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


Martin Schneider writes:

Over the past three weeks or so, I encountered two New Yorker contributors in unexpected venues, and in both cases the takeaway was that the person might be the best at what they do. I thought I'd pass those on.

On August 11, the vastly entertaining mostly-political discussion website bloggingheads.tv posted a "diavlog" with Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Susan Orlean (billed as "Julia Roberts" and "Meryl Streep," har har). It's the third dicussion for bloggingheads.tv Orlean has done—the first two were with Kurt Andersen and Walter Kirn ("George Clooney")—and she has a tremendous knack for "casual" conversation that is in fact studded with wit and wisdom. She is really good at these things.

At the 2007 New Yorker Festival, I had the great luck to see Orlean and Mark Singer conduct a "master class" in the art of writing profiles; that session was transcendently wonderful, one of the best NYF events I've ever seen, particularly for a New Yorker junkie. Orlean is deceptive: At first blush, she gives off a mildly distracted, breezy impression, but the more you listen, the more you realize how incredibly high this woman's signal-to-noise ratio is. Over and over again, one is struck by the sheer number of acute observations, proferred with grace and insight.

Last week, at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall posted a "bleg" in which he asked his readers for guidance in finding a good, non-polemiized narrative account of the events leading up to 9/11. The overwhelming winner (as a piece of journalism) was Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower. This was a revelation to me, on a few levels. First, I had not actually known that that was the subject of The Looming Tower. But more interestingly, according to TPM's readers, The Looming Tower is pretty much the only thorough, journalistic treatment of the 9/11 attacks.

Also in 2007, Emily and I got to see Wright perform his one-man show, My Trip to Al-Qaeda, which was penetrating and fascinating and troubling. Good news, then, that Wright has a follow-up due to premiere at the New Yorker Festival and run in New York City through October.

So thank you. Orlean and Wright, for so consistently defining excellence.

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