Author Topic: In the New Yorker...  (Read 821752 times)

Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2350 on: March 03, 2020, 10:23:35 pm »
The last issue was a bit problematic for us so it was a bit of a relief to see the latest issue come. The cover is comic, with a raging (yet again) Trump wearing a mask...over his eyes! I chuckled and then decided to put it on the bench in the entry hall of my house. Today was the day when my grandsons come over for art and gardening lessons. Little Charlie glanced at it when he came in. He is a very perceptive lad so I know he realized who was depicted, but he didn't say anything. Then, when my elder grandson came over, he glanced at it too. I'm not sure if it even registered with him. On the dashboard of their car is a figure of Trump wearing a hula skirt. So they probably think he is just some kind of cartoon character.
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2351 on: March 04, 2020, 09:49:53 am »
So they probably think he is just some kind of cartoon character.

I do, too, only it's a problem having a cartoon character as POTUS.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2352 on: March 04, 2020, 04:16:12 pm »
Going back to the Sedaris piece, I was thinking about it this morning before rising and realizing that in my mother's final journey my family played several roles, as well as differing roles within myself. I played the Lisa role of course, and my sister played the David role, and my brother played the role of Hugh, I guess.

Internally, David was present most of the time and I tried to suppress that voice, but it would have been better just to sit with it and let it come out and understand it. Basically, to sum up, David's voice is "Why me?"

Sedaris' articles have often irritated me because of his self absorption, but then I realize that he is also serving as the narrator and looking at himself objectively. He is the casting director giving himself that role. His satirical, verging on cynical and sarcastic voice is part of the human condition. Lost in the article is the fact that his dad recovered and went back to the assisted living facility. As far as I could tell, he didn't die, despite all the obituary talk.

The writing that I like best is when Sedaris talks about nature, and this is no exception. The siblings are distracted from their combing of dad's home by a deer wandering around outside. Their awestruck voices ring of forgotten childhoods in this home and they recapture some of the joy of it. This feeling returns at the very end when they spy a naked woman through a window. They marvel at the sight just as they did at the deer. Maybe this experience will help them connect with their father.
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Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2353 on: March 04, 2020, 10:03:11 pm »
I think to some extent we all bring our own reading backgrounds into this. I am really used to reading memoirs and essays about the writers' own experiences, including extremely private ones. For example, five minutes ago I read an essay in Time by an author I know slightly IRL about her rape in college and how she came to think of it afterward. And that was pretty normal because at this point I have read sooo many first-person accounts of rapes (never from the rapist, though -- which actually would be interesting), gang rapes, domestic abuse, incest, mental illness, addiction and so on. In fact, there are so many of those things there's been a backlash that says, essentially, don't bother unless you have something fresh and universal to say about it (which my IRL friend did). Which is actually what I've always thought. I don't want to read an essay that reads like someone's journal written for their own therapeutic benefits -- it should say something larger than that.

Which I think David Sedaris' do. I haven't read much of his early work but I gather that back then he was just trying to be funny. Since he's been writing for the New Yorker his essays seem to make deeper and more nuanced points. Those are almost always critical at his own expense -- he doesn't portray himself as heroic (that's generally been Hugh's role) which is why it doesn't come off as self-absorption to me. His behavior and character flaws are often used to make the point of the piece.

As I recall, I first noticed this with an essay some years ago about how a family had moved into his neighborhood from somewhere else, and at Halloween didn't realize you were expected to go trick-or-treating on the actual Halloween night. They came the following night instead. The Sedarises were out of candy at that point, so David's mother (I'm recreating this from dim memory, but it went something like this) asked him to share some of the candy he'd acquired trick-or-treating. He refused. He just sat there surrounded by piles of candy, greedily eating it all himself. I realized he was making a larger point about inequality and privilege -- either in general among all people or maybe just the United States compared to poorer countries/cultures. I think that might have been the first time I noticed how his writing seemed to have evolved (or at least evolved from what AFAIK was, previously, purely comedic). I think that's when I really started liking his stuff. His pieces had subsequently become more subtle and nuanced and -- in the case of the one we're discussing as well as the one about his mom's alcoholism -- more serious in topic. But they never come across as particularly self-serving to me; I think he usually makes himself the butt of the joke (or of the larger point). In the dad story, I think it's a little more ambiguous than that because his dad really does sound pretty bad.

OK, i just found the Halloween piece and skimmed through it. It's from 17 years ago and it's not as subtle as his more recent work. But it's pretty much as I remember. https://archives.newyorker.com/newyorker/2003-11-03/flipbook/052d/

Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2354 on: March 04, 2020, 10:45:04 pm »
Good insight, Katherine. It's easy to go back to his early work since "The Candyland Diaries" is broadcast every year during the holidays. His self-deprecating voice seemed to be fully developed even back then.

The following article, "The Altitude Sickness" by Nick Paumgarten is eerie to me, since I was aware of several incidences where alpinists died one way or another. I had an encounter with the main person in the article, Conrad Anker. I was trudging up the Khumbu Trail towards Everest Base Camp in 2012, and had arrived at the more difficult part just a day or two before arriving at the camp. I could only go 2-3 miles a day and then had to stop at a teahouse for the night. Because of the altitude, I could only eat soup and milk tea. I was sitting on the comfy divan when three men came in. Two of them were dark haired and another one had blondish hair and was very fair. He seemed to be mentoring the other two. He was strutting around with lots of energy in contrast to the rest of us, who were conserving our energy. He was saying things about the porters and guides. He said the porters earned a maximum of $7 a day, and that accommodations in the teahouses was more than that, even if they shared. So the porters, and oftentimes the guides, lodged in caves. He was very vocal about giving the porters more benefits and rights but still at the same time, was very full of himself.  I observed a lot of alpinists during that trip and found the same thing over and over.
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Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2355 on: March 05, 2020, 09:47:02 am »
Good insight, Katherine. It's easy to go back to his early work since "The Candyland Diaries" is broadcast every year during the holidays. His self-deprecating voice seemed to be fully developed even back then.

Somewhere on my shelves I have Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is more recent than "The Candyland Diaries" but still 20 years old and, I think, pre-New Yorker. I think I own 2-3 Sedaris collections. For some reason I never read his essays there, much as I enjoy them in the New Yorker.

Quote
I was sitting on the comfy divan when three men came in. Two of them were dark haired and another one had blondish hair and was very fair. He seemed to be mentoring the other two. He was strutting around with lots of energy in contrast to the rest of us, who were conserving our energy. He was saying things about the porters and guides. He said the porters earned a maximum of $7 a day, and that accommodations in the teahouses was more than that, even if they shared. So the porters, and oftentimes the guides, lodged in caves. He was very vocal about giving the porters more benefits and rights but still at the same time, was very full of himself.  I observed a lot of alpinists during that trip and found the same thing over and over.

Wait, so did the blond guy sleep inside and the dark-haired men slept in caves? How expensive was the teahouse? Could the blond guy have reasonably thrown in the extra to get them space inside?

I've probably told you this, but I once interviewed a woman who lived in Nepal for a while, outside of areas usually seen by foreign travelers. She said it was the worst experience of her life and for many years she vowed never to go back. But she had come to terms with it somewhat.

OK, I had to just look it up and refresh my memory. Here's the part of the story -- the whole thing was about the benefits of going outside your comfort zone -- involving her:

Last year, Molly O’Reilly of Mora, Minn., arranged to live in Nepal for six months to further her education as a hospice social worker. O’Reilly was a seasoned traveler, and Nepal is known as a beautiful tourist destination. But experiencing Nepal as a resident was a shock. She saw violence, cruelty, chaos, corruption, danger. People with serious diseases receiving inadequate treatment. Child-labor sweatshops and sex trafficking.

“I thought I was prepared, but I was not,” said O’Reilly, who turns 50 in December. “It was not scary going there, but once I got there, I thought, what have I gotten into? I felt like I had walked off a cliff.”

She drank tainted water that had been sold as purified, ingesting a debilitating parasite. She was bedridden, couldn’t eat and lost 40 pounds. She returned to the United States a month early, where she received an antibiotic not offered in Nepal and quickly returned to health.

“When I came home, I hated it there [in Nepal]. I didn’t have a positive word to say about it. I said I would never go back.”

Since then, her outlook has softened.

The experience was unpleasant, but leaving a comfort zone “is how we learn; it is how we grow,” O’Reilly said. “I would do it again, because it makes us stronger, wiser.”




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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2356 on: March 05, 2020, 12:04:03 pm »
To clarify, the three men I saw at the teahouse, the blond guy was Conrad Aker and one of the dark haired men was Sam Elias, whose memories are in the very last paragraph of the story. I don't know who the other man was, but he was also a climber, one of the elite who stay in the teahouses. Anker was educating them about the plight of porters and kitchen help, young Nepali men who trudge up the mountain with packs that weigh up to 100 lbs. At the end of the trip, my guide insisted I pay the porters only about $22 each. When his back was turned, I gave each of them $20 more in American dollars (about $60 each Nepali). They were much happier!!

Nepal is one of the poorest nations, which doesn't register if you are on the Khumbu trail, but even there, the workers don't earn much. It also has a very harsh climate, and about 20 to 25% of children don't make it to age two. Trafficking is a big problem. A book I read, The Little Princes of Nepal, details this. Nepal is where many people come together, and there is much conflict and exploitation. The Sherpas, people of the East, came from Tibet and China over the Himalayan passes. Others come from India and Malaysia. Regarding this person Molly, I think working in a hospice anywhere you would see a lot of disease and death. Tainted water is very common. There are no water treatment plants! At my hotel in Kathmandu, there was a contraption on the roof with several trays of sand. The water trickled through that and was called good (I have a UV water purifier). Despite that and avoiding raw produce, I got diarrhea several times to the point where it was no big deal. A friend of mine has a nonprofit company that installs water filters in Nepal, on reservations, etc. People in America just don't know how good we have it enjoying clean water that doesn't make us sick.
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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2357 on: March 05, 2020, 12:21:48 pm »
When you see the smiley face in the sky, the pandemic will be over!

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2358 on: March 05, 2020, 09:55:29 pm »
The following article, "The Altitude Sickness" by Nick Paumgarten is eerie to me

That was a fascinating article.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #2359 on: March 05, 2020, 10:00:51 pm »
Good insight, Katherine. It's easy to go back to his early work since "The Candyland Diaries" is broadcast every year during the holidays. His self-deprecating voice seemed to be fully developed even back then.

I believe it's The Santaland Diaries.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.