what makes a man?

What’s up with that tip on the Algonquin check? A little light, no?

Louis VeneziaAugust 25, 2007
2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree