Following Wednesday's post, I received my New Yorker "World Changers" issue late in the afternoon. The articles look interesting, but I don't feel the excitement generated by the special fiction issue, which "World Changers" replaces. Showing that it's not yet part of the magazine pack, as I rashly said Wednesday, the New Yorker displays its usual low-key philosophy, not printing the phrase "World Changers" on the cover. Javier Mariscal's cover "New World, with illustrations of cartoon people with big ideas in their hair, subtly conveys the idea; the theme "world changers" is not encountered until the table of contents. Another magazine, such as the Atlantic, would have blasted the theme in big, glaring colors on the cover. Perhaps the New Yorker is more of a subscripton-driven magazine not screaming for newsstand sales.
The articles will undoubtedly draw me in: a glance through the issue shows that they will tell of relatively unknown people doing important, vital work. One thing I really love about the New Yorker is how I'm slowly drawn into such articles after initially thinking I'm not that interested. The issue does give a lot of gifts for we fiction/book fans, including Helen Simpson's short story "Diary of an Interesting Year," a piece by Louis Menand on a new biography of Koestler and Joan Acocella's review of Peter Ackroyd's retelling of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Among poems, Roger Angell rings in with his end of the year verse on people and events of 2009. Such poems were once a staple of magazines, but Angell is about the only one left who has enough working sense of meter and rhyme to carry it off.
I was also happy to see a piece by Fen Montaigne on how global warming is affecting Antartica. The piece is distressing, but I was glad to catch up with Fen. A few years ago, our daughters played on the same Tophat soccer team, and I always looked forward to our game-time conversations. Now he's senior editor of the Web magazine Yale Environment 360.
In another followup to Wednesday's post, a reader commented that Don DeLillo's recent "Dostoyevsky at Midnight" in the New Yorker is in fact a discrete short story, not part of DeLillo's forthcoming novel "Point Omega." This was welcome news, somewhat easing my worries about the short story's decline, as expressed in Wednesday's post. It's encouraging that a writer like DeLillo would see relevance in the form.
I found "Dostoyevsky at Midnight" an engaging story. The sentences' style marked a departure for DeLillo. I couldn't quite explain it, but the sentences appeared more classical, measured, slowly unfolding than the packed, snapping, electric sentences of his novels. I enjoy both styles. With the theme of college students discovering and engaged with the world, the rich descriptions of snow and the isolated town and the mysterious professor of logic, the story reminded me a bit of Tobias Wolfe. I'll look forward to "Point Omega," since a new DeLillo novel is generally a must-read.
Speaking of The New Yorker and writers, the New Yorker's Book Bench segment of its Web site has an interesting conversation between Lydia Davis and fans across the world. Lydia makes some insightful observations about craft, inspiration, commitment to work. I was going to give a book lover I know "Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore as a Christmas present, but now I may switch to Lydia Davis' "Collected Stories." Or, give them both.