Sotto Voce.

"Qui plume a, guerre a." — Voltaire

Keep an Eye on The New Yorker

Something is amiss at 4 Times Square.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was really seeing a pattern. But now, a few issues into it, I’m pretty confident that I am. Quietly, without fanfare, the editors of The New Yorker have been making over the magazine — and the results are impressive. Issue by issue, we’re seeing an injection of articles of substance and consequence, written with real style.

There’s been marquee expense-account reportage, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the glory days of Sy Hersh (“Buried Secrets,” by Patrick Radden Keefe). There are gut-punch stories written in aggressive New Journalism-style prose (“The Return,” by David Finkel). Even the general-interest stories are more meaty and meaningful, while still being eminently readable (“Cape Fear,” by Alec Wilkinson).

As these pieces swagger through the magazine, they are pushing aside the tweedy pop-psych puffery, the vapid shopping excursions, the cocktail-party gossip, and the hipster handwringing that have been hanging out in the halls for far, far too long.

It looks like editor David Remnick has decided to make a bid for the kind of readers who have been increasingly turning to places like Byliner, the Atavist, and Kindle Singles for their fix of quality long-form journalism — no doubt many of whom used to pay The New Yorker for that sort of thing too. The decision seems to be that The New Yorker doesn’t want to fall between the cracks anymore trying to be a quasi-literary, quasi-society, quasi-general reader magazine. It’s trading in the Varvatos for some Belstaff and wants to hang out with Esquire and Rolling Stone and Harper’s as a magazine of real consequence again.

The message is pretty clear — we think journals can still do journalism.

Pay attention to what they’re doing up in 4 Times Square. It’s pretty exciting.

Categorised as: Life the Universe and Everything

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  1. Teeritz says:

    Nicely put. The New Yorker is hard to find in my neck of the woods, but I’m intrigued now. And it’s good to see a long-established magazine still going strong.

  2. sottovoce says:

    You might want to try the app version. The one for iOS is well designed, and I think you can get a sample issue through it. And they make a lot of their recent articles available on their website.

    I still get TNY in paper (with a complimentary digital sub which is great for reading when traveling), but all my other magazine subs are digital now.

    • Teeritz says:

      Ahh, I’m still a Keeper of the Paper Book/Magazine Flame, I’m afraid. Still, I might check out the app version, as averse as I am to apps in general.

  3. Patrick says:

    Now that you mention it, I have been noticing more articles worthy of reading, in addition to the usually-funny cartoons. There was a recent, culinary story that made me dig out our copy of Escoffier to verify what they were saying. When a new edition of TNY comes in, it’s a good day.

    • sottovoce says:

      Was that Bill Buford’s “Cooking with Daniel,” about Daniel Boulud’s efforts to recreate three forgotten French classic recipes? That was a really good story. One of the few food-related articles in TNY that I’ve ever read all the way through. They’re getting me to read about things that I used to otherwise skip over. It’s a real transformation going on over there.

  4. Richard P says:

    You’re right, it’s been a strong magazine recently. It’s the only one I subscribe to, actually (aside from typewriter collecting magazines!).

    A few years ago under Tina Brown it just seemed like they were looking for juvenile excuses to print the F word on every page.

    • sottovoce says:

      Fk yeah! 😀

      It really has grown up a lot since those days, hasn’t it? I’m all for editors who want to make their mark on a magazine’s style and substance, but sometimes they just can’t channel its spirit. I think that was a factor during Tina Brown’s tenure.

  5. MJ Lazun says:

    Very fond of the comment, “The message is pretty clear — we think journals can still do journalism.”