norbert blei | the new yorker

14 10 2011

POETRY DISPATCH No. 355 | October 14, 2011


Norbert Blei

Let us now praise (again)…The New Yorker…which I have done more than a few times on my many websites. And here I go again. I can’t imagine a serious writer in America living and writing without all the nourishment this magazine provides. How it affects the creative juices. What joy I find, first quickly perusing it, cover to cover, late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. There are some issues so chock full of good articles, stories, poems, criticism, I sometimes lose sleep entirely, devouring such issues, beginning before midnight Saturday, and finally having read the entire issue by three or four Sunday morning. Usually a smile on my face. My spirit uplifted, spent. But a burning desire in my heart to get to the coop, get to work. Get to my own too-many-works-in-progress. But yes, I should get a little sleep lest I find myself in a zombie state all afternoon.

But The New Yorker does this to me, can do it to you, if you’re in that same or similar zone I inhabit. I have been reading the magazine since the 1960’s. Subscribing to it for at least twenty-five years. Burdening myself with back copies for more years than I can remember or reasons I can explain…the attraction/satisfaction of picking up an old copy from a stack, looking at the ads …the way we were then, what the cars looked like then, what we wore, what stories the ads alone revealed, not to mention coming upon an early Updike short story, or Ann Beattie, Salinger, Cheever, Shirley Jackson, William Maxwell, E.B. White, or Isaac Bashevis Singer.

As for New Yorker covers? (which precipitated this rousing rant)…pure poetry. Genius.

I can’t wait to see what The New Yorker has put on the cover each week. I smile. I nod, turn my head back and forth in a son-of-a-gun/look-at-that gesture. “Beautiful” I whisper to myself, as I carry the gift from my small post office in town and head to a restaurant or coffeehouse. Sometimes I show it to my favorite waitresses to get their reaction. Sometimes it depresses me that they (much younger than I) ‘don’t get it.’ Lack of education, or curiosity or culture or something. Then I begin to wonder what they hell they are teaching in schools these days? How do you create students with an appetite for learning their whole lives? Will future generations ever find this magazine and love it as much as I do? Or will The New Yorker die like so many/too many other things (classical music, opera, art museums, real books, etc.) in this stupid culture we’re living in?

Take this week’s cover for instance. Genius. The younger generation should get this cover. They should recognize the guy in black with glasses, facing the “gate-keeper and what he’s checking out, holding in his hands.

Then again, they may not recognize the gatekeeper. Or get it. What a shame. What a loss.

What a loss The New Yorker conveys so brilliantly in a simple cover, no words.



11 responses

14 10 2011
steve fortney

written on my mac.

14 10 2011
David Dix sr

Yes, am long-time New Yorker subscriber even before I knew of you. Not ‘knew’; not yet, until I meet you for real someday, here or there…..
My copy of this issue awaits on my desk, to be read cover to cover later today.

14 10 2011
Sharon Auberle

our great loss, heaven’s gain…perfect cover!

14 10 2011
Michael Norman

You captured my sentiments precisely. At least once in each issue I am astounded at something I discover. As in the new issue. Where else would you find an undiscovered Eugene O’Neill play published verbatim, column after column, page after page. Amazing is an over-used word, but in this case it fits.

14 10 2011

And don’t forget the many great cartoons inside each magazine. Booth was always my favorite cartoonist in the New Yorker with the animals as characters. Perfect cover on this edition you write about Dad as I post from my IPhone 4!

15 10 2011

I always check for the title. I notice that this one is “The Book of Life.”

15 10 2011
hatto fischer

Dear Norb, I follow your enthusiasm for the New Yorker. When I lived still in Canada, it was the most favorite journal to read, especially when alone, near the fire place, up at the cottage. It goes with autumn leaves as much as with a flair of good humor. And about the gate keeper, do you know the joke about Bush when he died? He rushed up to Petrus who guarded the entrance to heaven and wanted to be let in. ‘No so fast, dear man’. Bush was surprised, stopped in his tracks. ‘Why not?’.’Well, dear Bush, you have a choice: hell or heaven!” “But I want to go to heaven!” “Of course you can, but you should take at least a look at hell to see if you like it!” “OK, how do I get there.!” “Down that elevator.” And sure enough Bush went down the elevator. As he stepped outside, there awaited him a lush golf course with all his friends playing the game, including Cheney and all the others. Beautiful girls were serving cocktails. Bush was really glad to see his friends and in such a setting. This was a beautiful hell. Glad that he listened to the advice to Petrus. So he went up again with elevator to tell Petrus he wishes to stay in hell. “Ok, down you go!” So Bush went down but this time as he stepped out of the elevator, there was nothing but burned earth and none of his friends around. For days he wandered through this wasteland till he came upon the devil. “Where are my friends, the golf course?” “Oh,” said the devil, “that was election time, now begins reality!”
I hope this does not distract from your love for the New Yorker, but you insisted so much on the question if one knows the gatekeeper, that I was reminded of this joke.
Take care and greetings from Athens

16 10 2011
Alice D'Alessio

Nor, you know it gets my enthusiastic vote – I’m in total agreement. I think you should send this off to them and let them know what a following they have – even here in the little old forgotten Midwest (plus Athens, California, etc. etc). All my bookshelves are sagging with N. Yorkers that I can’t part with, even tho someone bought me the complete thing on disc …but it’s not the same.

17 10 2011
Suzanne Pearson

Ah yes, you should let your beard grow longer and wear your toga to the coop. The cover illustrator thought you were the gatekeeper. Perhaps Jobs was begging for direct entry, not realizing that today’s world has flat-screened.

18 10 2011

i don’t want to be “one of those waitresses”..i am subscribing today, as i sit here at my desk…i’ll give you a full report after i receive my first copy…then it’s just finding some quiet time to be able to read…
hugs, stef
ps- it’s my moments with loving customers like you, that are going to make my move from ellison bay…very make my day…believe it or not..i am a sponge soaking up every word you say…

18 10 2011
Barbara Vroman

Inspired me to go downstairs and pick off one of my old New Yorker’s and
start rereading them all again! And yes, dear Steve Job’s being greeted by
St. Peter using one of his devices is so sweetly perfect. How could they have come up with a better cover!

Barbara Fitz Vroman

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