Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Readers "Ask the Author"; Queries Yield Pith!

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Martin Schneider writes:

For months now, The New Yorker has been asking its feature writers and critics to make themselves available on the website to answer readers' questions about specific articles.

I suppose it's a cliche that New Yorker employees are aloof, snobby, and unapproachable. Not if you judge by the website, they aren't! These days, the magazine is all about reaching out. Spend three minutes clicking on the "online-only" section of the website and explain how the staff and its contributors are insulated or unwilling to confront readers and critics. I don't think it's true.

Right now, Keith Gessen is up, ready to answer your questions about the trial of the alleged killers of the Russian journalist Anna Polikovskaya. Why don't you go over and ask him something? While you decide what to ask, here are a few quotations from the "Ask the Author" online feature that caught my attention.

Atul Gawande: "The most important transformation going on in health care worldwide, I think, is that the complexity of medical know-how has exceeded the abilities of individuals."

D.T. Max: "I think of Wallace's depression as so intense that living, let alone writing, would have been impossible without treatment. As he described it, it had no component of sadness or wistfulness or affectlessness. It was more like an excruciating physical pain, a buzz saw cutting through his body again and again."

Ryan Lizza: "I think right now Obama may be on the cusp of overplaying his hand. "

Peter Schjeldahl: "Having great dead people looking over one's shoulder is a haunting familiar to all who nurture creative or intellectual ambitions."

Sasha Frere-Jones: "I like being able to ask [interview subjects] 'Where are you from? What did your Dad do?' in person, even if they find it annoying."

John Lahr: "I always ask for a script, which is now a matter of course for all critics; thirty years ago, this was a demand that I think I started."

Jill Lepore: "At this particular moment in history, our culture of work and our culture of family life are more or less opposed to one another."

Deborah Treisman: "Some of the writers published in the magazine in recent years who came to us entirely unsolicited and unagented are Uwem Akpan, David Hoon Kim, Gina Ochsner, and Rebecca Curtis."

Alex Ross: "If Bernstein had miraculously lived another two decades and been able to carry on composing, I'd guess he would indeed have written some kind of gay opera."

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