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.