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99 JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


THE FICTION ISSUE
JUNE 6 & 13, 2016

11 GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN

35 THE TALK OF THE TOWN


Amy Davidson on Bill Clinton redux;
late graduation; Pharrells here; Reiner family values;
James Surowiecki on Donald Trump and losing.
FICTION
Zadie Smith 44 Two Men Arrive in a Village
FICTION
Ben Lerner 50 The Polish Rider
FICTION
Langston Hughes 60 Seven People Dancing
FICTION
Jonathan Safran Foer 62 Maybe It Was the Distance
SKETCHBOOK
Richard McGuire 70 On Wheels
AMERICAN CHRONICLES
Kathryn Schulz 78 Citizen Khan
How a Muslim tamale-maker became a Wyoming legend.

CHILDHOOD READING
Hisham Matar 48 The Book
Kevin Young 65 Uninhabited
Tessa Hadley 75 At Home in the Past
Ocean Vuong 82 Surrendering
Rivka Galchen 87 Where Is Luckily

THE CRITICS
BOOKS
James Wood 90 Emma Clines The Girls.
Anthony Lane 94 Arthur Lubows life of Diane Arbus.
96 Briefly Noted
MUSICAL EVENTS
Alex Ross 102 The Piatigorsky International Cello Festival.
THE ART WORLD
Peter Schjeldahl 104 Lszl Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim.

Continued on page 4
POP MUSIC
Carrie Battan 106 New dancehall music.
POEMS
J. Estanislao Lopez 72 Erik Estrada Defends His Place in the Canon
Ellen Bass 84 Failure
COVER
Malika Favre Page Turner

DRAWINGS David Borchart, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Emily Flake, David Sipress,
Avi Steinberg, Paul Noth, Christian Lowe, Roz Chast, Edward Koren,
Charlie Hankin, Edward Steed, Michael Maslin, Mark Thompson
SPOTS Grant Snider

Youre going to hate yourself.

4 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


CONTRIBUTORS
Jonathan Safran Foer (Maybe It Was the Kathryn Schulz (Citizen Khan, p. 78)
Distance, p. 62) is the author of Here won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for feature
I Am, which is due out in September. writing for her New Yorker article The
Really Big One, about the earthquake
Zadie Smith (Two Men Arrive in a Vil- risk in the Pacic Northwest.
lage, p. 44) has written ve novels, in-
cluding Swing Time, to be published Langston Hughes (Seven People Danc-
in November. ing, p. 60), who died in 1967, was a poet,
a playwright, and a ction writer. This
Hisham Matar (The Book, p. 48) is the story, unpublished until now, was found
author of the memoir The Return: Fa- among his papers at Yale University.
thers, Sons and the Land in Between,
coming out in July. J. Estanislao Lopez (Poem, p. 72) is a
graduate of the University of Houston.
James Surowiecki (The Financial Page, This is his rst poem for the magazine.
p. 42) writes about economics, business,
and nance for the magazine. Tessa Hadley (At Home in the Past,
p. 75) has written six novels, including
Ben Lerner (The Polish Rider, p. 50) is Clever Girl and, most recently, The
a 2015 MacArthur Fellow. His most re- Past.
cent book is The Hatred of Poetry.
Ocean Vuong (Surrendering, p. 82), a
Malika Favre (Cover) is a French artist poet and an essayist, recently published
based in London. Night Sky with Exit Wounds, his rst
book of poems.
Kevin Young (Uninhabited, p. 65) was
inducted into the American Academy Rivka Galchen (Where Is Luckily, p. 87)
of Arts and Sciences in April. Blue is the author of Little Labors, which
Laws is his latest collection of poetry. has just been published.

NEWYORKER.COM
Everything in the magazine, and more.

SKETCHBOOK CURRENCY
Explore Liana Fincks selection James Surowieckis week in business:
of childrens books, updated for the economics of Zika funding, and
grownups. more.

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6 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
THE MAIL
ASSADS ATROCITIES mezcal, and later consume them. There
are also expressions, known as refrnes,
I admired Ben Taubs article on the that indicate mezcals signicance.
campaign by the Commission for According to one traditional refrn:
International Justice and Account- Para todo mal, mezcal! (For every-
ability to gather evidence of war thing bad, mezcal!) Para todo bien,
crimes against high officials in the tambien! (For everything good, the
Syrian government (The Assad same!) Y si no hay remedio, litro y
Files, April 18th). The fact that Bill medio! (And if theres no hope, drink
Wiley and his colleagues should have a litre and a half !)
to create their own group, and then James Grieshop
raise funds for it, speaks to the ab- Davis, Calif.
sence of world powers willing to pros- 1
ecute corrupt regimes for mass kill- ADVICE FROM MALLARM
ings and other atrocities. This is
particularly disturbing seventy years I enjoyed Alex Rosss essay on the
after the Nuremberg and Tokyo tri- late-nineteenth-century French poet
als. However, Taub gives less credit Stphane Mallarm (Encrypted,
to the International Criminal Court, April 11th). In attempting to under-
an intergovernmental organization stand his complex constructions and
and tribunal in The Hague, than it ights of meaning, I always found it
is due. Since the creation of the instructive to follow the advice of
I.C.C., in 2002, prosecutors have Mallarm himself when he described
faced many of the hazards and ob- his approach to writing poetry: To
stacles that Wiley has confronted paint not the thing but the effect that
in amassing trial-worthy evidence it produces. Instead of focussing on
against Bashar al-Assad. In a rela- the words, I look for the effect they
tively short period of time, the I.C.C. create. He once expressed a desire to
has become a judicial body that write a poem that, if read on ve con-
might be able to hold Syria account- secutive days, would yield ve new
able for crimes against humanity, meanings. Ross describes four very
which include lethal nerve-gas at- different translations of the sonnet
tacks on civilians. The world is wait- Salut: Solitude, rcif, toile / nim-
ing for nations like the United porte ce qui valut / Le blanc souci de
States and Russia to take a moral notre toile. The range of interpreta-
stand against the atrocities perpe- tions that are revealed by the trans-
trated in Syria. lations illustrates Mallarms success
Jeanne Guillemin in making poetry that lends itself
M.I.T. Security Studies Program to noticeably diverse interpretations.
Center for International Studies Mallarm found a way to capture
Cambridge, Mass. an immense spectrum of emotions,
1 music, color, and angst, creating works
DRUNKEN TURKEY that invite the reader to repeatedly
experience each one as if for the rst
As an academic anthropologist who time.
has lived and worked in Oaxaca since Gary Bolick
1992, I was interested to read Dana Clemmons, N.C.
Goodyears article on the mezcal in-
dustry (Mezcal Sunrise, April 4th).
The importance of mezcal in Oa- Letters should be sent with the writers name,
xaca is not just economic but also address, and daytime phone number via e-mail to
cultural and linguistic. In some wedding themail@newyorker.com. Letters may be edited
for length and clarity, and may be published in
ceremonies, dancers carry on their any medium. We regret that owing to the volume
shoulders turkeys that are drunk on of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 7


JUNE 1 14, 2016

GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN

In 1966, the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama installed hundreds of mirrored spheres on the grounds of the
Venice Biennale, accompanied by a pair of signs: Your Narcissism for Sale and Narcissus Garden.
Recently, Kusama has been reconguring her piece sans signage, to emphasize its themes of innity and
reection. Its currently swarming the pavilion of Philip Johnsons Glass House, in New Canaan, Con-
necticut, where it remains on view Thursdays through Mondays until the end of November.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PARI DUKOVIC
Prism: Color Theory
The acclaimed saxophone quartet is having an

CLASSICAL MUSIC eventful month. In two evenings at Brooklyns


Roulette, the group collaborates successively

1 orators in this sizable undertaking is the Inter-


with New Yorks So Percussion and (in its East
Coast dbut) Partch, an ensemble from Los An-
geles that performs works written exclusively for
OPERA lochen Arts Academy Orchestra, a product of the the menagerie of instruments created by its ge-
renowned arts festival and school that takes place nius namesake, Harry Partch. The first concert
NY Phil Biennial: every summer in Michigan. Christopher Roun- offers recent works by Steven Mackey and Don-
The Importance of Being Earnest tree conducts his outstanding young charges in nacha Dennehy (The Pale), among others; the
Gerald Barrys madly exuberant adaptation of Young Americans, a concert featuring new and second offers the New York premires of pieces
Oscar Wildes greatest play comes to New York, recent works by Jennifer Higdon, Nico Muhly for Partch instruments by Ken Ueno (Future Li-
suitably enough, after conquering London. Trim- (So Far So Good, with Interlochen dancers), lacs) and Stratis Minakakis, along with Partchs
ming the text to a zippy one hour and fifty min- Hannah Lash, and Ashley Fure. (David Geffen Castor and Pollux. (509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn.
utes, Barry leaves the cucumber sandwiches, fab- Hall. June 5 at 3.) The Philharmonics virtuosos, roulette.org. June 7 and June 12 at 7:30.)
ulous face-offs, and best-known aphorisms intact. led by Gilbert, close the festival in high style with
Many of the London cast members return to re- two evenings of music by composers renowned for Crypt Sessions: Attacca Quartet
prise their roles, including the bass Alan Ewing as their mastery of the orchestral canvas. The first A new series held at an unexpected locationthe
everyones favorite Victorian tyrant, Lady Brack- is all-American: it offers the world premire of crypt of the Church of the Intercession, in Hamil-
nell. Ilan Volkov conducts the New York Philhar- William Bolcoms Trombone Concerto (featuring ton Heightswraps up its first season with a partic-
monic in Ramin Grays fleet-footed staging, which the orchestras admired principal, Joseph Alessi) ularly site-appropriate event. Haydn composed his
originated at the Royal Opera. (Rose Theatre, Jazz and the New York premire of John Coriglianos Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross
at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th St. nyphil.org. Conjurer: Concerto for Percussionist and String (in its original, orchestral version), a sequence of
June 2-4 at 7:30.) Orchestra and Brass (with the soloist Martin nine sacred pieces, for performance in a darkened
Grubinger, in his Philharmonic dbut). The New church in Spain. The Attacca, which has devoted
LoftOpera: Le Comte Ory York premire of the late Steven Stuckys Pulitzer itself to performing all of Haydns string quartets
The indie outfit takes on Rossinis sophisticated Prize-winning Second Concerto for Orchestra is over the last several years, completes its journey
sex farce (recently mounted at the Met) about a the central event of the final program, which be- by performing an intimate arrangement here, by
frisky count and his pals, who dress as nuns in gins with a complex classic by Boulez (who passed candlelight. (Broadway at 155th St. deathofclassical.
order to steal into a castle and seduce the women away last year) and the U.S. premire of the com. June 8 at 8; a reception precedes the concert, at 7.)
inside. The Muse, a circus school in Bushwick, Danish master Per Nrgrds Symphony No. 8,
once again serves as the roving companys venue, a work that was recently recorded by the Vienna Chelsea Music Festival: Gravity 350
but this time the circus is getting in on the act: Philharmonic. (David Geffen Hall. June 10 and Hear, Taste, See is the motto of this enterprising
John de los Santoss staging inserts acrobatic ele- June 11 at 7.) (For tickets and a full schedule of Bien- festival, now in its seventh season, which brings au-
ments, such as silk aerialists, at key points in the nial concerts, see nyphil.org.) diences new sensations in the musical, culinary, and
plot. The production also utilizes a twenty-nine- visual arts. This year, the festival honors Isaac New-
piece orchestra, conducted by Sean Kelly. (350 Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra ton, whose famous encounter with a falling apple
Moffat St., Brooklyn. loftopera.com. June 2, June 4, This superb young ensemble is led by Benjamin took place in 1666. The opening gala (which fea-
June 7, June 9, and June 11 at 8.) Zander, a conductor as esteemed for his evange- tures a post-concert meal created by the chef Tim-
1 listic spoken advocacy for classical music as for
the fine calibre of his performances. He conducts
othy McGrath), directed by Ken-David Masur, in-
cludes works by Saint-Sans, Rebel (Le Chaos),
ORCHESTRAS AND CHORUSES two back-to-back concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Elgar (the Piano Quintet), and the festivals guest
first featuring music by Glinka, Stravinsky (the composer, Michael Gandolfi (a suite from The
New York Philharmonic rarely heard Violin Concerto, with Ayano Ni- Garden of Cosmic Speculation). (Canoe Studios,
With much of the orchestra involved in the NY nomiya), Debussy, and Tchaikovsky (the Fifth 601 W. 26th St. June 10 at 7:30. For tickets and a com-
Phil Biennial presentation of Gerald Barrys The Symphony), the second offering more orchestral plete schedule, see chelseamusicfestival.org.)
Importance of Being Earnest, a significant por- favorites by Debussy, Stravinsky (The Rite of
tion of its string players hang back, for a few days, Spring), and Mahler (the Symphony No. 1 in Michael Herschs A Breath Upwards
to serve up some old chestnuts at David Geffen D Major). (212-247-7800. June 6-7 at 8.) Hersch, a mid-career American composer ad-
Hall. First among the players is the orchestras mired for his uncompromising tragic vision, is
impressive new concertmaster, the violinist Frank American Classical Orchestra: Festkonzert the star of this concert at St. Peters Church. The
Huang, who will make his Philharmonic solo dbut Thomas Crawford and his excellent period- soprano Ah Young Hong, a trusted advocate for
performing (and leading) not only Vivaldis Four performance orchestra indulge the worlds unend- the composer, sings the New York premire of
Seasons but also Piazzollas Four Seasons of Bue- ing appetite for the music of Mozart in a season- his new song cycle in a concert that also features
nos Aires, a zesty modern-day tribute to Vivaldis closing concert that includes performances of the vocal masterworks by Gyrgy Kurtg (selections
timeless originals. A touch of Grieg (The Last Viennese prodigys Gran Partita, for wind band, from Kafka Fragments, with the violinist Mi-
Spring) completes the program. (212-875-5656. and the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. (Alice Tully randa Cuckson) and Babbitt (Philomel, one of
June 2 at 7:30 and June 3-4 at 8.) Hall. 212-721-6500. June 9 at 8.) his most alluring pieces). (Lexington Ave. at 54th

NY Phil Biennial 1 St. lex54concerts.com. June 10 at 8.)

The second edition of this new-music festival, RECITALS Locrian Chamber Players
co-curated by the Philharmonics music direc- Over twenty-two seasons, this sturdy combine
tor, Alan Gilbert, and its composer-in-residence, NY Phil Biennial: Brooklyn Rider currently featuring such esteemed musicians as
Esa-Pekka Salonen, is chock full of concerts fea- The decade-old string quartet, a spearhead of its the mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek
turing leading composers from Europe and, es- boroughs teeming new-music scene, pays trib- and the violist Daniel Pannerhas been perform-
pecially, America. Among the rich sampling of ute to the still-vital spirit of a previous genera- ing notable works that are less than a decade old.
orchestral concerts is an evening with the cham- tions vanguard neighborhoodlower Manhat- Included in this concert are pieces by the distin-
ber-size Orchestra of the League of Composers tanin a concert at one of the Biennials partner guished composers Joji Yuasa and Alvin Single-
(conducted by Louis Karchin and Charles Wuo- venues, National Sawdust. On the program are ton (In My Own Skin, with the pianist Blair
rinen) offering works, mostly on the modernist new and recent works by Colin Jacobsen (one McMillen) along with music by Caroline Mal-
side, by Huck Hodge, Felipe Lara, Paul Mora- of the groups violinists) and Tyondai Braxton lonee (the New York premire of Butterfly Ef-
vec (Sempre Diritto!, a Venetian folly), and as well as by a comparative veteran, the great fect, for strings and harp) and Paolo Marchet-
Wuorinen (Flying to Kahani, with the pianist John Zorn (The Alchemist, a Brooklyn Rider tini. The venue, the tenth-floor performance
Anne-Marie McDermott). (Miller Theatre, Co- commission). (80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn. June 3 at space of Riverside Church, has a sweeping view
lumbia University, Broadway at 116th St. June 1 at 7. For tickets and a complete listing of Biennial con- of the Hudson River. (91 Claremont Ave. June 11
7:30.) One of the Philharmonics many collab- certs, see nyphil.org.) at 8. No tickets required.)

12 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


DANCE

Air Lift As the ballet opens, a mysterious as- golden bird picks its way daintily
trologer arrives, in a spangled cloak. among the bodies as the curtain falls.
American Ballet Theatre puts on The
The astrologer has captured a cockerel In 1937, The Golden Cockerel was
Golden Cockerel.
with fabulous golden plumage, and revived, with Michel Fokines original
Serge Diaghilev, always on the prowl he plans to use it to win the lady of choreography, by Colonel de Basils
for new styles, new sensations, to his heart, the Queen of Shemakhan, Ballets Russes. Irina Baronova, in lus-
showcase in his Ballets Russes pro- a beautiful Eastern potentate. The trous black braids, was a huge hit as
ductions, invited Natalia Goncharova, astrologer tells the king that the cock- the voluptuous queen. Soon, the ballet
from Moscow, to design the troupes erel has the power to alert him if his again fell out of repertory (it is very
1914 ballet The Golden Cockerel, kingdom is in danger. The price of expensive to mount), but in 2012 it was
set to the 1909 Rimsky-Korsakov this service is high, though. If the brought back by the Royal Danish
opera. Goncharova and her mate bird warns him accurately, the king Ballet, with new choreography by
Mikhail Larionov were leaders of must give the astrologer whatever he Alexei Ratmansky. I asked Ratmansky
Russias so-called neo- nationalist asks for. why he wanted to do this piece. Gon-
school, which eschewed the romantic The king no sooner agrees than the charovas designs, he said: Theyre
realism of the nineteenth century in empire is attacked. The bird gives the crazy! So strong a statement! Red and
favor of primitive sourcesmostly, alert. Everyone races out to the bat- yellow and green and blue, not like
in their case, icon painting and folk tleeld. The kings two big stupid sons today, with our black and gray. Very
art. Goncharovas people tended to get there rst, and kill each other. brave. Those Ballets Russes artists,
ILLUSTRATION BY HENNING WAGENBRETH

have snouts and big, stubby feet. They Never mind that, though. The king they had no borders. They did what
carried cakes and made ugly faces at has encountered the Queen of Shema- they wanted to do. Ratmansky will
one another. Surrounding them were khan, and he means to make her his reset The Golden Cockerel on
fat towers and red suns and owers own. To the accompaniment of a American Ballet Theatre, at the Met-
with faces like beach balls. glorious march, he escorts her back to ropolitan Opera House, June 6-11. The
This was perfect for the Rimsky- the city. But the astrologer is waiting sets and costumes, by Ratmanskys
Korsakov opera, which, written just for him there, and he demands the longtime collaborator Richard Hud-
after Russias humiliating defeat in its queen as his reward. The king clobbers son, are based on Goncharovas origi-
war with Japan in 1904-05, depicted him with his sceptre. Then the cock- nal designs.
a kingdom led by doddering idiots. erel pecks the king to death. The Joan Acocella

14 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


DANCE

American Ballet Theatre an all-male cast. (Sperber: New York Live Arts, 219
In a season light on balletic warhorses, the first W. 19th St. June 3-4. Anspaugh: Abrons Arts Center,
week of June is an exception. The pirate-themed
Le Corsaire has everything an old-fashioned
466 Grand St. June 8-11. joyce.org.)
ART
balletomane could wish for: spins by the truck-
load, gravity-busting jumps, even a shipwreck.
So who cares if it doesnt have great music or
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
Whats new this summer doesnt look very promis-
ing. Kyle Abraham unveils his Untitled America:
1
much of a story? The following week offers some- Second Movement, the latest installment in a se- MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES
thing altogether more intriguing: the company ries about the impact of incarceration on African-
premire of Alexei Ratmanskys 2012 staging of American families. The sections, some no more Jewish Museum
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakovs The Golden Cock- than a few minutes long, are premired separately: Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist
erel. The ballet is based on a short story by Al- a marketing strategy befitting a more substantial As Brazil endures a dreadful conjunction of po-
exander Pushkin about a lazy tsar and the mag- work. Deep is a new effort by Mauro Bigonzetti, litical, economic, and medical crises, the buoy-
ical bird who protects his kingdom. The stage the recently appointed director of La Scala Ballet, antly optimistic designs of the countrys great
designs and pantomime-heavy choreography are whose last piece for the Ailey company (Festa Ba- landscape architect can seem like an elegy for
inspired by Russian folk art. The music is infused rocca) was big, colorful, and dumb. The merits a place that Stefan Zweig once wrote was con-
with vibrant orchestral colors, Rimsky-Korsa- of the season are familiar: choreography by Ailey, demned to remain the country of the future.
kovs signature. In one of the four casts, the tsar Ronald K. Brown, and Rennie Harris, and dancing Burle Marx, who died in 1994, was trained as a
is played by Gary Chryst, a great American char- that never fails to impress. (David H. Koch, Lin- painter, and this broad exhibition, capped by a
acter dancer. June 1 at 2 and 7:30, June 2-3 at coln Center. 212-496-0600. June 8-12 and June 14. ninety-foot-long tapestry, highlights his om-
7:30, and June 4 at 2 and 8: Le Corsaire. June Through June 19.) nivorous, cross-media approach: an abstract
6-7 and June 9-10 at 7:30, June 8 at 2 and 7:30, gouache from 1938, with fluid curves of solid
and June 11 at 2 and 8: The Golden Cockerel. Red Hook Fest yellow and maroon, supplied the form for a
June 13-14 at 7:30: Swan Lake. (Metropoli- This welcoming yearly event has the feel of a flowing rooftop garden in Rio de Janeiro, then
tan Opera House, Lincoln Center. 212-362-6000. block party held on the Brooklyn waterfront, with still the capital. (The show underplays Burle
Through July 2.) a spectacular view of New York Harbor and Gov- Marxs substantial contributions to the cur-
ernors Island. Among the many events is a full rent capital, Braslia, though there is a bril-
Ballet BC lineup of performances running without inter- liant planning drawing for the new ministry
Under the direction of Emily Molnar since 2009, ruption on June 11 between noon and 7. The per- of the army, all jazzy greenery and syncopated
this Canadian troupe has developed a reputation formers include a slew of dance groups, most no- lakes.) In line with the Brazilian artistic the-
for commissioning cutting-edge work. Yet the pro- tably Max Pollaks signature fusion of Afro-Cuban ory of antropofagia, or cannibalism, Burle
gram for this visit to the Joyce, the troupes first jazz and tap and Reggie (Regg Roc) Grays spec- Marx fused European modernism with in-
since 1998, has a same-old feel, whether in the Wil- tacular practitioners of flex, a form of hip-hop digenous culturesee his Portuguese azu-
liam Forsythe-style twitching of Molnars 16 + a dance native to East New York. (Louis J. Valen- jelo tiles painted with free-form native fish.
Room or the Gaga grotesquerie of Sharon Eyals tino, Jr. Park, at the corner of Coffey and Ferris Sts., He also worked outside of Brazil, and those
Bill. More original is Solo Echo, a chilly essay Brooklyn. June 9-11.) who know only his glorious promenade along
on loss by the most imaginative Forsythe descen- Copacabana Beach, with its black-and-white
dant (and a Ballet BC alumna), Crystal Pite. (175 Brian Brooks Moving Company tiled waves, should not neglect his similarly
Eighth Ave., at 19th St. 212-242-0800. June 1-5.) Recent collaborations with Wendy Whelan have swank landscaping of Miamis Biscayne Bay.
given Brookss choreographic career a boost. The show takes a wrong turn when it includes
Yvonne Rainer Some of a Thousand Words, another project lightweight tributes by contemporary artists,
Concept of Dust, a piece presented at MOMA last with the star ballerina, dbuts later this summer, such as Nick Mausss faence plaques and Juan
year, returns in a new version with a subtitle (Con- but first comes Wilderness, for his own troupe. Araujos appropriations. Burle Marxs great-
tinuous ProjectAltered Annually) alluding to Set inside a white room, with the musicians of est contemporary relevance is that he put his
Rainers experiments in the nineteen-sixties, when Sandbox Percussion banging out a Jerome Begin imagination to the public goodan exam-
she was the ringleader of postmodern dance. Her score, the new workpart of the American Dance ple that should shame the corrupt politicians
current projects, if thematically inclined toward Institutes series at the Kitchenexplores familiar who have now brought Brazil to its knees.
the fact of aging, fixate on one idea from her hey- Brooks territory: chaos and order and other op- Through Sept. 18.
day: the juxtaposition of movement with the recita- posites rendered in minimalist repetitions. (512
tion of seemingly unrelated and eclectic texts, colli- W. 19th St. 212-255-5793. June 9-11.) New Museum
sions that her crew of seasoned performers can make Nicole Eisenman: Al-ugh-ories
lightly witty. The show kicks off a five-week series BalletTech / Kids Dance Since she burst onto the scene in the 1995
of performances by five different choreographers, Back in the seventies, the choreographer Eliot Whitney Biennial, Eisenman has led a kind of
presented at the Kitchen by the American Dance Feld created this tuition-free ballet school, now one-woman insurgency with figurative works
Institute. (512 W. 19th St. 212-255-5793. June 2-4.) part of the New York public-school system. Every that collapse the political into the personal and
year, the kids put on a show at the Joyce. Its usu- the personal into an erudite devotion to paint-
Raja Feather Kelly/The Feath3r Theory ally terrific. Feld has a knack for making dances ing. Her narrative fantasies may look bump-
With Andy Warhols Tropico, Kelly mashes up for kidssophisticated, often funny, and full of tiously jokey at first, but they reveal worlds
two of his obsessions and role models: Warhol, the ingenious detail. This year, he is adding something of nuanced thought and feeling. They must
pop-art philosopher, and the musician Lana Del new to the program: works by outside choreog- be judged in person; in reproduction they
Rey, whose short film Tropico is populated with raphers. The two guests are Brian Brooks, who, lose the masterly touch that is her signature.
Warholian pop-culture icons. In candy-colored wigs like Feld, is good with patterns and interweaving Eisenman is an artist of overlapping sincer-
and face paint, Kelly and a cast of a dozen incar- motifs, and Julia Eichten, a member of Benjamin ities. One of them suggests that of a bohe-
nate archetypes from television and the movies. Millepieds LA Dance Project. (175 Eighth Ave., at mian community organizer. In Biergarten
(Danspace Project, St. Marks Church In-the-Bowery, 19th St. 212-242-0800. June 9-12.) at Night (2007), dozens of characterssome
Second Ave. at 10th St. 866-811-4111. June 2-4.) realist, including a self-portrait; others fan-
Satellite Collective ciful, such as an androgynous figure passion-
Anna Sperber / Vanessa Anspaugh This artists collective presents works created with ately kissing a deaths-headhoist brews in
The Joyce Theatres Joyce Unleashed series spon- a spirit of collaboration by a continually evolving velvety shadow and glimmering light. Another
sors two talented and youngish choreographers in roster of young choreographers, composers, and theme that has come naturally to Eisenman
separate spaces. Anna Sperber, the more established visual artists. The current edition includes a new since the beginning of her career, and which
of the pair, is known for packaging agitated energy work by Devin Alberda, a member of New York she has furthered almost to the extent of a
in meticulous constructions. Her Prize shows how City Ballet, created in collaboration with a young civic duty, is sexuality: It Is So (2014) depicts
the individuating aspects of solos can ripple through composer, Richie Greene; and another by Marcus lesbian cunnilingus. Guessing Eisenmans
a group. The work of Vanessa Anspaugh is stranger Willis, a member of Alvin Ailey, set to a score by historical precedents is something of a sport
and more elusive. In The End of Men; An Ode to Aaron Severini, a former dancer. (92nd Street Y, among her critics; she helpfully provides ref-
Ocean, she attempts to make a feminist dance with Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. 212-415-5500. June 10-12.) erences with the spines of books stacked in It

16 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


ART

Is So and another painting of sexual intimacy, theme of architecture recurs in Mika Tajimas controlled application of air and water. Panels
Night Studio (2009): Bruegel, Goya, Vuil- translucent resin blocks, which hang on wall- of graphite have been eroded by dripping liq-
lard, Munch, Nolde, Kirchner, and Ernst; also, paper depicting a spread-eagled athlete, and in uid; fibreglass panels are covered with seem-
Nicola Tyson and Peter Doig. Like her sexual Judith Barrys video installation They Agape ingly infinite nodules of paint, aided by cur-
self-assertion, Eisenmans stylistic genres are (1978), in which two female architects bicker rents of wind. (The varying densities suggest
means to the end of sustaining her confidence about their male colleaguesand each other. A a topographic map of a planet far more ele-
as an artist. They are about being specific. She Plexiglas triptych installed in the lobby by Ger- gant than earth.) Two sculptures on the floor
is a pragmatist in service to creativity that re- wald Rockenshaub shares the colors of the Aus- continue to connect the natural to the man-
members the past, glories in the present, and trian flag. One panel is slightly askew, as if to made. In Shell as Body, a terra-cotta cara-
eagerly addresses the future. Through June 26. suggest that national identity is precarious at a pace surrounds a mysterious cavity, while the
1 moment when Europes borderless dream seems
imperilled. Through Sept. 5. (Austrian Cultural
more unnerving Body as Shell is a crumpled
sandstone cast of the artists body. Through
GALLERIESUPTOWN Forum, 11 E. 52nd St. 212-319-5300.) June 5. (Talwar, 108 E. 16th St. 212-673-3096.)

Gerhard Richter 1 1
At eighty-four, the great German painter is GALLERIESCHELSEA GALLERIESDOWNTOWN
back in the studio, and showing some of his
freest and finest abstracts in years. Bolts of Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili Lukas Duwenhgger
fluorescent green and Big Bird yellow course Her work got lost in the clamor of the New Artists Space, the indispensable nonprofit
through stuttering, oleaginous fields of reds and Museums recent Triennial, but the Berlin- that helped launch the downtown art scene
blues; marbled compositions on glass, which based artists solo dbut should correct that. in the seventies and remains the molten core
fall somewhere between paintings and mono- Two ravishing big abstract photographs set the of whats cool, is losing its home at the end
prints, emulsify what his paintings on canvas tone: one yellow, one magenta (colors echoed of this show, displaced by luxury real estate.
congeal. In their Cagean commitment to form on the sheer panels that curtain the entrance (It will continue to operate in its annex, at
beyond meaning, Richters new works are as door), they hint at crumpled, torn fabric but 55 Walker St., until it finds a new headquar-
cerebral as ever. They are also among his most dissolve into pure atmosphere. Three small ters.) It departs SoHo on a high note, intro-
audacious. Through June 25. (Marian Goodman, figure studiesan arm, a shoulder, a woman ducing New York to the bewitchingly stylized
24 W. 57th St. 212-977-7160.) sprawled on the floor in a fishnet body stock- paintings and collages of this sixty-year-old
ingare titled after Robert Mapplethorpe, German artist, now based in Istanbul. In his
Dis-play / Re-play Francesca Woodman, and Lee Friedlander, but tender regard for queer codes of conduct and
The octogenarian Conceptualist Brian theyre no more derivative than Alexi-Meskhi- sublime artifice, Duwenhgger is a bright star
ODoherty is the star of this strong group show, shvilis eccentric still-lifes. Through June 18. in the same constellation that includes Chris-
transforming the narrow buildings basement (Rosen, 544 W. 24th St. 212-627-6100.) tian Schad, Jared French, and Luchino Vis-
into a trippy theatre of hot-colored walls and conti. Through June 5. (Artists Space, 38 Greene
gallery-spanning ropes. (The exhibition was Alwar Balasubramaniam St. 212-226-3970.)
curated by Prem Krishnamurthy, who runs the The Indian artist invests abstraction with the
reliably provocative downtown gallery P!) The weight of the natural world through the slow, Josh Kline
In its persuasive admixture of real and surreal,
dark humor, and dark formal inventiveness,
Klines new show, Unemployment, is the
sculptural equivalent of a George Saunders
short storywhich is to say, one of the best
things youll encounter this year. The subject
is the built-in obsolescence of the American
middle class. The time is the near future (a
Presidential election looms in 2031). Shop-
ping carts are piled high with recyclables, a
routine-enough sight in New York until you
register the fact that the bottles are hands;
heaps of cast-off office paraphernalia appear
in the tones of beige and brown we call flesh.
The most disturbing disposables are human
beings, a quartet of startlingly lifelike fig-
ures, dressed in business attire and curled in-
side clear plastic bags like so much garbage
kicked to the curb. (Theyre 3-D-printed por-
traits of unemployed peoplean accountant,
a small-business ownerwhom Kline hired
to participate in his piece.) Morbid, yes, but
what might have devolved into sensation-
alism instead becomes an engine for empa-
thy. Through June 12. (47 Canal, 291 Grand St.
646-415-7712.)

Mark Lyon
COURTESY FREDERICKS & FREISER, NY

Lyon photographs landscapes in upstate New


York while standing inside the bays of self-
service car washes, boxlike spaces that supply
the images with ready-made frames (graced by
the occasional hose). The viewsgas-station
pumps, strip malls, a swatch of unnaturally
green lawnare transformed by Lyons keen
eye. He works in daylight and darkness alike,
regardless of weather, as fog, rain, and fall-
ing snow turn the everyday oddly magical.
In her new works at the Fredericks & Freiser gallery (including the untitled picture above), Jocelyn Through June 12. (Houston, 34 E. 1st St. 646-
Hobbie strikes an exquisite balance between riotous ornamentation and placid internal states. 247-1657.)

18 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


1
ROCK AND POP

NIGHT LIFE Musicians and night-club proprietors lead


complicated lives; its advisable to check
in advance to confirm engagements.

Cymande
Unlike other cherished bands with a small out-
put and a dense, you-had-to-be-there history,
this legendary British funk group is still tour-
ing and recording, refusing to let its story fossil-
ize. Its a fearlessness thats easy to trace back to
the groups origins. Nine self-taught Caribbean-
born Londoners developed a singular, compli-
cated take on funk, calypso, rock, jazz, and sev-
eral other sounds gestating in their citys streets
and clubsthey called it nyah-rock. Innovative
but directionless, the band stopped performing in
1975, until residual checks from deep-house and
rap records sampling their old limited presses
began trickling in two decades later. Theyve had
a sinuous career since then, peppered with tours
and near-hits, and in 2015 they released an all-
new album, A Simple Act of Faith, to the fe-
vered praise of funk archivists. The biggest pay-
Stephen Bruner, known as Thundercat, performs cosmic soul in Williamsburg after Governors Ball. off may come after the gig, when digging through
their back catalogue. (Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe
Ave., Brooklyn. 718-963-3369. June 14.)
Rock Bottom multi-genre chops and studio wizardry
Lucy Dacus
is a potent secret weapon: the guys got
A bass hero unearths a gleaming tone. It takes a kind of bravery to be humorless. This
a great voice. Richmond, Virginia, singer-songwriter shows as
The bass may be owed more credit On Friday, June 3, Bruner performs much on I Dont Wanna Be Funny Anymore, a
than it gets. Onstage and on record, its a late-night set of material from his trio drowsy indie number in which she cycles through
all the yearbook superlatives shed rather claim.
in complete service to the surrounding of solo releases, The Golden Age of Ill read the books, and Ill be the smartest /
instruments: a hybrid of rhythm and Apocalypse, Apocalypse, and The Ill play guitar, and Ill be the artist, she de-
melody, a drum with strings and frets. Beyond / Where the Giants Roam, at clares. Try not to laugh. Her writing is stron-
gest in first-person moments like these: Dacus
It engulfs from underneath in its low- Williamsburgs Brooklyn Bowl. He has a round, unhurried tone that voices indeci-
est rumbles, and snaps with personal- began singing on these albums, nursing siveness well. Things unfurl a bit when she ad-
ity and wit at its highest tremors. Its a bashful falsetto thats hazier than dresses someone else: I get smoke in my eyes
every time I try to look you in the eye, she sings
an instrument for casual alphas, quietly Eddie Holmans and grainier than on Strange Torpedo, a middling image that
condent in their mastery and content Andr 3000s; its among the most ar- may intentionally obfuscate the sentiment. Still,
to play second to last when the solos resting modern pop has to offer. On one cant help but recall Courtney Barnetts sea-
son-stealing appearance on Saturday Night
roll around. Snobs will tell you its ev- Tron Song, an ode to his pet cat, Live while taking in Dacuss hyper-observant
erything. Thundercat calls it his crutch. Bruner dances around his upper register, quirk and damp melodies. This Rough Trade gig
Like his instrument, the bassist skipping down scales through the open- may be one to catchwho knows which stages
she might charmingly depress next? (64 N. 9th
Thundercat, born Stephen Bruner, in ing line, Dont you know you rock my St., Brooklyn. 718-388-4111. June 2.)
Los Angeles in 1984, is most commonly world, before sweeping back up to the
discussed in terms of supporting roles: summit. On his excellent 2015 single, DM-FunK
This Pasadena producer and vocalist, born Damon
his years playing with the hardcore Them Changes, the falsetto clashes Garrett Riddick, has been active since the mid-nine-
band Suicidal Tendencies, his musical wrenchingly with the gray scene it nar- ties, during the West Coasts formative G-funk era.
kinship with the prog-rap producer rates: Now Im sitting here with a black Already a trained drummer, he quickly took to an
apprenticeship with the legendary funk songwriter
Flying Lotus, his Grammy-winning hole in my chest, he sings, almost glee- Leon Silvers III, and was soon collaborating with
contribution to Kendrick Lamars jazz- fully. A heartless, broken mess. L.A. staples like Mack 10 and MC Eiht. His full-
rap opus To Pimp a Buttery. Com- If Bruners lifelong craft as a bassist length releases with Stones Throw and his produc-
tion work for Snoop Dogg, Ariel Pink, Disclosure,
ing from a family of drummershis buries him in the low end, his voice and others have all established the enigmatic art-
father played with the Temptations and beams goldenrod from a crack in the ist as a central figure in his citys dense beat scene.
ILLUSTRATION BY BENDIK KALTENBORN

Diana Ross, and his older brother with ceiling. The bass begs for this kind of Last month, Riddick announced a new monthly
Web radio show, Glydezone, described as a myth-
Roy Hargrove and Stanley Clarkehe counterweight: hear Palladino and ical space for modern funk, boogie, cosmic, soul,
trained from a young age and toured DAngelo, or even Jamerson and and beyond. Hell bring these disparate sounds to
the globe before nishing high school. Smokey Robinson. Bruner will be all a live set in this landmark museums Rose Center
for Earth and Space, as part of its One Step Be-
Like Motowns James Jamerson and in one at this after-party for Governors yond series. (American Museum of Natural History,
neo-souls Pino Palladino, Bruner Ball, save for surprise guests hes invited Central Park W. at 79th St. 212-769-5100. June 10.)
shined as a vehicle for others, providing to join him; after all these years of sup-
D6WN
sturdy ground for a front mans giant port, hes earned a few favors. Stardom can be as gaseous as its namesake:
steps. But lost in the cult praise for Matthew Trammell toxic, combustible, lighter than air. The thirty-

20 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


NIGHT LIFE
1
two-year-old New Orleans singer Dawn Rich- rangements. Yet the bands lyrics, penned by the JAZZ AND STANDARDS
ards brushes with competition TV shows and co-vocalists Britty Drake and Sean St. Charles,
multiplatinum groups emboldened her to bur- still force listeners to confront themselves, and Herb Alpert and Lani Hall
row back underground and ignite with new ele- might break hearts in the process. This is espe- Alperts reputation as a full-throttle trum-
ments. A decade ago, Richard was a core member cially in evidence in the gossamer Plum, which peter stems from his days leading the hit-mak-
of the MTV girl group Danity Kanethe R. & B. Drake has said she wrote in an attempt to convey ing Tijuana Brass. A few decades on, his horn
outfit was named after a female superhero shed the sinking feeling of seeing the plums my dad has cooled down, making it the perfect foil for
sketched during a studio session. She led a few bought for my mom still sitting on the kitchen his wife, the singer Hall. (Caf Carlyle, Car-
of the best moments on Last Train to Paris, the counter after we returned home from her funeral. lyle Hotel, Madison Ave. at 76th St. 212-744-1600.
mega-producer Sean Combss honorable stab at Pity Sex is joined by the queer punk maestros May 31-June 11.)
a dance album, as a third of Diddy-Dirty Money. PWR BTTM and the autumnal group Petal for what
Since then, critics and fans have followed her promises to be an emotive performance. (Bowery Dee Dee Bridgewater
into more experimental directions on a pair of Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. 212-260-4700. June 10.) Its a big bag of instant party when this ever-
self-released albums, Goldenheart and Black- energized veteran singer (and Tony Award win-
heart, which surround her pop-groomed har- Tame Impala ner as a featured member of the original cast of
monies with industrial soul. She splits the bill Todays self-starting bands may feel pressure to The Wiz) hits the stage, but her infectious en-
with Kingdom, a pro at giving shimmering diva scale back their teen-age dreams of stadium-level thusiasm serves only to embellish an undimin-
voices a layer of club-wall grime. (Market Hotel, fame, in light of steadfast seniority. With a hob- ished artistry. Bridgewater pays sufficient hom-
1140 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn. June 10.) bling Axl Rose fronting a global AC/DC tour and age to key influences like Billie Holiday, but her
Radiohead rounding out thirty years this July, vocal identity is hers alone. (Jazz Standard, 116
Living Colour in Madison Square Garden, its easy to imagine E. 27th St. 212-576-2232. June 7-12.)
This New York City band formed more than thirty that a guy like Tame Impalas Kevin Parker man-
years ago, releasing their dbut album, Vivid, in ages his expectations. But the thirty-year-old Erik Friedlander
1988. A decade after punk ruled the CBGB stage, Australians heady psych-rock project has consis- The cello has always been an underdog instru-
these power rockers, infusing elements of funk and tently progressed since it schlepped through au- ment in jazz, but Friedlander continues to fight
hip-hop, packed the club regularly, then had their ditoriums with MGMT in 2010. Parkers take on the good fight for continued recognition. This
moment in the mainstream sun when the video for nineteen-sixties psychedelia took great shape on mainstay in new-jazz circles is joined in various
Cult of Personality achieved high-profile rota- Innerspeaker: kaleidoscopic guitars and Len- ensembles by such fellow musical travellers as
tion on MTV. After a couple of personnel changes non-esque deliveries sharpened by thick drum Uri Caine, Sylvie Courvoisier, and Satoshi Takei-
and a dip in popularity, the members split to pur- patterns and digital effects. Last years Cur- shi. (The Stone, Avenue C at 2nd St. thestonenyc.
sue solo projects, but reunited in late 2000. Theyve rents charted worldwide. Let It Happen is com. June 6-12.)
toured Europe but havent played much here, so one kick drum away from straight-ahead disco,
the appearance of these excellent musiciansthe and the crunch funk of New Person Same Old Azar Lawrence Quartet
guitarist Vernon Reid, the vocalist Corey Glover, Mistakes eventually caught the attention of Ri- Time hasnt quite stood still for Lawrence, but
the drummer Will Calhoun, and the bassist Doug hanna, prompting a delicious cover. Tame Im- the extended, fervently voiced John Coltrane-
Wimbishon successive Wednesdays and in an pala plays at the Prospect Park Bandshell for two infused solos that garnered the saxophonist at-
acoustic setting, should be relished. (City Win- nights, which beats a stadium show, anyway: you tention in the seventies still echo today. Though
ery, 155 Varick St. 212-608-0555. June 1 and June 8.) cant lay out a blanket at Barclays. (Prospect Park any number of contemporary saxophone stylists
W. at 9th St., Brooklyn. 718-683-5600. June 14-15.) traffic in the masters idiom, Lawrence is closer
Mr. Vegas to the source than most, having honed his prodi-
This dancehall veteran recently made headlines Tiger Army gious chops in the bands of the key Trane asso-
with his comments about Drakes new album, Loyal fans of this Berkeley psychobilly punk band ciates McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones. His quar-
Views, and its liberal use of the Jamaican sound waited ten years for a new album; the crew has tet at the Jazz Standard this week includes the
on tracks like Controlla and One Dance. Vegas earned such devotion. Their fusion of rock sounds drummer Marvin (Smitty) Smith. (116 E. 27th St.
questioned the rappers loyalty to Jamaican col- seems par for the course now with the recent release 212-576-2232. June 2-5.)
laborators like Popcaan, sounding fairly satisfied as of V , but it truly stamped their inception, in
he called Drake the fake. He almost surely over- the mid-nineties, as a period of broad experimen- Maria Schneider Orchestra
steppedPopcaan quickly dismissed the criticism tation and bricklaying. The band has gone through The Thompson Fields, Schneiders vivid and
but Vegas is a credited voice in the scene nonethe- several members since its start, but the front man poetic 2015 release, continued a stirring and de-
less. Few summers pass without his 1998 hit, Heads and guitarist, Nick 13, acts as a common root, even serving winning streak for this celebrated com-
High, belting from car stereos and back-yard cook- when taking sounds further. I think each album poser, arranger, and bandleader. Balancing heft
outs, and his bright, wiry voice energized popular has been somewhat of an evolution, but I think and enticing tonal textures with melodic verve,
dance anthems like Hot Wuk and Tek Weh Yuh- this is a pretty significant leap forward for us, her ingenious scoresas interpreted by her loyal
self, from his 2007 comeback album, Hot It Up. he explained in a recent Noisey interview. Its an ensemblehave set the bar high for contempo-
Vegas must know that Drakes embrace of dance- evolution in the sound. Theyll flip distinctions rary big bands. (Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. 212-581-
hall will keep it alive in clubs nationwide this sum- (and fans) on their heads once again at Highline 3080. June 7-11.)
mer: he hosts at S.O.B.s Caribbean Saturdays party Ballroom. (431 W. 16th St. 212-414-5994. June 10.)
(June 4), before a headlining gig on the less tropi- John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Mark Guiliana
cal Jamaica Avenue. (Maracas Nightclub and Lounge, Warm Up 2016 The guitarist Scofield is no ones idea of a jazz pur-
121-08 Jamaica Ave., Richmond Hill, Queens. 718- This summer concert series, held at MOMA PS1, istthankfully. Here he mixes it up with the piano
848-7171. June 11.) has flushed the 7 train with eager-eared revellers titan Mehldau and the widely admired drummer
for nineteen years. Curated by a museum-selected Guiliana, who was recently heard on David Bow-
Pity Sex committee of A. & R. reps, managers, and d.j.s, the ies Blackstar. The omnivorously eclectic trou-
The guitar-wielding pioneers of the so-called programming skates the lines between genres and ble these three get into will be worth the price of
shoegazing genre, helmed by the likes of My scenes, inviting emerging talent and elusive icons admission. (Blue Note, 131 W. 3rd St. 212-475-8592.
Bloody Valentine in the U.K. in the late nine- alike to hold courtthe only gamble is getting there May 31-June 5.)
teen-eighties, are often remembered for the way before the yards at capacity. This years opener is a
they constructed walls of sound that were both highlight in a sprawling upcoming season. The ex- Vision Festival
deafening and dazzling. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, perimental drummer and producer Deantoni Parks The twenty-first edition of the intrepid free-jazz fes-
rock quartet Pity Sex has retained the distinction performs live, along with the nimble songwriter and tival is dedicated to the pioneering bassist Henry
throughout the twenty-tens with gauzy, pop-laced rapper London OConnor, both lofty technicians Grimes, who unexpectedly disappeared from the
melodies (not to mention bearing a name thats with mini-keyboards. The d.j.s Bearcat, Fatima scene in the early seventies only to remerge, equally
as loathsome as it is lustful). On the groups re- Yamaha, and Flava D keep things charged before unexpectedly, in the early aughts. Also appearing
cently released album, the swooning White Hot a closing set from the legendary producer DJ Pre- will be such familiar faces as Hamid Drake, Kidd Jor-
Moon, they retreat from the searing cacophonies mier, whose turntable acumen, platinum beat cred- dan, Wadada Leo Smith, Michele Rosewoman, and
that defined their previous effort, Feast of Love its, and sample library are nearly boundless. (22-25 Matthew Shipp. (Judson Memorial Church, 55 Wash-
(2013), this time focussing on slow-burning ar- Jackson Ave., Long Island City. 718-784-2084. June 11.) ington Square S. 212-477-0351. June 7-12.)

22 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


THE THEATRE
to that of Josephine Baker, who, more
than a half century before, had strug-
gled to become an actress, too. One of
the themes that Jumbo explored was
how racism informed both her central
female protagonists respective points
of view without curtailing either of
their dreams. Born in South London
to a white English mother and a black
Nigerian father, Jumbo started out as
a dancer, as did Baker, as well as
Tynans beloved Louise Brooks, and it
was the way Jumbo moved that was so
captivating at rstshe was aware of
the space, and how she could inform
it with her lovely long legs and gentle
gestures. Added to that was her
voiceclear and nuancedand a cer-
tain stellar quality that will no doubt
help illuminate the stage when the
thirty-year-old plays Katherina in
Phyllida Lloyds all-female version of
The Taming of the Shrew (at the
Delacorte, as part of Shakespeare in
the Park, through June 26).
Jumbos training as a dancer will
surely come in handy when shes run-
ning around in one of Shakespeares
more energetic comedies, and, while
Shakespeare doesnt appear in Adrienne
Kennedys important early play Fun-
nyhouse of a Negro (along with two
other one-acts, at the Signature,
through June 19), he is talked about, as
are any number of larger-than-life
Cush Jumbo, in The Taming of the Shrew, and January LaVoy, in Funnyhouse of a Negro. gures, ranging from Queen Victoria
Regina to Jesus Christ. All of them
Star Power long neck and the way she moved her haunt the protagonist, Sarah (played by
body contributed to her becoming, for Crystal Dickinson), as the actress Jan-
Two actresses to watch.
Tynan at least, a kind of ideal lm star, uary LaVoy eventually haunts us. As
While its always a treat to see amaz- one who roamed the halls of his imag- the Duchess of Hapsburg, the forty-
ing ensembles working together as ination long before he met her in the year-old LaVoy uses her voice and styl-
they tear a play apart, the better to hall of her little post-Hollywood ized gestures to plead for some kind of
expose its meaning, its thrilling in a Rochester apartment. understanding in the mad world of
ILLUSTRATION BY WESLEY ALLSBROOK

different way to watch performers who When I rst saw the new star Cush Sarahs mind. Dressed in a white silk
stand out because they have that in- Jumbo, in Josephine and I, in 2015, gown, her face painted white, LaVoy
denable somethinga depth, a she was not part of an ensemble, but projects an emotional reality drawn not
sparkthat makes you feel more alive it took a minute to notice that, for the just from the script but from the night-
while watching a given production. In majority of the show (which she also mare of being. As she goes about her
his perfect prole of the movie star wrote), she played a number of char- business, her star quality keeps us
Louise Brooks, published in this mag- acters, including a young woman whos watching her for what she does now,
azine in 1979, Kenneth Tynan talks a determined to be an actress. That and for what she will do in the future.
lot about erosabout how Brookss nameless characters story ran parallel Hilton Als
24 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
1 THE THEATRE

OPENINGS AND PREVIEWS Radiant Vermin and casual precision flips, provides a thrilling
In Philip Ridleys satire of the housing market, dnouement. (Lyric, 213 W. 42nd St. 877-250-2929.)
An Act of God presented by the Brits Off Broadway festival, a
Sean Hayes stars in a return engagement of David young couple have a chance at buying their dream A Dolls House / The Father
Javerbaums comedy, in which the Almighty comes house. (59E59, at 59 E. 59th St. 212-279-4200. Pre- This inspired double bill from Theatre for a
down to earth to clear up a few misconceptions. views begin June 2. Opens June 7.) New Audience pairs two plays about marriage
Joe Mantello directs. (Booth, 222 W. 45th St. 212- from two Scandinavian literary titans. The cre-
239-6200. In previews. Opens June 6.) Shining City ative rivalry between Henrik Ibsen and Au-
The Irish Rep returns to its renovated home with gust Strindberg was a marriage of a kind: they
ANT Fest 2016 Conor McPhersons drama, directed by Ciarn couldnt live with each other, and they couldnt
Offerings at the annual festival of new work in- OReilly and starring Matthew Broderick as a live without each other. But the product of their
clude Cat Crowley and Nate Weidas Blue Plate widower who seeks counselling after he sees his squabbles was modern drama, and its no acci-
Special, a queer doo-wop musical; Anthony Na- wifes ghost. (132 W. 22nd St. 212-727-2737. In pre- dent that so many of their plays dealt with mar-
tolis Justin Timberlake vs. Ryan Gosling, a com- views. Opens June 9.) riage: the cornerstone of bourgeois society, a
edy about the Mouseketeers turned A-listers; and flashpoint for new ideas about gender and po-
Kaela Mei-Shing Garvins Ambition: The Female Shukshins Stories litical self-determination. Ibsen was famously
American Serial Killer Musical. (Ars Nova, 511 Moscows Theatre of Nations stages an evening progressive; Strindberg, famously, wasnt. The
W. 54th St. 212-352-3101. Opens June 6.) of vignettes based on the stories of the Siberian- plays performed here hold true to type: Ibsens
born writer and filmmaker Vasily Shukshin, as A Dolls House dared to reimagine women as
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the part of the Cherry Orchard Festival. In Russian, human beings first, wives and mothers second,
Gynecologic Oncology Unit . . . with English supertitles. (City Center, 131 W. 55th while Strindbergs The Father transforms
Halley Feiffers play, directed by Trip Cullman St. 212-581-1212. June 8-11.) the old misogynistic trope of uncertain pater-
for MCC Theatre, follows the unlikely friend- nity into a grotesque portrait of psychic col-
ship between a young woman and a middle-aged War lapse. (In a virtuosic turn, Maggie Lacey and
man whose mothers are in the same cancer hospi- In Branden Jacobs-Jenkinss play, directed by Li- John Douglas Thompson play both distressed
tal. (Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher St. 212-352-3101. leana Blain-Cruz for LCT3, two siblings are con- Nordic couples.) The director Arin Arbuss pro-
In previews. Opens June 7.) fronted in their mothers hospital room with a se- ductions tend toward stuffinessfrock coats
cret about their grandfathers past. (Claire Tow, 150 and frilly gownsillustrating the classic plays
Heros Welcome W. 65th St. 212-239-6200. In previews. Opens June 6.) more than reinterpreting them. But together
At the Brits Off Broadway festival, Alan Ayck-
bourn directs his newest play, in which a war vet- 1 they provide a theatrical time machine, taking
us back to an era when our minds were as cos-
eran returns to his home town; it runs in repertory NOW PLAYING seted as a bodice-wrapped body. (Polonsky Shake-
with Confusions, his 1974 collection of linked speare Center, 262 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn. 866-811-
one-acts. (59E59, at 59 E. 59th St. 212-279-4200. Blackbird 4111. Through June 12.)
In previews. Opens June 9.) In David Harrowers meaningful ninety-minute
drama, directed by Joe Mantello, Michelle Wil- Hadestown
Himself and Nora liams plays Una, a complex and charged twenty- Orpheus has the bluesto say nothing of folk,
A new musical by Jonathan Brielle explores the seven-year-old woman. In a modern office build- swing, ragtime, and jazz. The singer-songwriter
romance between James Joyce and his wife and ing, a fiftyish man named Ray (played by Jeff Anas Mitchell and the director Rachel Chavkin
muse, Nora Barnacle. Directed by Michael Bush. Daniels, with a distractingly clenched jaw) leads have transmuted Mitchells genre-hopping con-
(Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. 800-745- her down a hallway; theres a look of twisted tri- cept album into a spirited musical, relocating
3000. In previews. Opens June 6.) umph on her face. Turns out its been fifteen years the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to a back-
since they last saw each other. They were lovers drop of freight trains and shantytowns. Staged
The Iceman Lab then. At the time that they were together, Una in the round, beneath the twisting limbs of a leaf-
Continuing Target Margins two-season explora- was twelve, and Ray, a neighbor, was a grown man. less tree, the world conjured is both Depression-
tion of Eugene ONeill, four different theatre art- Daniels vacillates between soliciting the audi- era and of the moment, with Orpheus offering
ists interpret the four acts of The Iceman Com- ences sympathyletting us know that Ray him- the Sanders-esque slogan Let the world we
eth in repertory. (HERE, 145 Sixth Ave., near self thinks hes a creepand trying to rise to Wil- dream about be the one we live in now! Damon
Spring St. 212-352-3101. Opens June 2.) liamss daring and nonjudgmental embodiment Daunno lends his falsetto to the mournful Or-
of her not easily assimilable character. Harrower pheus, while Patrick Page goes pure gravel for
Ill Say She Is has the focus of a songwriter, and his exquisitely Hades, and Amber Gray dances between them
Noah Diamond adapted this lost musical com- wrought monologues are like odes to Una and as a sexy, shrewd Persephone. There may be too
edy, which marked the Broadway dbut of the Rays power struggles, desires, and elisions. (Re- many songs and a predilection for atmosphere
Marx Brothers, in 1924, and finds the brothers viewed in our issue of 3/21/16.) (Belasco, 111 W. 44th over action, but Mitchells ballads are lyrical
trying to amuse a wealthy heiress. (Connelly, 220 St. 212-239-6200. Through June 11.) and moving, David Neumanns choreography sly
E. 4th St. 212-352-3101. In previews. Opens June 2.) and sociable, and Chavkins immersive staging
Cirque du SoleilParamour heavenly. (New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. 4th
Indian Summer In Cirque du Soleils first foray into Broadway, a St. 212-460-5475.)
In Gregory S. Mosss comedy, directed by Carolyn skeleton of a storymegalomaniac Hollywood
Cantor, a city kid spends the summer at a Rhode film director falls for small-time cabaret performer Incognito
Island beach town, where he meets a feisty local and turns her into a major movie star, but her heart This attention-taxing play by Nick Payne feels
girl. (Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. 212- belongs to the composer she started out withis like an Oliver Sacks essay come to life, minus the
279-4200. In previews. Opens June 8.) the flimsy, clich-ridden excuse for some first- intellectual and emotional satisfaction. In inter-
rate acrobatics. The clumsy book (Her hair was secting plotlines, featuring four performers play-
Out of the Mouths of Babes red as a fireball . . . and I realized that deep in ing twenty characters, Payne parses the relation-
Estelle Parsons and Judith Ivey star in Israel her heart, she was blue) is peppered with some ships among memory, neurology, and emotional
Horovitzs play, in which four woman arrive in decent singing (Jeremy Kushnier, as the direc- identity. One story follows a man whose mem-
Paris for the funeral of a hundred-year-old man tor, is especially charismatic). But the main at- ory-obliterating seizures break his girlfriends
who loved them all. (Cherry Lane, 38 Commerce tractionand the better, more suspenseful sto- heart. Another features a pathologist whos so ob-
St. 866-811-4111. Previews begin June 7.) rytellingcomes in between, without words: sessed with studying the preserved brain of Al-
gorgeously choreographed set pieces featuring bert Einsteinseeking a biological basis for ge-
The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois Cirques signature death-defying stunts. Hunky niusthat he ruins his marriage and career for a
Adam Rapp (Red Light Winter) wrote and di- twins fly above the audience, twisting up together clump of gray matter in formaldehyde. The wea-
rects this drama, in which a guy who lives alone in tenuous-looking poses; a balletic trapeze rou- rying number of additional story lines concern
in Paducah, Kentucky, is visited by two teen-age tine featuring two men and a very talented woman long-lost relatives, online relationships, and a
girls. (Atlantic Stage 2, at 330 W. 16th St. 866-811- deftly symbolizes the love triangle; and a rooftop murder caused by neurology gone haywire. De-
4111. In previews. Opens June 7.) gangster free-for-all, complete with wall-walking spite plenty of emoting, the Manhattan Theatre

26 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


THE THEATRE

Club productionset in a grayscale vacuum, in-


tent on demonstrating its seriousnessis about
as lively as a hippocampus in a jar. (City Center
Stage I, 131 W. 55th St. 212-581-1212.)

Indecent
Paula Vogels poignant new play, an elegy for a
lost Yiddish culture and a lost Yiddish theatre,
resurrects the checkered history of Sholem Aschs
sensational 1907 drama, The God of Vengeance,
scandalous for its modernism, its blasphemy, and
its lesbian (klezbian?) love story. An artifact of
the Yiddish renaissance that flowered briefly on
the cusp of the twentieth centurys atrocities, it
was a hit on Europes cosmopolitan stages, and a
bohemian thrill when the Provincetown Players
brought it to the West Village. But its bowdler-
ized Broadway opening, in 1923, was closed for
obscenity. Here, the migr ensemble returns
to the Old World at the worst possible time; we
see them again as a clandestine company per-
forming in a Lodz attic. Although America cen-
sored the troupe, it was Nazi-occupied Europe
that destroyed their theatre. It wasnt Gods ven-
geance they had to fear. (Vineyard, 108 E. 15th St.
212-353-0303.)

Peer Gynt
The director John Doyle (The Color Purple)
has staged his own free, fantastic adaptation
for Classic Stage Company, where he will be-
come the artistic director in July. Ibsens 1876
play, wildly modern and experimental even in
its day, is presented in the round as pure the-
atre of the imagination, with virtually no props
or sets, but employing dramatic lighting and
haunting violin music (composed by Dan Moses
Schreier). The action floats episodically in time
as Peer, a vibrant, troubled man-child, struggles
to make sense of his existence. Doyles version
mixes some modern phrasing with the more
formal, foreign-sounding translation from the
Norwegian, and there are elements of Sopho-
cles, Shakespeare, Pirandello, and Beckett to
be glimpsed through the dramatic prism. The
superb cast, which includes Quincy Tyler Bern-
stine and Dylan Baker, is led by Gabriel Ebert
(Matilda), who is phenomenal in the lead role,
nakedly physical and searchingly philosophical.
(136 E. 13th St. 866-811-4111.)

Signature Plays
Lila Neugebauer directed this evening of three
one-acts, by the stage masters Adrienne Ken-
nedy, Edward Albee, and Mara Irene Forns,
and it is fascinating to hear language that is this
imaginative and authentic again. The theme
linking the plays is the body as its transformed
by death or love or madness. The Sandbox,
Albees 1959 piece about death and family, stars
Alison Fraser, whose snide, insinuating, elegant
voice is just right for Mommy, who fakes every-
thing, including kindness. Fornss moving 1986
piece Drowning is made especially so by the
actors; Mikah Ernest Jennings plays his char-
acters pathos with humility, while the great
Frank Wood does what he does like no other
performer: he listens. The longest piece is Fun-
nyhouse of a Negro, Kennedys 1964 explora-
tion of a black womans interior life. As Sarah,
the protagonist, Crystal Dickinson doesnt
have the clarity that other performers, such
as April Matthis or January LaVoy (who play
Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Hapsburg,
respectively), might have brought to the role.
(Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd
St. 212-244-7529.)

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 27


THE THEATRE

Skeleton Crew producer (David Cale) comes along, promising


Set in the break room of the last small fac- Marty a shot at stardom, issues of musical appro-
tory standing amid the 2008 financial collapse,
Dominique Morisseaus play, the third in her
priation and Negro authenticity are debated
with winking metatheatrical self-knowledge. For MOVIES
Detroit trilogy, centers on a veteran automo-
tive worker named Faye (Lynda Gravatt), her
two junior colleagues, and a foreman with con-
better or worse, the shows second half all but
gives up on narrative, taken over by blaring, ex-
hilarating musical numbers, written and accom-
1
flicting loyalties and no bailout in sight. Ruben panied by Stew and Heidi Rodewald and staged OPENING
Santiago-Hudsons humane direction and the with sizzle by Joanna Settle. (Public, 425 Lafa-
nuanced performances of the cast emphasize yette St. 212-967-7555.) Diary of a Chambermaid Benot Jacquot directed this
Morisseaus gifts for atmosphere and rhythm.
She has a fine eye for behavioral detail, a good 1 drama, about the struggles of a servant (La Sey-
doux) in nineteenth-century France. The Fits Re-
ear for speech, and a keen sense of the day-to- ALSO NOTABLE viewed in Now Playing. Opening June 3. (In limited
day habits and compromises that make up a life. release.) Genius A historical drama about the edi-
Her working-class characters are crafted with American Psycho Schoenfeld. A Better tor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth), directed by Mi-
complexity, allowed their faults, their virtues, Place The Duke on 42nd Street. Through June chael Grandage; co-starring Laura Linney. Open-
and an inextricable pride in their skilled labor. 11. Bright Star Cort. Cal in Camo Rattle- ing June 10. (In limited release.) Me Before You An
For Shanita, one of the workers, the thrum of the stick. The Color Purple Jacobs. The Crucible adaptation of the novel by Jojo Moyes, about the
factory floor has a sound like harmony. Like life Walter Kerr. Daphnes Dive Pershing Square romantic relationship between a paralyzed man
happening. Production. Good sound. (Atlantic Signature Center. Through June 12. Eclipsed (Sam Claflin) and his caregiver (Emilia Clarke). Di-
Theatre Company, 336 W. 20th St. 866-811-4111.) Golden. The Effect Barrow Street The- rected by Thea Sharrock. Opening June 3. (In wide re-
atre. The Father Samuel J. Friedman. Fid- lease.) Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping A com-
The Total Bent dler on the Roof Broadway Theatre. Fully edy, directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone,
Stew (Passing Strange) once again brings his Committed Lyceum. Fun Home Circle in the about a former teen rapper (Andy Samberg) fallen
waggish, deconstructed brand of musical story- Square. Hamilton Richard Rodgers. The Hu- on hard times. Opening June 3. (In wide release.) The
telling to a tale of a black mans coming of age. mans Helen Hayes. The Judas Kiss BAMs Witness Reviewed in Now Playing. Opening June 3.
The electric Ato Blankson-Wood plays Marty, Harvey Theatre. Through June 12. Long Days (In limited release.)
a slender young songwriter in Alabama during
the Montgomery bus boycott (This be the past
Journey Into Night American Airlines The-
atre. The Ruins of Civilization City Center 1
and shit, he informs us) who has been writing Stage II. Through June 5. School of Rock Win- NOW PLAYING
gospel hits for his father, Papa Joe Roy (the ser- ter Garden. She Loves Me Studio 54. Shuf-
pentine Vondie Curtis Hall). Joe wants nothing fle Along Music Box. A Streetcar Named De- Alice Through the Looking Glass
to do with the civil unrest that has bewitched his sire St. Anns Warehouse. Through June 4. The A natural successor to Alice in Wonderland (2010).
son, reasoning, Getting to sit next to a cracker Taming of the Shrew Delacorte. Turn Me Tim Burton has yielded the directors chair to James
on a bus aint freedom. When a gawky Brit-pop Loose Westside. Waitress Brooks Atkinson. Bobin, but other figures remain in place, including
Mia Wasikowska, as the adult Alice; Anne Hatha-
way, as the White Queen; and Helena Bonham Car-
ter, complete with a beastly temper and a bulbous
skull, as the Red Queen. Appropriately enough, the
late Alan Rickman has ascended from an earthbound
caterpillar in the earlier film to become a butter-
fly, lighter than air. We start and end in historical
drama, with Alice revelling in her new role as a ships
intrepid captain; tucked inside these scenes is the
principal plot, which spirits her to Wonderland once
more. There she finds the ailing Mad Hatter (Johnny
Depp) and, in a bid to save him, journeys back in
timea perilous feat, which Time himself (Sacha
Baron Cohen) attempts to foil. The back of Times
head is a whir of cogs and dials, and much of the de-
sign is gorgeously intricate, as are Colleen Atwoods
costumes; if anything, the screen, like the story line,
is crammed so tight that both look fit to burst. (As
for Depp, he seems lost in a twitching world of his
own.) This being a Disney film, the importance of
a close and loving family is made plain. Just dont
tell Lewis Carroll.Anthony Lane (In wide release.)

A Bigger Splash
Tilda Swinton teams up again with Luca Guada-
gnino, who directed her in I Am Love (2009), for
a more scorched and southerly affair. This time, she
strikes the eye as gilded and semi-divine; appropri-
ately so, for her character is a rock goddess named
Marianne. As with almost everything in the film,
though, hers is a perilous condition: she is a singer
who has lost her voice. Accompanied and shielded
by her boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), she
goes to ground on a volcanic island between Italy
and Africa. Their sequestered calm is soon invaded
by the arrival of Harry (Ralph Fiennes), Mariannes
raucous ex, and his daughter, Penelope (Dakota John-
son). These two constitute a breach of the peace, not
to mention a threat, and the movie, written by David
Kajganich, feels both as sly as a snake and brazenly
open to carnal possibilities. The plot takes a cruel
turn, and the principal figures are as likely to repel
MOVIES

as they are to attract; yet they fit the landscape in watched. Arznerone of the few women directors in
which they disport and disgrace themselves, and the Hollywoodshows women dancers enduring mens
whole film swelters with a sense of mystery, never slobbering stares. The very raison dtre of these
quite solved, that reflects the beating sun. Also, womens performances is to titillate men, and thats
when did you last see Fiennes, in shorts and an un- where the storys two vectors intersectart versus
buttoned shirt, gyrate to the Rolling Stones?A.L. commerce and love versus lust. This idealistic paean
(Reviewed in our issue of 5/9/16.) (In limited release.) to the higher realms of creative and romantic fulfill-
ment is harshly realistic about the degradations that
Captain America: Civil War women endure in base entertainmentsincluding
The new Marvel movie, directed by Joe and Anthony some cinematic ones.R.B. (Film Forum; June 4.)
Russo, is like the ultimate Comic-Con convention: a
place where superheroes can meet, mingle, and test The Day He Arrives
their loyalties as well as their muscular skills. Those Longing and regret, artistic frustration and new
invited include Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Cap- hope, self-revelation and self-loathing arise from
tain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scar- loopy coincidences, tough reunions, and urban street
lett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Falcon poetry in this delicate romantic comedy, from 2011,
(Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), by the South Korean director Hong Sang-soo. The
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Vision (Paul Bettany), filmmaker Yoo Seongjun (Yu Junsang), who stopped
who gleams bright red, perhaps with indignation making movies and lives in self-imposed exile in a
at his boring name. There is even a late entrance small town, returns briefly to Seoul. While floating
for Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who appears to be through his former neighborhood, hes recognized by
twelve years old, though already capable of produc- young admirers who inquire about his work (his re-
ing the sticky stuff at will. The plot concerns politi- sponses are as funny as they are poignantly neurotic).
cal accountability: Are the Avengers a private com- An old friends love troubles prompt long drinking
pany, or should they be run by the state? The matter parties where Yoo meets a caf owner, a woman of
is settled not in Senate committees, as you might ex- mystery (Kim Bokyung, who, in a stroke of direc-
pect, but by communal brawls, with Iron Man and torial invention, also plays Seongjuns ex-girlfriend
his merry men taking on Captain America and his and delivers an exquisitely tremulous performance
crew. Most of them are close to indestructible, and in both roles). Filming in black-and-white, Hong
the range of special effects is by now limitless, so abstracts the tense network of fragile relationships
we should probably be thankful that the fisticuffs, to crisp, briskly sketched lines that he adorns with
however thudding and prolonged, finally come to bubbly and self-deprecating humor as well as grace-
an end.A.L. (5/16/16) (In wide release.) ful wonders (including some of the most heartbreak-
ing snowflakes in recent cinema). In Hongs ardent
Chevalier view, tenderness, nostalgia, joy, and the promise of
The Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari devotes creation are the rewards of wide-eyed bewilderment:
her attention to mens one-upsmanship in this pomp- the adventures and misadventures of an idle film-
ously earnest satire. Six Greek men, educated pro- maker are nothing if not a script on the wing. In Ko-
fessionals of the respectable bourgeoisie, travel at rean.R.B. (Museum of the Moving Image; June 11-12.)
leisure on a yacht, fishing, diving, eating, and drink-
ing. But their friendly rivalries and festering resent- The Fits
ments burst out into sharply debated comparisons Anna Rose Holmers first feature is the apotheosis
of their particular achievements, and one of them of the after-school special, in the best way. Most
comes up with the idea of a competitionan eval- of the action takes place after school, in and near a
uation of the full range of their personal charac- Cincinnati youth center where the lean and mus-
teristics, including health, grooming, sexual prow- cular Toni (Royalty Hightower), whos about ten
ess, and even appearance while sleepingthat will years old, trains as a boxer, mainly with her older
prove who, among them, is the best in general. brother, Jermaine (DaSean Minor). But all the
Tsangaris derisive gaze is utterly deadpan; the men other girls in the center are members of the Lion-
maintain a sacerdotal earnestness in the face of their esses, an award-winning dance troupe, and Toni,
own absurdities, and their superficial traits are re- admiring and envying their sense of belonging as
vealed and discussed at length while their charac- they rehearse in the gym and exult in the hallway,
ter, background, and ideas go unexplored and even decides to trade boxing for dancing. (The hard work
unmentioned. The story congeals in the rigid and of practice and the desire to excel are at the core
narrow script, and Tsangari films it with a generic of the action.) Soon after she joins the group, its
impersonality. Nonetheless, one scene, of a night- thrown into turmoil: one by one, the young dancers
time revelry enlivened by a lip-synch performance endure a seizurelike episode, and these fitswhich
of Minnie Ripertons Loving You, has an eccen- have no discernible medical causebecome a sort
tric spontaneity that the rest of the movie lacks. In of rite of passage, an experience of wonder as well
Greek.Richard Brody (In limited release.) as of fear. Holmer pares down the story to conjure
contemplative moods; she films the children with
Dance, Girl, Dance poised observational tenderness and pushes, calmly
Dorothy Arzners 1940 melodrama is centered on two but decisively, through practicalities to unfold fan-
dancers from a scuffling New York troupeBubbles tasies and dreams. The movies natural sweetness
(Lucille Ball), a brazen gold-digger who flaunts her vibrates with mysteries.R.B. (In limited release.)
sexual freedom, and Judy (Maureen OHara), a seri-
ous ballet student who dreams of high art and true Hi, Mom!
love. Bubbles steals Judys rich beau and then steals This independent film, which Brian De Palma made
a job from her, as a bump-and-grind dancer in a bur- in New York in 1970, is an exuberant grab bag of di-
lesque show. Bubbles brings Judy into the act, as the abolical whimsy that blends radical politics, sexual
butt of a cruel joke, whom the crude spectators cat- freedom, racial tension, and emotional hangups
call and whistle offstage, but Judy boldly turns the with the directors own catalogue of artistic refer-
tables on her tormentors. The movie lives up to its ences, from Hitchcock and the French New Wave
titleits subject really is dancing. Arzner films it to cinma vrit and avant-garde theatreand adds
with fascination and enthusiasm, and the choreog- a freewheeling inventiveness and an obstreperous
raphy is marked by the point of view of the specta- satire all his own. It also showcases the explosive,
tors and the dancers awareness that theyre being sardonic young Robert De Niro, as Jon Rubin, a
MOVIES

cynic on the make who creates reality-based porn man into a brisk and cutting comedy of manners.
inspired by Rear Window and, finding that real- Kate Beckinsale plays Susan Vernon, newly wid-
ity needs his help, seduces one of his subjects (Jen- owed. (Some scholars suggest that one source for
nifer Salt) for his camera. De Niro brings unhinged the character was Eliza de Feuillide, Austens cousin,
spontaneity to Jons Machiavellian calculations, es- whose husband was guillotined in 1794a startling
pecially in wild and daring scenes involving a mili- backdrop, if true, to so sprightly a tale.) The her-
tant theatre group that preys violently on its specta- oine, confiding her cynical schemes to an Ameri-
tors liberal guilt. De Palma offers a self-conscious can friend (Chlo Sevigny), takes aim at various
time capsule of downtown sights and moods, espe- mena rake, a decent fellow, and so forthwhile
cially in his rambunctious, hilarious, yet nonethe- making plans for her no less marriageable daugh-
less disturbing parodies of public television. In his ter (Morfydd Clark), whom she dislikes. The out-
derisively satirical view, the well-meaning media de- come is broader than the original, with a final twist
picts the days furies and outrages in an oblivious that the novelist would not have allowed; but the co-
objectivity that misses the deeper truths that this quetry is as sharp as swordplay, and Tom Bennett,
movies own theatrical exaggerations are meant to playing a wealthy oaf, pockets every scene in which
capture.R.B. (Metrograph; June 5.) he appears.A.L. (5/23/16) (In limited release.)

The Lobster Maggies Plan


One of several leading filmmakers now making The subject and format of Rebecca Millers new film
their first venture into English, the Greek director are borrowed from screwball comedy, but the tone
Yorgos Lanthimos delivers the fiercest of fables. It is mainly dramatic, and the confusion remains un-
imagines a modern society, in many ways identical resolved to the end. Greta Gerwig plays Maggie, a
to ours, where being single is a crime. At a water- New York college administrator who crosses paths
side hotel, for instance, unattached men and women with John (Ethan Hawke), an adjunct professor
are encouraged and helped to find partners; in the and aspiring novelist. They quickly fall in love, and
event of failure, they are turned into an animal of John leaves his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a
their choosing. The guests include David (Colin world-famous anthropologist from Denmark, and
Farrell), Robert (John C. Reilly), and John (Ben their two young children, in order to marry Mag-
Whishaw), each of them seeking a mate who will gie. The plan of the title is the one that Maggie
match his defining characteristicmyopia, say, or comes up with when that marriage hits the rocks as
a lisp. Their story lampoons not just our reliance well. The movie is filled with satirical riffs on aca-
on the mores of the dating scene but the very illu- demic life and literary ambition that land heavily
sion of romantic love, and, when David flees to a like clichs untransformed. The romantic rounde-
nearby forest and falls for one of the lonely souls lay is cleverly constructed but it doesnt come alive
who dwell there, happiness feels as unapproachable in action, symbol, or image; its a mere mechanism
as ever. The woman (Rachel Weisz) is also our nar- thats adorned solely by the actors lively perfor-
rator, and her utterances set the severe tone for the mances. Gerwigs vocal inflections are consistently
whole movie. Its governing conceit, though bizarre, inspired, and Moore seems to be having a ball de-
is calmly presented as a natural state of affairs; in his livering chilly intellectual affectations in a Dan-
mastery of the deadpan, Lanthimos proves that the ish accent, but its whimsy in a void: the characters
spirit of Buuel, vehement yet unflustered, has yet have little connection, motivation, context, or sub-
to be snuffed out.A.L. (5/16/16) (In limited release.) stance.R.B. (In limited release.)

Los Angeles Plays Itself Manhattan Night


Thom Andersens nearly three-hour essay-film, Manhattan Nocturne, Colin Harrisons terrific
from 2003, joins his trenchant and polemical voice- contemporary noir novel, gets a less than thrilling
over commentary to a rich and alluring selection of treatment in the writer and director Brian DeCu-
clips from dramatic features shot on location in Los belliss sleepy adaptation. Adrien Brody stars as a
Angeles, ranging from The Big Sleep and Rebel cynical crime reporter and family man who stum-
Without a Cause to Chinatown and Clueless. bles into a scheme of murder and blackmail. What
This kaleidoscopic portrait of the city is both a pow- follows is corruption, kink, and, of course, a smoky
erful work of film criticism and a personal story of affair with the requisite femme fatale (Yvonne Stra-
living in Los Angeles. Andersen traces the falsifi- hovski). The thrilling twists and turns of Harrisons
cation of the citys geography and history in Hol- plot are here, but DeCubelliss hazy pacing drains
lywood movies to the shoddy narrative and ideo- the film of the books zest. Though great material
logical conventions in run-of-the-mill productions; mishandled is frustrating to view, there are none-
even the habitual display of architectural landmarks theless some bright spots. Brody is hardboiled and
and styles comes in for scathing analysis. Ander- soulful, and Campbell Scott, as a predatory film-
sen shows that movies are both recording devices maker who is the murder victim (seen only in flash-
that display political perversions of civic lifein- backs), delivers a flamboyantly pulpy performance
cluding racial prejudice, police brutality, real-estate thats rich and memorable. With Jennifer Beals
depredations, and economic inequitiesand pro- and Linda Lavin.Bruce Diones (In limited release.)
paganda machines that perpetuate them. He con-
cludes with a grand tribute to the legacy of great The Meddler
local independent filmmakers who discovered truth The natural sentiment of the writer and director Lo-
by way of fiction, in such movies as The Exiles rene Scafarias heartfelt story of bereavement and
and Killer of Sheep.R.B. (Anthology Film Ar- recovery is burdened by clichs in the script and the
chives; June 5 and June 11.) performances alike. Marnie Minervini (Susan Sa-
randon), widowed after a long and happy marriage,
Love & Friendship moves from her native New Jersey to Los Angeles,
Just when we thought that all of Jane Austens work where her grown daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), a
had been exhausted by TV and cinema, Whit Still- screenwriter, lives. As the title suggests, Marnie gets
man reminds us of the short fictions and fragments very involved in Loris life, dropping in at inoppor-
that still remain to be mined. Most of these, though tune moments and becoming a benefactor and a vir-
not all, are juvenilia, and Lady Susan, an epistolary tual mother surrogate to Loris friends. As for Lori,
novel that probably dates from the middle of the her love life is a messshes been dumped by Jacob
seventeen-nineties, has been transformed by Still- (Jason Ritter), whom she had hoped to marrybut
MOVIES

her work is going well. Then, Marnie meets Zip- in his script for The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).
per (J. K. Simmons), a retired police officer. The Nonetheless, the leading men establish an affable
friendship quickly deepens, but Marnie is unsure rhythm, and Angourie Rice seems wholly at ease as
whether shes ready to begin a new romance. Sca- the detectives teen-age daughterby far the sanest
farias sympathetic intentions fall to simplistic set- person in sight.A.L. (5/23/16) (In wide release.)
ups and easy resolutions. She offers the characters
no significant traits besides their functions in the Sunset Song
action; the movie coasts on the charm of the ac- This mighty drama of emotional archeology, adapted
tors, whom the director coaxes to mug for affec- from a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, deepens the
tion.R.B. (In wide release.) director Terence Daviess career-long obsession with
memory and its blend of the intimate with the his-
Money Monster torical. The movie traces the fortunes of a young
George Clooney brings swinging vigor to his star- woman, Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), who lives
ring role as an irresponsible financial pundit, in in an isolated farm village in Scotland, from around
Jodie Fosters satirical drama of media sensational- 1910 until the end of the First World War. Brutalized
ism and corporate corruption. He plays Lee Gates, by her tyrannical father (Peter Mullan) and unpro-
the money monster of the title, who used his TV tected by her long-suffering mother (Daniela Nar-
show to tout Ibis, an investment firm that then dini), the sharp-minded Chris plans to leave the
lost nearly a billion dollars due to a so-called com- farm and become a teacher. But after her parents die
puter glitch. Now Kyle Budwell (Jack ODonnell), in quick succession (in separate, gravely dramatic
a delivery man who sank his life savings into Ibis incidents), she marries Ewan Tavendale (Kevin
and lost it all, sneaks onto the set with a gun and Guthrie), a young farmhand, and settles down with
a bomb, holds Lee hostage on live television, and him on her familys property until theyre wrenched
demands explanations for Ibiss losses. Lee, aided apart by his military service in the war. Chris bears
by his talented producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Rob- the drudgery of farming and the stifling norms of
erts), is forced to practice hard-hitting business rural society in order to realize her private passion,
journalism. The storys double twistwill the which is greater than romantic love or intellectual
protagonists come out unscathed, and what hap- fulfillment: an ecstatic devotion to the land, which
pened at Ibis?ratchets suspense high, but theres she realizes only by liberating it, and herself, from
little substance behind it. Foster depicts work- the dominion of men. Davies depicts Chriss dedi-
ing-class characters as crude-talking caricatures cation in frankly sensual and glowingly lyrical im-
and puts Lee and Patty in shining armor as de- ages that compress grand-scale melodrama into
fenders of the people; noblesse oblige. The frenzied the quietly burning point of a single soul.R.B.
drama has no clear point of view besides its air of (In limited release.)
celebrity condescension.R.B. (In wide release.)
Wanda
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising The actress Barbara Lodens only film as a direc-
A bit of self-awareness goes a long way in elevat- tor, from 1970, is a harrowing, epiphanic master-
ing this comedy sequel above the 2014 original. Seth work. She also stars as the title character, Wanda
Rogen and Rose Byrne again star as Mac and Kelly Goronski, a pallid wraith in an anthracite land-
Radner, youngish suburban parents whose domes- scape. Reduced to apathy by the drudgery and
tic tranquillity is shattered by the revelry of college banality of a mining town, she flees her husband
students renting the house next door. This time, the and young children and rides off with a buttoned-
trouble is caused by a new sorority founded by three down, steely-eyed drifter (Michael Higgins). Un-
young women (Chlo Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clem- beknownst to her, he is a robber on the run as well
ons, and Beanie Feldstein) at odds with the norms as a fussy, domineering brute who improves her
of Greek life. Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), the first manners and her wardrobe even while launching
installments self-destructive prince of parties, re- her on a criminal path. Though suspicious from
turns, bringing a twist of pathos that grounds the the start, Wanda is ready for anything that makes
comedic action. Teddys frat brothers (including her feel aliveand the movie matches her in au-
Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and dacity and sensibility. Lodens indelible depiction
Dave Franco) are back, too, along with the Radners of Wandas degradation, resistance, and resigna-
best friends (Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo) and tion blends intense psychological realism with
the dean of the college (Lisa Kudrow). The biggest a spontaneous, quasi-musical mastery of form.
change is political: the themes of gay marriage, fe- Her rough-grained images, with their attention
male empowerment, endemic sexism, and racist ha- to place, light, and detail, have an intimate, sculp-
rassment by the police crop up alongside the prac- tural texture; they seem to bring matter to life and
ticalities of real-estate transactions to make the to glow with the characters inner radiance.R.B.
narrative setup far more engaging than the antic (Film Forum; June 3 and June 14.)
and often merely franticset pieces. Directed by
Nicholas Stoller.R.B. (In wide release.) Weiner
In the wake of Anthony Weiners sexting scan-
The Nice Guys dals, its easy to forget the bright political career
Most buddy movies involve, to some extent, the at- that came crashing down along with his repu-
traction of opposites, but Shane Blacks new film, al- tation. The directors Elyse Steinberg and Josh
legedly set in 1977, puts one chump in league with an- Kriegman had access to Weiner during his 2013
other. Russell Crowe takes the part of a burly (or, to run for the Democratic nomination for mayor of
be blunt, overweight) enforcer, while Ryan Gosling New York and they unfold a story of surprising
plays a private eye of unrivalled incompetence whos near-success that renders his ultimate fall all the
also a borderline drunk. The two of them, teetering more dramatic. Weiner appears as a photogenic,
on the right side of the law, join forces to crack a case flamboyant, and combative campaignerand a
that involves everything from the porn industry to passionate liberalwho was the Democratic may-
and this must be a first, for a comic thrillerthe use oral front-runner until a second wave of reve-
of catalytic converters and the levels of smog in L.A. lations emerged. With extraordinary access to
So much plot piles up that theres no hope of any Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin (Hillary
sense being made, and the fun feels more strained Clintons longtime aide), the filmmakers capture
than it did in Blacks Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) or painful moments of tension between the powerful
MOVIES

couple, in the campaign office and at home. At


its best and most troubling, the film plays like
a real-life Scenes from a Marriage, with Abe-
din fulfilling her duties on the campaign trail
with good-natured enthusiasm until she learns
ABOVE & BEYOND
about her husbands further misdeedsat the
same time as the world does. Meanwhile, the
campaign does its best to cope, culminating in
a sadly funny chase sequence in which Weiner is
pursued by Sydney Leathers, one of the women
he sexted, and takes meticulously plotted eva-
sive action. His vanity and his political flair, his
authentic talent and his weakness of character
come off as inseparable.R.B. (In limited release.)

The Witness
This extraordinary documentary looks at one of
the most infamous of all modern crime stories World Science Festival the French designer Ingrid Donat whose arms
the 1964 murder, in Queens, of Kitty Genovese, Science will transform the future, says Brian rest on the backs of four delicate female figures.
while her screams were reportedly ignored by doz- Greene, co-founder of this annual festival. Itll (450 Park Ave. 212-940-1200.) Doyle holds one
ens of neighborsthrough the focus of another certainly transform the city over these five days, of its periodic sales devoted to the Belle poque
genre, the personal documentary. Though its nom- with fifty events, in a myriad of venues, bringing (June 8), filled with elaborate silver, decora-
inal director is James Solomon, its main charac- together the brightest minds across the fields of tive oil paintings, and stained glass. (175 E. 87th
ter and virtual auteur is Bill Genovese, one of Kit- biology, medicine, technology, and more to show St. 212-427-2730.) Fans of such films as Snow
tys three younger brothers, who was sixteen at the how deeply science is embedded in our daily city White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio
time of her murder. His on-camera investigation life. Attendees can stargaze in Brooklyn Bridge will find celluloid illustrations of all their favor-
brings him back to the murder site in Kew Gar- Park with the astronaut Anna Fisher; catch, count, ite charactersremember Jiminy Cricket?at
dens, where he visits apartments, calculates sight and release fish in the waters surrounding the bor- Bonhams auction of animation art on June 13.
lines, and interviews current and former residents oughs; debate the ethics and morals of artificial (580 Madison Ave. 212-644-9001.)
about the crime. He also consults trial transcripts
and police records and does meta-journalistic re-
intelligence; or just quietly take in the spread of
talks and screenings scheduled in museums and 1
search involving reporters, editors, and producers lecture halls throughout the week. (Various loca- READINGS AND TALKS
responsible for the original accounts of the murder tions. worldsciencefestival.com. June 1-5.)
and later revisions of that story. What he discovers Strand Bookstore
turns out to be at odds with the headlines. Though Northside Festival Whether jabs are literal or subliminal, take place
Bill Genovese keeps his investigation close to the North Brooklyn residents are used to the over conference calls or on social-media posts,
particulars of his sisters killing, he raises ques- blocked-off streets and fake grass this festival are discernible to the public or visible to only
tions of wider and present-day import regarding brings to Bedford Avenue every June, but its a few, the spirit of competition has long been
the penal system, police procedure, domestic vi- grown in scope markedly in recent years. An- a bristling catalyst in the pop industry across
olence, and journalistic ethics. (The film also of- chored by musical performances in McCarren genres and eras. Steven Hyden, music writer
fers a moving, novelistically complex vision of gay Park as well as at clubs in Greenpoint and Bush- for the A.V. Club and the now-defunct sports
life in New York a half century ago.) The movies wick, Northsides artist lineup includes Brian and culture blog Grantland, dives into the na-
one renactmentan ingenious experiment in fo- Wilson, Kacey Musgraves, and Diarrhea Planet, ture of music feuds in his new book, Your Fa-
rensics and social scienceunites drama, journal- but the true scenes are in innovation and con- vorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Ri-
ism, and first-hand experience in a masterstroke tent: founders and leaders in the tech and media valries Reveal About the Meaning of Life. As
of pure cinema.R.B. (In limited release.) worlds from pivotal companies like PayPal, Su- the Beatles battled the Rolling Stones for the
1 perphone, Giphy, and Vox Media will present
their views on new digital environments now in
throbbing hearts of teens across America, the
dollar-backed vote cemented itself as the cen-
REVIVALS AND FESTIVALS development. Single and multi-day badges are tral qualifier for pop supremacy. The nation
available for the six-day series. (Various locations. bristles every time Kanye West and Taylor Swift
Titles with a dagger are reviewed. northsidefestival.com. June 6-12.) cross paths, and Toby Keiths short-lived beef

Anthology Film Archives The films of Thom An- 1 with the Dixie Chicks confounded more than
it culled favor; Hyden discusses these scenes of
dersen. June 4 at 9:15 and June 10 at 6:30: Red AUCTIONS AND ANTIQUES conflict and others with the music critic and ob-
Hollywood (1996). June 5 at 3 and June 11 at sessive Rob Sheffield. (828 Broadway. 212-473-
5:15: Los Angeles Plays Itself. F Film Forum Its the final push before the summer lull. The 1452. June 6 at 7.)
Genre Is a Woman. June 3 at 12:30 and June 14 big auction houses are all offering sales of design
at 6:20: Wanda. F June 4 at 12:30: Dance, objects; at Sothebys, these fall on June 7, with Brooklyn Historical Society
Girl, Dance. F June 5 at 1:30: Two episodes a session devoted to twentieth-century pieces The scourge of poverty can feel static, for one,
from Thriller (1962, Ida Lupino). June 8 at from the Wyeth gallery, which is opening a new due to its abstract scale. Most people under-
12:30: Not Wanted (1949, Lupino). Metrograph showroom in Tribeca. The sale of watches on stand that large swaths of Americans live in
The films of Brian De Palma. June 1 at 4:30, 7, June 8 includes an irresistible musical snuffbox some state of need, but what this means in major
and 9:30: Mission: Impossible (1996). June that, when opened, reveals an elaborate scene in coastal cities differs greatly from its urgency in
2 at 4:30, 7, and 9:30: The Untouchables which a tiny mechanical wizard waves his wand the Midwest or the rural South. The Bloomberg
(1987). June 3 at 8:30: Sisters (1973). June 5 and nods his head as he casts his spells. Amer- Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins Uni-
at 3:30: Hi, Mom! F June 10 at 7: Dressed to ican art, including a group of items from the versity Kathryn Edin offers a sobering statistic
Kill (1980). Museum of Modern Art The films of collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, goes to help contextualize American hunger through
ILLUSTRATION BY PABLO AMARGO

Otto Preminger. June 2 at 1:30: In Harms Way under the gavel on June 9, followed by books on a common denominator: since 1996, the number
(1965). June 8 at 1:30: Skidoo (1968). Museum June 14the final sale of the season. (York Ave. of families in the United States living on two
of the Moving Image The films of Hong Sang- at 72nd St. 212-606-7000.) Christies holds a dollars a day has more than doubled. Edin co-
soo. June 3 at 7: Woman Is the Future of Man general sale devoted to design items on June 8, authored $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Noth-
(2004). June 5 at 7: Tale of Cinema (2005) and one of jewels and gemstonesled, as usual, ing in America, and discusses her books find-
and Lost in the Mountains (2009). June 10 at by massive diamondson June 9. (20 Rockefeller ings with Barbara J. Turk, the director of NYC
7: Woman on the Beach (2006). June 11 at 1: Plaza, at 49th St. 212-636-2000.) Phillips sale Food Policy, presented in conjunction with the
Like You Know It All (2009). June 11 at 3:30 of design items on June 9 focusses on one-of-a- exhibition Hidden in Plain Sight: Portraits of
and June 12 at 4: The Day He Arrives. F June kind objects, such as a fountain by Harry Bertoia Hunger in NYC. (128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.
12 at 7: Okis Movie (2010). that looks like a melting volcano, and a bench by 718-222-4111. June 7 at 6:30.)

32 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


FD & DRINK

TABLES FOR TWO and a beef tartare tossed with cubes of ripe
1
BAR TAB
Asian pear and generously drizzled with
Kang Ho Dong sesame oil (an unexpectedly refreshing pair-
Baekjeong ing). The main eventthere are only two
options, grilled pork or beefrequires a
1 E. 32nd St. (212-966-9839)
hanging tubular smoke vacuum that evokes
Standing in the frequently intermina- the tentacular appendage of a formidable
ble line outside this riotous barbecue joint, space machine. Underneath it, in the center
Yours Sincerely
a listless patron might nd herself staring of the table, is the grill, ringed by a bright- 41 Wilson Ave., Brooklyn (yourssincerely.co)
at the gargantuan face, sketched in cari- yellow moat, half corn and mozzarella, half
Are you a scientist or a businessman? a customer
cature, of a man perilously clinging to the whisked egg batter, which will bubble into of this Bushwick establishment asked the bartender
Empire State Building, one hand raised a creamy souffl alongside the meat. Darren Grenia, as he used an eyedropper to add a
with a thumbs-up, mouth agape in speech, One recent evening, three friends rst tincture of nutmeg into a Griffin beaker, finishing
off an H-Bomb. Its a fair question; Grenia is a
most likely in the act of hawking beef. chose the beef combo, which includes bris- co-owner of the bar, which brands itself as a cock-
Kang Ho Dong, the wrestler turned co- ket, seasoned short rib, and prime rib eye,
PHOTOGRAPH BY MEREDITH JENKS FOR THE NEW YORKER; ILLUSTRATION BY JOOST SWARTE

tail laboratory, where all drinks, even the pia


median turned restaurateur, whom the and, for good measure, an added order of colada, are on draft and served in lab flasks. It
would seem like the punkier stepsister of the Chi-
cartoon depicts, is an ubiquitous TV pres- beef tongue. The joy of Korean barbecue natown pharmacy-themed bote Apothke, except
ence in Korea, but in the U.S., where his lies in part in its performance: watching that this bar suffers none of the others pretension
image presides over outposts in Hawaii, ruby-red curls of brisket caramelize while (bouncer, no-sneakers policy). Its a neighborhood
joint, disguised as a gothic Victorian parlor room.
L.A., and Queens, his name is synony- translucent slices of Pringle-shaped tongue The taps are porcelain doll heads, which stare like
mous with slabs of marbled, melting meat. sizzle, crisp-edged and glinting. Facing the angelic witnesses to the evenings festivities.
Korean barbecue has never been for the multiplying mosaic of bowls and plates, Drinks take seconds to serve, so Grenia can helm
the bar alone, a fact that keeps prices down to
faint of stomach, but, consumed to the beat one friend moaned, The increasing quan- dangerously palatable levels. (Beer, four bucks;
of Gangnam Style, amidst baseball- tity of food seems to necessitate greater cocktails, eight.) Even so, the draft gimmick would
capped servers speed-walking in matching speed of consumption, as if all the plates be lazy if the offerings werent so damn good. The
menu is divided in two: carbonated beverages, like
tees, it becomes a marathon for which will disappear the second I stop eating! the Empirical Formula, an ideal ratio of gin and a
untrained appetites may be at a distinct They did not; the pork combo (inch-thick house-made tonic, bitter enough to bolt you up-
disadvantage. One might, for example, slabs of pork belly, jowl, and collar) arrived. right, and smooth cocktails, velvety with tiny bub-
bles. Grenia took two years to adapt the pressur-
overdose on the palate-cleansing banchan The richer meat paired well with the yuzu- ized-nitrogen technology, used originally for beer,
(gratis side dishes consisting of lime-and- soju cocktail, which tasted like grapefruit for these silken sips: the Raisin the Bar is a viscous,
beet-juice-pickled daikon, honey- marinated in spiked lemonade. I think earthy-sweet Manhattan, while the outstanding
Transmit the Box is laced with chipotle-infused
sweetened potato wedges, and silken tofu the alcohol helps me get a second wind, mezcal, whose delayed heat sparkles like fireworks.
steeped in soy and chili), wholly ignorant her companion said hopefully. In a mara- The cheeky annotated menu (im so fucking high
of the appetizers to follow. These could thon, its important to stay hydrated. (Bar- right now!) is the singular misstep of this bar,
which otherwise, blessedly, celebrates the idea that,
include a hearty seafood pancake (a smidge becue $24.99-$104.99.) even in the outer stretches of the L train, we have
too spongy for Paleo dieters, one suspects) Jiayang Fan finally outgrown irony.Becky Cooper

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 33


THE TALK OF THE TOWN
COMMENT
BILL PROBLEMS

T here is still time for both Clintons to solve the Hil-


lary Problem, the conservative columnist William Sare
bly still going to pick the owers and the china for state din-
ners and stuff like that, but would turn to her husband for
wrote in the Times in March, 1992, when Bill Clinton, the special missions, making him sound like a secret agent. A
Governor of Arkansas, was rst running for the Democratic couple of weeks ago, in Kentucky, during a discussion of Amer-
Presidential nomination. Sare was referring to the manner icas economic problems, she said, Ive told my husband hes
in which Hillary, an accomplished lawyer, presented herself got to come out of retirement and be in charge of this. A few
as someone who would reinvent the role of First Lady. Not days later, she pulled back, suggesting on Meet the Press that
everyonesaw this as a problem. Indeed, Hillary had already he wouldnt exactly be in charge of anything. At another stop
proved a solution, appearing with her husband on 60 Min- in Kentucky, she was asked if Bill would be given a position
utes after Gennifer Flowers, a former television reporter, had in her Cabineta question that arose about her in 1992. The
regaled a tabloid with stories of her affair with Bill. Im not answer, both times, was no.
sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like There are more questions about the jobs that Bill has
Tammy Wynette, Clinton said, adding that she loved her taken since leaving office. He has earned more than $132 mil-
husband and respected him, and if thats not enough for peo- lion in speaking fees, in addition to book royalties and other
ple, then heck, dont vote for him. Sare thought her com- income. (He has also raised money for the Bill, Hillary & Chel-
ments were a gaffe that would alienate women; others thought sea Clinton Foundation.) The Clintons most recent nan-
that the remarks would offend country-music fans. But her cial-disclosure forms show that he earned nearly $2.7 million
appearance was widely credited as the reason that Bill Clin- in fees for speaking to audiences that included nancial-indus-
ton nished a strong second in the New Hampshire primary, try rms, after she announced her candidacy. He had indicated
a result that made him the Comeback Kid. last May that this might be the case, saying, I gotta pay our
This time, Hillary is running for President, and Bill would bills. His most recent speech was on November 16th, two days
be the mold-breaking First Spouse. As such, his record is after the second Democratic debate.
back on the table, with all the triumphs (a booming econ- Bill Clinton can be a captivating speaker, but he can also
omy) that are acknowledged even by be an undisciplined one. Last week, in
his enemies and all the aws (the a restaurant in Santa Fe, he got into a
personal misjudgments) that are too half-hour argument about his welfare
familiar even to his friends. Now its and education programs with a twenty-
Hillary who has a Bill problem, both four-year-old Bernie Sanders sup-
because the question of his possible porter. Earlier, in Philadelphia, he had
future White House position is a fair an angry exchange with Black Lives
one and because her presumptive op- Matter supporters over the 1994 crime
ponent, Donald Trump, will certainly bill. It wasnt always clear whom Clin-
ILLUSTRATIONS BY TOM BACHTELL

raise it in ways that are deeply unfair. ton was defending; because Hillarys
The most urgent recommendation voice in her husbands Administration
that Sare offeredGet more specic was both strong and unofficial, sorting
about what role Hillary would play in out the credit and the blame can, at
your administrationis one that the times, require a thorough mastery of
Clintons need to follow now about nineties-era minutiae.
Bill. In a Democratic debate last De- That index includes the unedifying
cember, she said that she was proba- spectacle of Bill Clintons impeachment,
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 35
which grew out of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and a J.F.K. assassination. Trumps staff is reportedly assembling
sexual-harassment civil suit brought by an Arkansas state research on Whitewater (a real-estate quasi-scandal). He also
employee named Paula Jones. There are also serious alle- told the Washington Post that peoplenot him, mind you,
gations against Trump regarding the treatment of women. but some peoplethought the 1993 suicide of Vincent Fos-
His rst response, when challenged on them, is to cite Bills ter, who worked in the Clinton White House, was abso-
history, calling him an abuser and Hillary an enabler lutely a murder, and that it somehow involved the Clintons.
indictment by psychobabble. At least one allegation goes (Multiple investigations concluded denitively that Foster
beyond indelity. On May 18th, Sean Hannity interviewed killed himself.) There is no practical limit to what Trump
Trump onFox News and was reciting a litany of old com- might say to Hillary Clinton on a debate stage.
plaints about Clinton when Trump interrupted to say, And Bill Clinton circa 1992 was a bright and cheerful char-
rape. This was a reference to Juanita Broaddrick, who said acter. A lot has changed since then; he is not the presence
in an interview with NBCs Lisa Myers in 1999and again that he was, physically or politically. And Hillary is not
on Twitter this yearthat rape is the proper word for an Bill. But the lines between their public and private lives
encounter she had with Clinton in 1978, when she was a remain confusing, as evidenced in the dispute over her
nursing-home administrator. Some of her friends say she e-mails. It would be difficult for Hillary to ask voters to
described it that way at the time. Clintons lawyer has put all the problems in a box marked Bill and push it
strongly denied it on his behalf, and after all these years it aside. William Sare also advised, Stop dening yourself
is unadjudicatable. Nick Merrill, a Clinton-campaign press by what youre not. Her supporters may feel that in a race
secretary, called Trumps remark an attempt to distract vot- against Trump the contrast is enough, and as a matter of
ers and to drag America through the mud. He added, If principle they may be right. But insisting that allegations
thats the kind of campaign he wants to run thats his are old and tiredand that your opponent has done worse
choice. Unfortunately, that is the campaign that Trump may leave voters feeling exhausted. One of the dangers of
wants to run. this election is that Americans will become demoralized
Trump does not appear to be interested in the truth of and disaffected. They may even come to see politics as
what he alleges, whether it concerns Barack Obamas birth someone elses problem.
certicate or Ted Cruzs fathers supposed connection to the Amy Davidson

CUM LAUDE DEPT. court-martialled (more car theft, AWOL) his transcript, Teague, at the direction
ALWAYS COME BACK before he somehow managed to get of N.Y.U., signed up for pertinent
an honorable discharge. He aced his classes at U.C.L.A. and Santa Monica
high-school-equivalency test, got his College; for example, one in screen-
act together at N.Y.U., and went on to writing, which gave him an impetus
have a solid career. He directed some to workshop a stalled script, and an-
big features (Cujo, The Jewel of the other on foreign-lm history, which
Nile) and worked as the second-unit in some respects was a better course
ewis Teague, the lmmaker, director on many others (Death Race now than in 1963, because, thanks to
L dropped out of the New York Uni- 2000, The Big Red One). There was YouTube, you can actually watch all
versity undergraduate lm program in no Raging Bull among them, but it the lms.
1963. A short that hed shot, Its About was the big time, all the same. Like so And so it was that, one morning ear-
This Carpenter, had earned him an many, he has an unofficial degree from lier this month, Teague, age seventy-
N.Y.U. scholarship, some festival at- the school of Roger Corman. eight, joined the throngs of twenty-
tention, and a now-or-never offer from Still, for decades the failure to earn somethings converging on Radio City
Universal to go to Hollywood and work a real college degree gnawed at him. Music Hall in their purple caps and
on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. So He was a serial continuing-education gowns, for the ceremony celebrating
he bailed on school a semester short customer, taking classes in all manner the N.Y.U. Tisch School graduating
of a degree. He also relinquished the of subjects. A few years ago, he was class of 2016. He mustered beforehand
scholarship money, which was awarded teaching a lm course at U.C.L.A., and with some family and friends, for break-
instead to a classmate by the name of a professor from California Lutheran fast at a nearby coffee shop. He wore
Martin Scorsese. Teagues mentor, Haig University, who was consulting with slim-t black jeans, a tie, and a black
Manoogian, told him, You can always him on a screenplay, kidded him about corduroy jacket under his robe, and had
come back. his lack of a diploma. The professor a hearing aid, purplish bifocal shades,
Teague had matriculated at N.Y.U. decided to take up the cause. Over the and a sly its-all-gravy smile. He ate
late, after a tumultuous adolescence. course of several months, he badgered half a frittata. His guests were a cousin
Born in Brooklyn, he got kicked out N.Y.U.s administrators, who tried to named Seth; an L.A. friend named
of high school, in Washington Heights, explain that there is no such thing as Robin; a half sister named Victoria;
and did a stint in juvie for stealing cars. an honorary bachelors degree. That her daughter, Coral; and Corals son,
(We were only joyriding, he says now.) one you have to earn. Dylan. (Because Lewis went back
He enlisted in the Army and was twice Back to school, then. To round out to school, I decided to, too, Coral
36 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
said. She was studying massage ther- then brainstorms while taking a long The pair stared at the computers,
apy. Dylan was playing hooky.) shower. Often, all this showering makes swivelling their heads back and forth
Teague said, Now I gotta gure out Pharrell late. He is known for it. The as if they were watching tennis. The
what to do with the second half of my other day, in the Long Island City stu- phone buzzed again. Hes going to
life. Immediately after the ceremony, dio of the artist Daniel Arsham, a crowd be here in one minute! Arsham said.
anyway, he was taking them all to lunch of people were waiting for Pharrell. He Like, ish.
at City Lobster. Then he and Robin were was supposed to arrive at two-thirty. Around 4 P.M., Pharrell arrived,
going to see Patti Smith perform down- Arsham and the choreographer wearing gray Timberland boots, a green
town. Robin noted that Teague was still Jonah Bokaer, his frequent collabora- shearling-collared jacket, and a hat that
in school. He conrmed it: Pre-med at tor, sat facing three computers. Over- said PLANT. A pearl necklace dangled
U.C.L.A. Im studying immunology and head dangled a cloud made of Ping- around his neck, and a diamond-en-
molecular genetics. I like learning. Pong balls. The men were piecing crusted carabiner was clipped to his
It was time to graduate. He crossed together a new dance, Rules of the belt loop. He bowed his head politely
the avenue, leaving double takes in his Game, which premired at the Soluna
wake, and at Radio City was herded into Festival, in Dallas, and will be performed
a purple drove. He wondered if he was at BAMs Next Wave Festival, in Brook-
supposed to be somewhere special. Dont lyn, this fall. Arsham was contributing
they know who I think I am? he said. scenography, and Pharrell was writing
One of the Radio City ushers gave the score, to be adapted, for orchestra,
him a high ve. Not knowing anything by David Campbell. One screen showed
about him, she said, Im proud of you. dancers rehearsing, another Campbells
You never gave up. audio les; on the third was Arshams
Its been a long time, Teague said. video backdroprose-quartz casts of
I saw on TV the other day, this basketballs, microphones, and body parts
woman, a hundred years old, she won being shattered in slow motion.
a hundred-metre running race. Drumming his ngers on Arshams
Thats my next goal. forearm, Bokaer said, Were trying to
Downstairs, he waited to fall in line nd new ways to address these unusual
with the other lm-school grads. A rhythms, because thats really what this
few posed with him for pictures. They composers known forhis beats. He Pharrell Williams
may not have ever seen Cujo, but they went on, Theres so much attack in the
exuded a presumption of eminence. music, and so I thought, Well, maybe at each person he passed. He admired
Every single job I got in Hollywood we have them attack each other. The sculptures of footballs and the moon,
was based on knowing someone, dancers onscreen lunged and dodged. and said, Wow, wow. Someone asked
Teague told them. Heres a piece of Back in 2013, Arsham took a Casio him how long hed been in town. Its
advice: Dont try nding people who keyboard that Pharrell had played as a a blur, he said. Two days? Three days?
can help you. Find people you can help. child and cast it in volcanic ash; later, Im terrible with days and dates.
Recently, on a ight to Aspen for a he cast the singers entire body. When So lets get into it, Arsham said.
short-lm festival, Teague found him- he oated the idea of teaming up again Bokaer cued up a track that brought
self seated next to a young woman who for Rules of the Game, Pharrell was to mind Oscars play-off music until
turned out to be an N.Y.U. lm stu- intrigued. Hes never worked on any- Pharrells beat dropped in, and the three
dent. She said, Im graduating this thing related to dance in this way, said men bobbed their heads. Pharrell lis-
year. I said, So am I. Were having Arsham, who wore silver-rimmed tened with his mouth slightly open and
lunch tomorrow. glasses and a military jacket over a black his brow furrowed. His verdict:
Nick Paumgarten hoodie. He added, I mean, he certainly I can hear the drum loop under
1 knows how to dance. that one to start, he began softly. But,
THE MUSICAL LIFE Arshams phone buzzed. He scanned because those are congas and bongos,
WAITING FOR PHARRELL a text and said, I think theyre here it would be interesting to have it played
fteen minutes. It was three-thirty. live versus programmed, just because
He noted, Pharrells only an hour it puts morewhats the word? The
latethats miraculous. quantization, human quantization? Is
Onstage, the dancers will have real that the right word? Its, like, the human
basketballs painted to look like the feel. He continued, Theres some-
sculptures in the video. Arsham asked thing supermagical about us working
harrell Williams, the pop and Bokaer, Do the balls bounce ever? in concert. Like when a thousand sh
P hip-hop multi-hyphenate with the Well, the live symphony is a little swim in the right direction, seemingly
big hat, once sketched out his daily concerned about bouncing balls, Bo- not communicating. Theyre in synch.
routine for a reporter: he wakes at nine kaer, who had on a T-shirt that said And by having the orchestra play the
(without an alarm), thanks God, and Feel Good!, replied. percussion parts as well, it boosts that
38 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
being in therapy with him, Reiner said,
spooning up his berries. I learned how
to be his father. When Nick was born,
the doctor said, You got a squirmy one
here! We tried to mold him instead of
celebrating his oddballness. Why Im
really angry with myself is, when I make
a movie, I know that you get the best
Of course, we just call them necks. performance out of actors in different
ways. Some you push, some you let go.
But I didnt take that understanding to
the rehab process, because I was so
scared of losing him. It turned out that
thing that the machine just cant do. I couldnt even carry my own family! Nicks way was therapy, nding the right
He sat back and crossed his arms. (Nick Reiner, reached by phone later, psychopharmacological cocktail, and
Bokaer put on another track. said, I dont remember it as such a being closer to his parents. (Nick
Again, real drums, Pharrell said. movie scene.) Reiner said, I learned more about him,
Maybe marimbas or vibraphones? To The new lm Being Charlie, which and how he loved me, by seeing him in
give it a creamier texture. Reiner directed and Nick Reiner co- his element, doing what he loves most.)
The next song sampled a woman wrote, tells a version of the family tale Reiner asked the waitress for a lit-
speaking a foreign language, altered since then. An eighteen-year-old rich tle Splenda. As a kid, I used to think
so that it sounded like a spooky baby kid with drug problems named Char- there was something wrong with me,
beatboxing. lie (Nick Robinson) butts heads with because of how my parents dealt with
See, thats awesome, Pharrell said, his father (Cary Elwes)a famous actor me, he said. His mother was distant,
biting his lip. See what Im saying? It running for governor of California, who and his father, Carl, was famous. I
makes me sound smart. When you add parks Charlie in rehab, in part to keep started on the seafood diet: I see food,
the human element, it literally comes him out of the public eye. I eat it. It does ll up the emptiness
alive, you know? Because theres mil- Rob Reiner, trim and affable in char- insidebut only for a moment. I just
liseconds of, like, human lagging or coal-gray leisurewear that set off his turned sixty-nine, and only in the last
human rushing. more-salt-than-pepper beard, eyed the three or four years have I become com-
Arsham began, If its a computer menus caloric delights before order- fortable in my own skin, gotten to the
Pharrell completed his sentence: ing oatmeal and berries. Then, mur- point where I could make this movie.
Its just slightly too exact. muring in the nearly empty caf, he The room had lled, and Reiner
Emma Allen said that Nick had been in and out of leaned in to make himself heard: As
1 rehab from ages fteen to nineteen, in Nick learned that I wasnt evil, the fa-
BRAVE NEW WORLD DEPT. institutions from Montana to New Jer- ther character changed to become much
LIFE WITH FATHER sey. The experts told us to send him less of a one-dimensional asshole. We
away, to do the tough-love thing. It rewrote their scene at the end over and
went against every one of my instincts, over and over, until Nick nally came
but I played that roleeven though up with Charlies perfect line: I dont
Nick kept saying, These programs dont hate you. He didnt say, I love you, but
work for me! he did say, I dont hate you. Reiner
Nick met his co-writer, Matt Eliso- stared off. I used to have this man-
n 2006, Rob Reiner almost ran for fon, in rehab, and the two began tak- traKeep him alive until hes twenty-
I governor of California. Deep down, ing notes on their experience. Then ve. Thats when youre pretty much
the star of All in the Family and the they wrote a half-hour rehab comedy who you are. Hes twenty-two and a
director of The American President for TV, Reiner said. I read it and I half now, so . . . (Nick Reiner, amused
was a liberal policy wonk. Over break- said, Fellas . . . So they made it an hour but rm, said, I never liked him say-
fast at Cafe Cluny, in the West Vil- comedic drama. The networks read it ing that. Its just a rhyme, arbitrary and
lage, Reiner recalled what scuttled his and said, Fellas . . . Reiner continued, ridiculous.)
potential campaign against Arnold All along, I, for lack of a better way of Charlie, having grown up, decides
Schwarzenegger: We sat down as a coping, had been asking myself, What to do standupto make art of it all.
family to discuss it, the ve of us. can I do to make art of this? Now that Reiner laughed and said, Wouldnt it
Nickhis middle child, then twelve Nick was doing better, I told them, be funny if that was the answer for ev-
was friends with Patrick Schwarzeneg- Maybe we can make it a movie. eryone with addiction issues? Just be
ger, and he saw all the security detail The thorny tale doesnt feel like a a standup comedian! Youre on the road,
around, and he said, No, Dad! We wont traditional Rob Reiner lm, particu- youre alone, people boo youyoull
be able to go bike riding! So we voted larly when a cocky character O.D.s. be ne!
on me running, and I got forty per cent. Working on this with Nick was like Tad Friend
40 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
THE FINANCIAL PAGE of Kahneman and Tverskys work, though, is that people dont
LOSERS! look at their status objectively; they measure it relative to a
reference point, and for many Republicans that reference point
is a past time when they had more status and more economic
security. Even people who simply arent doing as well as they
expected to be doing, Kahneman argues, feel a sense of loss.
And people dont adapt their expectations to new circum-
hen Donald Trump appeared at the N.R.A.s recent stances. A study of loss aversion by the political scientist Jack
W national convention, he had a simple message: Hillary Levy concluded that, after losses, an individual will continue
Clinton wants to take away your guns. This was familiar to use the status quo ex ante as her reference point. Trumps
rhetorical ground: warning of dire losses has been the core of promise is precisely that hell return America to that status
Trumps campaign. Free trade means that were losing our jobs, quo ex ante. (I love the old days, he has said.) He tells his
were losing our money. Chinas trade practices amount to the supporters that he will help recoup their losses and safeguard
greatest theft in the history of the world. We need a wall to stop what they have.
illegal immigration because were losing so much. In Trumps The other surprising thing is that you might expect loss-
world, things are much worse than they seem, and its because averse voters to be leery of taking a risk on an unpredictable
American prosperity has been stolen: Were losing everything. outsider like Trump, since loss aversion often makes people
Trump is playing to one of the most powerful emotions cautious: offered the choice between ve hundred dollars
in our economic lifewhat behavioral and a fty per cent chance at a thou-
economists call loss aversion. The basic sand dollars or nothing, most people take
idea, which was pioneered by Daniel the sure thing. However, loss aversion
Kahneman and Amos Tversky, is that promotes caution only when people are
people feel the pain of losses much more considering gains; once people have sus-
than they feel the pleasure of gains. Em- tained losses, impulses change dramat-
pirical studies suggest that, in general, ically. Offered the choice between los-
losing is twice as painful as winning is ing ve hundred dollars and a fty per
enjoyable. So people will go to great cent chance of losing a thousand dollars
lengths to avoid losses, and to recover or nothing, most people prefer to gam-
what theyve lost. blethe opposite of what they did when
Trumps emphasis on losing is un- presented with the chance to win a thou-
usual: even in bleak times, American sand dollars. As one study puts it, Peo-
Presidential candidates tend to offer ple are willing to run huge risks to avert
optimistic messages. But it has worked or recover losses. In the real world, this
for him, because it resonates with what is why people hold falling stocks, hop-
many Republican voters already feel. ing for a rebound rather than cutting
A study by the Pew Research Center their losses, and its why they double
last fall found that seventy-nine per down after losing a bet. For Trumps vot-
cent of those who lean Republican believe that their side ers, the Obama years have felt like a disaster. Taking a yer
is losing politically. A Rand survey in January found that on Trump actually starts to feel sensible.
voters who believed that people like me dont have any say Historical parallels are always tendentious. But loss aver-
about what the government does were 86.5 per cent more sion has been instrumental in the success of authoritarian
likely to prefer Trump. Trump supporters feel that they, and movements around the world. The political scientist Kurt
the country, are losing economically, too. In the Rand sur- Weyland has argued that it played a crucial role in the rise of
vey, Trump did better with the people who were the most such regimes in Latin America, where the fear of Commu-
dissatised with their economic situation, and exit polls nism drove putatively democratic societies toward the radi-
from the Republican primaries show that almost seventy cal solution of strongman rule. Trump may not quite be an
per cent of those who voted for Trump said that they American Pern, but, to his supporters, his unpredictability
were very worried about the state of the economyas is a selling point rather than a aw. Hillary Clinton has re-
against only forty-ve per cent of all voters in Democratic cently been emphasizing what a risk Trump represents. Thats
primaries. ne when rallying the Democratic base and appealing to gen-
There are a couple of surprising things about all this. The uine independents. But it will only make Trump more pop-
rst is that, in objective terms, plenty of Trump supporters ular with those who already believe in him. When he says,
havent lost that much. Were familiar with Trumps appeal Were losing our country, it doesnt sound overwrought to
CHRISTOPH NIEMANN

among white working-class voters, many of whom truly have his supporters. It sounds like the truth. For them, Trump is
seen wages stagnate and jobs dry up. But the median Trump the long shot who may come in and give them back all that
voter is actually better educated and richer than the average they have lost.
American, as Nate Silver recently pointed out. A key point James Surowiecki

42 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


them at once, at the horizon point
where the long road that leads to the
next village meets the setting sun. And
we understood what they meant by
coming at this time. Sunset has, his-
torically, been a good time for the two
men, wherever they have arrived, for
at sunset we are all still together: the
women are only just back from the des-
ert, or the farms, or the city offices, or
the icy mountains, the children are
playing in dust near the chickens or in
the communal garden outside the tow-
ering apartment block, the boys are
lying in the shade of cashew trees, seek-
ing relief from the terrible heatif
they are not in a far colder country,
tagging the underside of a railway
bridgeand, most important, perhaps,
the teen-age girls are out in front of
their huts or houses, wearing their jeans
or their saris or their veils or their Lycra
miniskirts, cleaning or preparing food
or grinding meat or texting on their
phones. Depending. And the able-
bodied men are not yet back from wher-
ever they have been.
Night, too, has its advantages, and
no one can deny that the two men have
arrived in the middle of the night on
horseback, or barefoot, or clinging to
each other on a Suzuki scooter, or rid-
ing atop a commandeered government
jeep, therefore taking advantage of the
FICTION element of surprise. But darkness also
has its disadvantages, and because the

TWO MEN ARRIVE


two men always arrive in villages and
never in towns, if they come by night

IN A VILLAGE
they are almost always met with ab-
solute darkness, no matter where in
the world or their long history you
BY ZADIE SMITH may come across them. And in such
darkness you cannot be exactly sure
whose ankle it is you have hold of: a
crone, a wife, or a girl in the first flush
ometimes on horseback, some- town they will obviously arrive with of youth.
S times by foot, in a car or astride more men, and far more in the way of
motorbikes, occasionally in a tank suppliesthats simple common sense. t goes without saying that one of
having strayed far from the main pha- But when two men arrive in a village I the men is tall, rather handsome
lanxand every now and then from their only tools may be their own dark in a vulgar waya little dim and vi-
above, in helicopters. But if we look at or light hands, depending, though most cious, while the other man is shorter,
the largest possible picture, the longest often they will have in these hands a weasel-faced, and sly. This short, sly
view, we must admit that it is by foot blade of some kind, a spear, a long man leaned on the Coca-Cola hoard-
that they have mostly come, and so in sword, a dagger, a flick-knife, a ma- ing that marked the entrance to the
this sense, at least, our example is rep- chete, or just a couple of rusty old ra- village and raised a hand in friendly
resentative; in fact, it has the perfec- zors. Sometimes a gun. It has depended, greeting, while his companion took the
tion of parable. Two men arrive in a and continues to depend. What we can small stick that he had, up to that point,
village by foot, and always a village, say with surety is that when these two been chewing, threw it on the ground,
never a town. If two men arrive in a men arrived in the village we spotted and smiled. They could just as well
44 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD MOSSE
have been leaning on a lamppost and the plates of food for the two men, or,
chewing gum, and the smell of borscht as is the custom in our village, the sin-
could have been in the air, but in our gle bowl. This is good shit! the tall
village we do not make borschtwe handsome stupid one said, scooping
eat couscous and tilefish and that was up tilefish with his dirty fingers, and
the smell in the air, tilefish, which even the little sly one with the face of a rat
to this day we can hardly bear to smell said, Ah, my mother used to make it
because it reminds us of the day the like this, God rest her shitty old soul!
two men arrived in the village. And as they ate they bounced a girl
The tall one raised his hand in each on their laps while the older
friendly greeting. At which moment women pressed themselves against the
the cousin of the wife of the chief compound walls and wept.
who happened to be crossing the long
road that leads to the next village fter eating, and drinkingif it
felt she had no choice but to stop op- A is a village in which alcohol is per-
posite the tall man, his machete glo- mittedthe two men will take a walk
rious in the sun, and raise her hand, around, to see what is to be seen. This
though her whole arm shook as she is the time of stealing. The two men
did so. will always steal things, though for
The two men like to arrive in this some reason they do not like to use
manner, with a more or less friendly this word and, as they reach out for
greeting, and this might remind us of your watch or cigarettes or wallet or
the fact that all humans, no matter phone or daughter, the short one, in
what they do, like very much to be particular, will say solemn things like
liked, even if its for only an hour or Thank you for your gift or We ap-
so before they are feared or hated preciate the sacrifice you are making
or maybe it would be better to say that for the cause, though this will set the
they like the fear that they inspire to tall one laughing and thus ruin what-
be leavened with other things, such as ever dignified effect the short one was
desire or curiosity, even if, in the final trying to achieve. At some point, as
analysis, fear is always the greater part they move from home to home, tak-
of what they want. Food is cooked for ing whatever they please, a brave boy
them. We offer to make them food or will leap out from behind his mothers
else they demand it, depending. At skirts and try to overpower the short,
other times, on the fourteenth floor sly man. In our village this boy was a
of a derelict apartment building cov- fourteen-year-old we all used to call
ered in snowin which a village lives King Frog, owing to the fact that once,
verticallythe two men will squeeze when he was four or ve years old,
onto a familys sofa, in front of their somebody asked him who had the most
television, and watch the new govern- power in our village and he pointed to
ments broadcast, the new government a big ugly toad in the yard and said,
they have just established by coup, and Him, King Frog, and when asked
the two men will laugh at their new why explained, Because even my fa-
leader, marching up and down the pa- ther is afraid of him! At fourteen he
rade ground in that stupid hat, and as was brave but reckless, which was why
they laugh they will hold the oldest his wide-hipped mother had thought
girl watching television by her shoul- to tuck him behind her skirts as if he
der, in a supposedly comradely man- were a baby. But there is such a thing
ner but a little too tightly, while she as physical courage, real, persistent, very
weeps. (Arent we friends? the tall, hard to explain, existing in tiny pock-
dim man will ask her. Arent we all ets here, there, and everywhere, and
friends here?) though almost always useless it is still
This is one way they arrive, though something you dont easily forget once
they did not arrive that way here, we youve seen itlike a very beautiful
have no televisions here and no snow face or a giant mountain range, it sets
and have never lived above the level of a limit somehow on your own hopes
the ground. And yet the effect was the for yourselfand, sensing this, maybe,
same: the dread stillness and the antic- the tall dim one raised his gleaming
ipation. Another girl, younger, brought machete and, with the same fluid yet
46 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
effortless gesture with which you might lage, or the chief s wife, returned from
take the head off a flower, separated her sister-in-laws compound. Most will
the boy from his life. put a great emphasis on certain ques-
tionsWho were they? Who were
nce blood has been shed, espe- these men? What were their names?
Ocially such a quantity of blood, a What language did they speak? What
kind of wildness descends, a bloody chaos, marks were on their hands and faces?
into which all the formal gestures of wel- but in our village we are very fortunate
come and food and threat seem instantly to have no rigid bureaucrats but instead
to dissolve. More drink is generally taken the chief s wife, who is, when all is said
at this point, and what is and done, more of a chief to
strange is that the old men us than the chief has ever
in the villagewho, though been. She is tall and hand-
men, have no defensewill some and sly and courageous.
often now grab at the bot- She believes in the ga hara-
tles themselves, drinking mata, that wind which blows
deeply and weeping, for you here hot, here cold, depend-
need courage not only to ing, and which everybody
commit bloody chaos but also breathes inyou cannot help
to sit by and watch it hap- but breathe it inthough
pen. But the women! How only some will breathe out
proud we are, in retrospect, of our women, in bloody chaos. For her such people be-
who stood in formation, arms linked the come nothing more than ga haramata,
one to the next, in a ring around our they lose themselves, their names and
girls, as the tall, dim man became agi- faces, and can no longer claim merely to
tated and spat on the floorWhats bring the whirlwind, they are that wind.
wrong with these bitches? Waiting is This is of course a metaphor. But she
over. Any longer and Ill be too drunk! lives by it. She went straight to the girls
and the short, sly one stroked the face and asked for their account and found
of the chief s wifes cousin (the chief s one who, encouraged by the sympathetic
wife was in the next village, visiting fam- manner of the chief s wife, told her story
ily) and spoke in low, conspiratorial tones in full, the end of which was the most
of the coming babies of the revolution. strange, for the short, sly one had thought
We understand that women stood so in himself in love and, afterward, laying his
ancient times, beside white stone and sweaty head on this girls bare chest, had
blue seas, and more recently in the vil- told her that he, too, was an orphan
lages of the elephant god and in many though it was harder for him, for he had
other places, old and new. Still, there was been an orphan for many years rather
something especially moving about the than mere hoursand that he had a
pointless courage of our women at that name and a life and was not just a mon-
moment, though it could not keep two ster but a boy who had suffered as all
men from arriving in the village and men suffer, and had seen horror and
doing their worstit never has and never wanted now only to have babies with
willand yet there came that brief mo- this girl from our village, many boy ba-
ment when the tall, dim one seemed bies, strong and beautiful, and girls, too,
cowed and unsure, as if the woman now yes, why not girls! And live far from all
spitting at him were his own mother, villages and towns, with this army of
which passed soon enough when the children encircling and protecting the
short, sly one kicked the spitting woman couple all their days. He wanted me to
in her groin and the formation broke know his name! the girl exclaimed, still
and bloody chaos found no more ob- stunned by the idea. He had no shame!
struction to its usual plans. He said he did not want to think that
he had passed through my village, through
he next day the story of what my body, without anybody caring what
T happened is retold, in partial, bro- he was called. It is probably not his real
ken versions that change depending very name but he said his name was
much on who is asking: a soldier, a hus- But our chief s wife stood up sud-
band, a woman with a clipboard, a mor- denly, left the room, and walked out
bidly curious visitor from the next vil- into the yard.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 47
affected me most is one I came across when I was ten or
CHILDHOOD READING eleven years old and about which I know almost nothing.
I havent read it. And, notwithstanding the many attempts

THE BOOK
I have made to nd it, I have failed to learn so much as its
title or the name of its author.
It was one of those afternoons when our house in Cairo
BY HISHAM MATAR was full of exiled Libyan political dissidents, as it often was
in those days, and so there was no nap after lunch. Instead,
we gathered in a large cluster in the living room and rounds
of fruit, tea, and coffee punctuated the lazy conversation.
Time seemed endless. The book was on the coffee table,
amid all the plates and cups and ashtrays. I remember that
it had a plain white cover, with no illustration.
The guest who had brought the book as a gift for my
father had clearly forgotten that my father had recom-
mended it to him some time before. And Father, not want-
ing to disappoint his guest, did not let on that he had al-
ready read it. Its funny to me now that I should remember
this social nicety. Perhaps it was the quality of my fathers
silence, which, of course, made the guest all the more eager
to communicate his appreciation for the book. He picked
it up and started reading aloud. I felt the effect of the words
reverberate around the room, making even the furniture, it
seemed, stir with inner life. My father is not here for me
to ask him about that afternoon. So perhaps I am mistaken,
perhaps Father did not know the book at all, and his si-
lence had nothing to do with politeness but, rather, was his
response to the text.
I dont remember what the passages read aloud were
about, exactly. What I do remember is that they relayed the
intimate thoughts of a man, one suffering from an unkind
or shameful emotion, such as fear or jealousy or cowardice,
feelings that are complicated to admit to, particularly for a
man. But the honesty of the writing, its ability to capture
such uid and vague adjustments, was in itself brave and
generous, the opposite of the emotion being described. I
also remember being lled with wonder at the way words
could be so precise and patient, illustrating, as they pro-
y earliest memory of books is not of reading but gressed, what even the boy I was then somehow knew: that
M of being read to. I spent hours listening, watching the there exists at once a tragic and marvellous distance be-
face of the person reading aloud to me. Sometimes I rested tween consciousness and reality.
my head on the chest or the stomach of the reader and Given the books that had been read to me, this couldnt
could feel the resonance of each vowel and consonant. I en- have been the rst time that I encountered such writing,
countered many books this way: One Thousand and One but, for some reason, on this occasion I registered its full
Nights; the mischievous and brilliant writings of al-Jahiz; impact on me. What struck me, too, was the new silence
the poetry of Ahmed Shawqi and his peers from the pe- that the passages left in their wake. They created, at least
riod of al-Nahda, the Arabic literary renaissance that took temporarily, among these political men, who seemed to me
place at the turn of the twentieth century; several books on to function under the solid weight of certainty, a resonant
the lives of the Sahabah; and the works of a long line of moment of doubt. I felt excited, joyful, and melancholy all
historians who tried to explain how and why a war or an at once.
epoch had started or ended. It never occurred to me then This is perhaps why that mysterious book, according to
to question why there were hardly any books for children the logic of my memory, has fathered every other book I
in the house; none that I can remember, anyway. have read since. Even the great books that I return to, as
It is strange to me, now that I am in my mid-forties, one does to a favorite landscape, seem indebted, no matter
after a lifetime of passionate affairs with bookssome, I how fugitively, to that unknown and unknowable book.
GRARD DUBOIS

later realized, undeserving of my youthful fervor, a few that Every word I have written has been propelled by an enthu-
I encountered at the wrong moment, and plenty of others siasm rooted in that afternoon so long ago, when I was a
that still light up rooms inside mein two tremendous boy and didnt yet know that I needed books at all. Perhaps
languages, Arabic and English, that the book that has the book has been more useful to me lost than found.
48 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
exhausted, had said, ne, ne, so long
as Elena agreed to hang them at the un-
usual heights Sonia preferred. Agreed.
But now Soniajumping out of the
bed shed barely slept in for a week,
struggling into her jeans while sum-
moning another Uberdecided that
this small concession compromised,
in fact ruined, totally destroyed, the
tone of the show, rendering it all the-
atrical, self-congratulatory, trendy,
cheap. It said, Look at me asserting
the value of painting in an era char-
acterized by the abstract perfection of
new media; it said, Look at how cut-
ting edge my old-fashionedness is.
(Sonia thought these things in Polish
as the car sped up Tenth Avenue; she
always reverted to Polish when she
was exhausted, and if she thought in
Polish she was sure to dream in it,
which meant that, sooner rather than
later, Katrin would appear.)
When she saw Sonia push open the
glass gallery doors, Elena cursed audi-
bly, then walked, smiling, with deliber-
ate slowness, toward her. Elena put her
hands on the painters shoulders and said
to her in Italian, to which Elena reverted
in moments of frustration, Love, its
nished, the show is up and looks won-
derful; go back home and get some sleep
as we agreed. Sonia had lived for two
years in Rome, had learned to draw there,
sketching bodies and fruit in an acad-
emy beside the Tiber, but, not only did
Sonia fail to understand Elenas Ital-
FICTION ian, she failed to understand that it was
Italian, and the depth of the incompre-

THE POLISH RIDER


hension in Sonias eyes alarmed the gal-
lerist, who cared more about Sonia, ul-
timately, than she cared about the show.
BY BEN LERNER Elena asked the assistant texting behind
the high desk to bring Sonia some water
and one of the folding chairs they kept
around for rich or inrm visitors. Sonia
he show was up, installation com- Sonia always wakes before she can re- let herself be settled into the chair,
T plete, the opening was the next ceivethat shed made a terrible mis- drained the plastic wine cup (all the as-
night, shed fought her last obligatory take. She had been wrong to concede sistant could nd), and then stated, with-
battles with her gallerist, Elena, about what had at rst seemed a minor point: out argument or explanation, The sides
placement and press release, theyd that the paint on the sides of two of must be blank. (Blank wasnt quite the
made up over a drink, shed taken an the ten canvasesincidental ecks word, Sonia felt, but it was the closest
Uber she couldnt afford from Chel- and smudgeswould remain, whereas English term she could muster.) Ill take
sea back to the Lower East Side apart- all the other sides had been cleaned them back and clean them and then the
ment she couldnt afford to get some up, overpainted white. Elena thought show is nished, I swear. Elena thought
sleep, only to realizejust as shed the little traces of production contrasted for a second, ngering the malachite
drifted off into the dream in which nicely with the general immaculacy of pendant she always wore, and said, O.K.,
her mentor, Katrin, arrives unan- the paintings, that this emphasized O.K., have some more water, and soon
nounced from Krakw, bearing news their handmade quality, and Sonia, the two paintings were in a black leather
50 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 ILLUSTRATION BY BEN WISEMAN
portfolio case next to Sonia in an Uber post-historical touch, although Sonia its data were safe, that Ubers informa-
heading downtown, where she would x was both citing and reversing that con- tion about userscredit-card numbers,
the sides, then Uber them back up. dition, as her own paintings were any- obviously, but also travel history, real-
thing but instant, anything but digital: time locationswas being properly
very painting in Sonias show de- the painstaking, patient execution of protected. And all this made it harder
E picted the same thing: the famous her canvases was one of their most no- for us to gure out how to get Uber to
kiss between Erich Honecker, the leader table features. And then my essay took divulge the identity and the destination
of the German Democratic Republic up the ways in which the different di- of the passenger subsequent to Sonia.
from 1971 until the fall of the Berlin mensions of the canvases affected the When I showed up at her apartment,
Wall, and Leonid Brezhnev, the head status of the kiss they depicted: the mon- sweating, despite the cool early-spring
of the U.S.S.R. from 1964 to 1982. The umental canvases evoked a discourse of weather, because Id biked across the
iconic socialist fraternal kiss took place socialist-realist heroism, propaganda, or Manhattan Bridge, Sonia was laughing
in Berlin, was photographed by Rgis and crying at the same time, saying, Its
Bossu in 1979, the year of Sonias birth Elenas fault, she made me drink all that
and mine, and circulated around the water, so I had to pee, so I rushed out
world as a symbol of the Eastern Bloc. of the car, forgetting the paintings.
A two-page spread in Paris Match, etc. When she nally stopped pacing and
The enthusiasm of the kissers, a trace sat down in her apartments one com-
of erotic excess, added to its fascina- fortable chair, I went to the refrigerator
tion. Growing up in Krakw, Sonia had in the kitchenette to get her something
often seen the photograph, but what to eat. (Besides the white leather arm-
she remembers more clearly is its sec- chair, miraculously unstained by paint
ond life: after the Berlin Wall came the dimensions of its parody on the Ber- or adhesive, and besides paintings and
down, the Soviet artist Dmitri Vrubel lin Wall; the two smaller canvases (the materials related to painting, the studio
painted the image on the East side of two with the dirty sides)twenty by was furnished with only a low bed, a
the wall with the caption (in Russian) sixteen inches, a size more commonly mismatched dining-room set shed found
God help me to survive this deadly associated with portraitsmade the kiss on the street, and a standing desk.) The
love affair, transforming the iconic feel intimate, depoliticized. refrigerator was empty save for butter
image of the Eastern Bloc into an iconic It concluded, the essay I mean, with and condiments and leftovers of inde-
image of its collapse. In March, 2009, a dialogue between Sonia and me about terminate age. I opened the cupboard
the fading, aking painting was removed the different resonances these images and found a package of candied walnuts
by the authorities, although Vrubel then have for usshe was ten in Krakw that had probably formed part of some
remade it with more durable paints, an when the Wall came down; I was ten holiday basket from Krakw, struggled
event that disgusted Sonia, who saw it in Topekaand the degree to which with the ribbon and cellophane before
as de-historicizing, spectacularizing, our respective senses of art history and opening it with my teeth, then emptied
cheapening. I said every painting in her politics are marked by her having been the package into a bowl and took it to
show depicted the same thing, but thats raised behind the Iron Curtain, my her, instructed her to eat. She nodded
not really right. Did a particular paint- having been raised in the American mechanically and began to chew while
ing of Sonias depict the actual kiss? heartland, and what all that means now I woke her computer and Googled uber
The photograph of the kiss? The paint- that new versions of the right are on manhattan office.
ing of the photograph of the kiss? Or the rise in both places and new imag- Sonia had realized immediately that
was she painting the repainting of the inations of the left are urgently required, shed forgotten the paintings in the car,
painting of the photograph of the kiss? now that all the nineteen-nineties talk realized it before she took out her keys
The canvases were, as always with of the end of history is history. Elena to open her buildings door. She ran after
Sonias work, meticulously composed, had asked if we would read an excerpt the Uber, screaming for it to stop, until
but each was composed in a different from that part of the essay at the gal- it had turned off her street toward
historical style. One canvas depicted the lery during the opening, then have a Delancey. Willing her hands not to shake,
kiss abstracted into Cubist shapes and kind of public conversation, and, to my she located the drivers information on
volumes, another was Caravaggesque in surprise, Sonia had said yes. the apphis name was Kashif, the phone
its chiaroscuro (the kiss of Judas?), an- told her; his average rating was ve
other involved a mixture of verisimili- ber was trying to reassure the starsand called him, too out of breath
tude and blur that recalled Gerhard U public that its drivers were prop- at rst to speak, but soon yelling, I need
Richter, and so on. In my essay for the erly vetted. There had been rapes and you to come here now, now. Kashif had
show I likened the series of styles to all murders; in fact, a few days before Sonia assured her that he would be right there,
the iPhone photographic effects and left the two paintings in the car, a driver was a minute away, although she also
lters, how you can choose transfer or in Michigan had shot and killed six said that he had an accent that was diffi-
instant or whatever, all these images people, apparently at random, and be- cult for her to understand.
of process detached from actual pro- tween fares, if they still say fares. Uber It turned out that Kashif had thought
cesses and now made available at a was also trying to convince the public she was the next passenger, not the
52 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
previous one, and so had hurried to a point, to wander the nearby streets, offices, which happened to be in Chel-
new address, which neither he nor the vaguely hoping to encounter someone sea, only a few blocks from the gallery
company would reveal, to pick up a per- carrying her case. Near the corner of (this was the fth time that day Sonia
son whose identity the company felt Bowery and Broome she saw herself had been conveyed up or down a West
obliged to protect, to drop him or her off reected in the window of a restau- Side avenue), told us, when he dis-
at an undisclosable destination. That per- rant-supply store and was startled by cerned from our conversation where
son must have taken the paintings be- the image of her own desperation, which we were going, about the fteen sec-
cause, by the time Sonia got through to was when she texted me. ond rule. The problem with Uber isnt
Kashif again, by the time hed come back Eventually, she started checking just that Uber drivers are shit (mur-
to her building, on Hester, the paintings dumpsters and alleys to see if some- derers, rapists), and are also (though
were gone. (As far as Sonia was con- one had discarded the paintings, per- who really cares) treated like shit by
cerned, Kashif himself was beyond sus- haps wanting only the leather port- Uber, and that surge pricing means
picionhe hadnt been aware of the folio case. Near Chrystie Street, she that passengers are gouged whenever
paintings at all until she explained to him stepped on a rat; I heard it scream, there is a lot of traffic or precipitation
what had happened.) I quite literally then it laughed at me. Cold, dizzy, de- or a natural disaster (How much you
was on my knees here on the pavement, spairing, she nally sat down on one think theyll charge during the next
Sonia told me. She begged him to take of the benches at Sara D. Roosevelt hurricane?), and that Uber is run by
her to wherever hed just come from, but Park. Two kids were play ghting, wres- a bunch of assholes who use private
he refused, just repeated apologetically, tling on the soccer eld, one in a puffy data to harass their enemies; no, the
as he tried to get her to stand upa pass- red jacket, the other in a puffy blue worst thing about Uber, Miguel said,
ing teen-ager had stopped to lm them jacket. No, they were really ghting. is the fteen-second rule, which is put-
on her phonethat she had to call the No: play ghting. She couldnt decide. ting all our lives at risk. At a red light
office, Im so sorry there are rules. on the corner of Twenty- third and
From the speed with which Kashif he yellow-cab driverthe Seventh, Miguel found my eyes in the
had returned to Sonias, shed inferred T identication card in the bullet- rearview mirror, then explained to them
her paintings must be quite near her proof partition between front and back that, when a driver gets a request from
apartment, and this inspired Sonia, who seats said his name was Miguel de a customer, the driver has approxi-
was probably a little feverish at this Arcowho drove us to the Uber mately fteen seconds to tap the phone
and accept the request, and this means
that the already shitty Uber drivers are
hurriedly trying to negotiate requests,
paying no attention to the road. Its
like everything else, he said, as the
light changed.
The Uber offices felt like a pop-up
store (corporate capitalisms perverted
image of the refugee camp, the tent
city), like offices established eetingly
in somebody elses space. Everything
seemed designed for quick disassem-
bly, desks and shelves composed of
white particleboard, black laminated
melamine. Each person we spoke to
possessed only the power to refer us to
another person of equal or greater pow-
erlessness until we found ourselves fac-
ing a manager named Mike, who looked
fteen, his blond hair long and angu-
lar on top, the sides of his head freshly
shaved. Mike had the authority to tell
us with nality that there was nothing
anyone could do, although he under-
stood how valuable the paintings were,
and he was sorry for our loss, an apol-
ogy that prompted a strange speech
from Sonia, which I hurried to inter-
rupt, about how the paintings were
worthless, perfectly worthless, but
For the last timeI cant Rapture you out to the Hamptons. how that made it even more important
that she get them back before the open-
ing the following evening.
In the intervals between Uber rep-
resentatives, Id been thinking about
Taxi, the TV series. I thought rst of
Latka, Andy Kaufmans immigrant
character from some unspecied East-
ern European country, and how Sonias
disordered speech was going to start
approaching Latka levels of unintelli-
gibility soon. Then I summoned Louie,
played by Danny DeVito, the abusive
dispatcher, and considered how much
easier our search would be if we were
interacting with Louie, how much more
humaneor at least humanhis nas-
tiness was than this Kafkaesque chain
of politely ineffectual customer reps. I
wondered what the taxi garage in the
establishing shot of the show had been
turned intocondos, Chase, or Duane
Reade? Then I realized how ridiculous
it was that my nostalgia for a previous
mode of labor and travel was actually
nostalgia for an earlier moment of TV,
and the image of New York it had broad-
cast to me in Topeka in the form of re-
runs I watched with my dad, who looks
a little like Judd Hirsch. (I asked Sonia
if shed ever seen Taxi. Yes, she said.
De Niro. She pretended to produce
a gun from her sleeve.) By the time
Mike was before us, smiling, my head
was empty except for Taxi s melan-
choly theme song, composed the year
before Honecker and Brezhnev kissed,
before Sonia and I were born, and I
thought that the tone of that theme
song, the range of feeling it could hold,
was wider and deeper and messier
around the edges than anything one
heard on television now, although I
didnt watch enough television to know.
In fact, wasnt television supposed to
be better than ever before? Wasnt I al-
ways envying the HBO miniseries, its
ability to depict systems?
Mike explainedor, more accu-
rately, recitedUbers privacy policy:
Uber does not provide contact infor-
mation about other riders under any
circumstances. We asked him, as we
had asked everyone else, if someone
could contact the subsequent rider
without disclosing any data and ask
him or her for information about the
paintings, maybe offer a reward? What,
Sonia asked, if the passenger didnt steal
the paintings but took them only with
the hope of returning them to their Impressionism (Czanne: Frenhofer, her legs werent shackled, but she was
rightful owner? We werent asking the c e st moi). But, second, I said, as we dragging her bare feettoward a desk at
company to accuse anyone of any- passed the new Whitney, which loomed, the back of the room. (The metal desks
thing. Im sorry, we just cant do that, in the advancing twilight, like a beached here were bolted to the oor, the oppo-
Mike said, but if the passenger reaches ocean liner made of steel and glass, these site of Ubers modularity.)
out to uswe kept hearing varia- stories are really opportunities for the Could you scare Mike into help-
tions on the phrase reach out at Uber: authors to assert the superiority of their own ing? Sonia asked.
thanks for reaching out; let me just art, of literature, over painting. Jamess Who is Mike? Kingdom asked.
reach out here to a colleague; etc. or Balzacs words can describe paintings Mike is the manager of Ubers Man-
well let you know immediately. I the crazy artists cant actually paint, hattan office, I said.
asked Mike if to his knowl- or intuit canvases that were Scare him how? It wouldnt do any-
edge such information had as of yet unpainted, unpaint- thing, Kingdom said. Then he had an
ever been shared and he said able. And isnt it really true idea: I could try scaring the driver.
maybe, if the police were of all ekphrastic literature, What do you mean? I asked.
involved, if theres a sub- ction and poetry, that even Kashif ? Sonia asked, as if she and
poena, although he wasnt when it claims to be describ- Kashif were old friends.
personally sure, was just ing or praising a work of vi- I call up the driver and Im just like,
speculating, and so, because sual art it is in fact asserting Sergeant Kingdom here, from the Sev-
we couldnt think of any- its own superiority? enth. Were investigating a theft. I dont
thing else to do, we left the Your students are very make any actual threats.
offices and hailed a cab lucky, Sonia said atly, Its in my name, the woman sobbed.
downtown to the Seventh Precinct, as she received and responded to a I looked at Sonia. I could see her
on the Lower East Side. text. I couldnt tell if she was making weighing the best chance she had to re-
As we headed south on the West Side fun of me. cover her paintings against the prospect
Highway, Sonia pointed out the clouds of asking the police to harass an immi-
over the Hudson, the vermillion they ergeant Kingdom (would I make grant driver who was just following the
were turning in the sunset (like blood S that up?) was, to our surprise, sym- rules. (Somehow, it occurred to me only
in cotton), and since it was the rst pathetic; we sat at his desk drinking the now to wonder whether, as a policy, Uber
thing she had said that wasnt about the undrinkable coffee he offered us, trying should reveal the number or address of a
lost paintings, I thought it was a good to gure out if there was any way to passenger; probably not. But what if Sonia
time to introduce the idea that we might compel Uber to help. At rst, I thought had left, en route to the hospital, a kid-
not recover them, by which I meant Kingdom was motivated only by the ney or a pair of corneas in a cooler of ice?
there was no way we were going to. She novelty of an attractive foreign painter Was it just that I didnt sufficiently value
nodded but didnt speak, and I started going on about lost art, then I thought paintings?) And I wondered, as I looked
to talkjust to ll the air, reallyabout he was probably just avoiding more tax- at the list of fallen heroesa plaque
the stories I love that involve ruined ing work, as there wasnt going to be was affixed to the red brick wall behind
paintings or missing paintings or un- anything actionable about our case (we Kingdomif and how our thinking about
made paintings. Henry Jamess The couldnt even decide if we were report- police power and surveillance were differ-
Madonna of the Future, for instance, ing a theft), but, as we talked, the source ent, she having been born behind the Iron
in which Theobald, who has been work- of his solicitude became clear to me: ha- Curtain, I hailing from the heartland, both
ing on his masterpiece for decades, turns tred of Uber. First of all, he explained, of us living in what was, for more and
out to have produced nothing (while his they hire rapists and murderers. Second more of the population, a police state now.
model aged), a blank canvas. Or the Bal- of all, every other day somebody comes As Kingdom and I waited for Sonias
zac story The Unknown Masterpiece, in desperately seeking valuables theyve response, I thought about how the miss-
to which Sonia introduced me, and left in a car and Uber almost never helps. ing paintings were undergoing change
which, unlike me, she could read in And theyre assholes on the phone. And as we chased them. The paintings would
French: the painter Frenhofer overworks whats next, Kingdom wondered, a cop be different in some essential sense if we
his masterpiece until the canvas is just app? Anybody who wants to be a cop found them discarded in an alley or hang-
a vortex of color in which a single bare just gets a gun and a smartphone and ing reverently in someones home. I mean
foot is legible. There are two things, I waits for a text? that the story attached to the paintings
said to Sonia, who had leaned her fore- And the fteen-second rule, I said. would inect them conceptually from
head against the window, whose eyes Exactly, he said, emptying a third now on, at least for us: if Sergeant King-
might have been shut, that intrigue me packet of Splenda into his coffee. dom frightened a member of a heavily
about these stories in particular: rst, Its like everything else, Sonia said. surveilled population into yielding in-
how these failed paintings seem to an- Exactly, he said. formation that led to the paintings re-
ticipate modern artTheobalds white We were interrupted by a woman covery, then the paintings would depict
canvas, as various people have noted, screaming, The lease, my name is on the false fraternity propped up by secret po-
is like a Robert Ryman; Frenhofers lease, and then something in Portuguese, lice; if some benevolent stranger returned
messy canvas a premonition of Post- as she was hauledshe was handcuffed; them through Uber, then the kiss would
56 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
have a new glimmer of sociality, at least rect line to the passenger. Whats more,
suggest the possibility of communal spirit the driver receives only a building num-
instead of its evacuated image. ber, not an apartment number (although
This is all part of the artistic process Uber no doubt has access to it through
now, I told Sonia back at her apartment, the credit-card billing address). Rush-
warming to the notion as the chilled ing over from Sonias, wed felt, giddily,
vodka hit my bloodstream. We should that recovery of the paintings was, if
think of all this as part of the work, not assured, within reach. That must
incorporate it, make a project of track- have been the exhaustion and the vodka;
ing the paintings as they disappear from there are seventy-one units, I reported,
the gallery system into the urban grid, Googling the building on my phone as
into Ubers network and its regulations, we stood before it. Five oors. Built in
into the Seventh Precinct, into whoev- 1906. On average, forty-nine dollars per
ers possession. (I swallowed some can- square foot. A faint rain was falling.
died walnuts.) Systems that cant com- Seventy-one apartments to buzz, in
municate, can only kiss. Lets bring all order to say, via the crackling intercom
that into the show, the old medium of at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, some
painting dissolving, via the new, via the version of: Hi, did you steal the paint-
fteen-second rule, into our networked ings I left in an Uber and can I have
but deeply atomistic world. them back? (Why we felt condent
(I was always reading about what had the paintings were in the building I
been described as an anthropological cant really saybut we did, both of
turn in the art world, a turn to narra- us.) We entered the vestibule and looked
tive and ethnography of various impro- at the tall panel of buzzers. I was about
vised sorts. If Sonia had staged this whole to suggest to Sonia that we leave when
thing in order to make an iPhone doc- she pressed 1-A; instead of a voice on
umentary or a piece of invisible theatre, the intercom, we heard the interior door
it would have been much more of its buzz and we walked in. There was a se-
moment than any actual painting.) curity guard behind a desk, a sign-in
But we didnt document anything, sheet on a clipboard, but the guard didnt
she said. look up from her phone. We stood for
Im a writer, I said. Ekphrastic a minute trying to gure out if 1-A was
literature. to the east or west. There was a large,
You already wrote the essay for the generic Chinese landscape painting on
show. the lobby wallmist, mountain, pa-
And now Ill delete the essay, over- godaand under it there was a fold-
paint it, and the story becomes part of ing table on which some childrens toys
the show, the canvases themselves un- and used books were stacked, presum-
nished masterpieces, Madonnas of the ably left there for the taking.
future. Of the Uber. Weve always wanted Two disorienting things happened
to do a collaboration. in rapid succession. First, I recognized
You are sweet, Sonia said, text- the landscape, or, rather, recognized,
ing again. Or sexist. But I want the via the landscape, the building: this, I
paintings. remembered, was where I had met, at
I know, but were not getting them. an unauthorized rooftop party on the
Surely she knew that? Certainly not Fourth of July several years ago (wil-
by tomorrow at six. lows of sparks over the East River; cloy-
But I have the address, she said, ing rum punch), the young curator who
smiling, holding up her phone. Kashif had introduced me to a woman named
sent it to me. Liz, with whom I became friends, and
through whom I was introduced to
hen an Uber driver accepts your Soniaso this building into which her
W request within the allotted fteen paintings had disappeared was linked
seconds, he never sees your phone num- to the origin of our relationship. Then,
berthe app distorts it so he can con- before I could explain this coincidence
tact you or take your call without hav- to Sonia, I saw that one of the books
ing access to the actual digits. Which on the folding table was mine, or, more
meant that Kashif, even if hed wanted accurately, less dramatically, that there
to, couldnt have provided us with a di- was an edited volume called Late Art,
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 57
to which Id contributed a chapter. But reproduce, transmitare indestructi- Police they cannot help can I have
still: our semi-sane quest to recover So- ble. No pigeons are going to shit on the artists. Sorry I mean the address.
nias work had not only returned us to them, or, rather, when the pigeons do Sonia I know you are a good per-
an important place in the prehistory shit on a particular copy it doesnt mat- son so I will tell you it is 203 Riving-
of our friendship but had brought us ter; nobody is going to leave the only ton between Pitt/Ridge thats all I have
into contact with my work, a strange Sonnet 55 in a car. (I know the list of to give you.
synchronicity that suddenly lent the lost books is long, that texts can suffer Thank you thank you (smiley face)
building a sinister feel, as if wed been something other than literal decay; I can you tell me if it the rider was man
entrapped by a person we believed wed know many artists these days work with woman white asian latino black.
been pursuing. (I thought of The Shin- materials less material than text; I know
ing, the Overlook Hotel. Had The endurance isnt necessarily the goal; I have never composed anything at
Shining been available in eighties Po- know that Im not Shakespeare, that I a standing desk before; to be on my
land? When I was exhausted, I reverted this doesnt rhyme. Still: I felt litera- feet makes me feel a little like a painter.
not to a European language but, rather, tures lack of actuality relative to the I brewed some Bustelo in Sonias stove-
to Cold War TV and cinema.) plastic arts as a power, not a weakness, top espresso machine. She is asleep.
I picked up the somewhat warped and that was new for me.) When she wakes up, shes going to knock
copy of Late Art and ipped to my We could hear the TV inside the on the door of seventy apartments while
essay; the highlighting and marginalia apartment. Sonia knocked, and the door I go on writing thiswriting under the
(and fact that it had been discarded) opened to reveal a confused twenty- assumption that she wont get the paint-
suggested it had been a college text- something man in Lycra sportswear ings back. Surely their recovery is highly
book. I showed the rst page of my who smelled of sweat and, vaguely, of improbable, if not impossible. This will
essay, showed my name, to Sonia, who marijuana, probably vapor. Hello, he be an entirely different piece of writing
just nodded and pointed to a sign that said, more politely than Id expected, if it accompanies the returned paintings
indicated the direction of 1-A. while he waited for us to explain our rather than taking their place, but weve
I put the book back on the rickety presence. Sonia looked past him into agreed that, instead of our planned con-
table beside a pile of Legos. I was an- the apartment, saw the giant at screen, versation, Ill read it to you at the open-
noyed that she didnt feel the mystery, muted now, the ready-to-assemble fur- ing either way. And, if the paintings ar-
and so I didnt even mention the con- niture, and lost, if not her nerve, her ent found, well publish this, the story
nection with Liz, but, since I was also last reserve of energy. Im sorry, she of their loss and recuperation through
beginning to write this in my head, I said. Wrong apartment, I said. As we literaturemake a little book that in-
started to think, as we walked toward left the building, I took the copy of cludes the installation shots of the two
1-A, where somebody was probably ex- Late Art. canvases before Sonia took them down
pecting delivery sushi, about how differ- While Sonia showered, I read her to clean them up. Or maybe shell re-
ent it was to make work that values the text exchange with Kashif: paint them? Sonia has let me add one
original object, like painting, and work This is Sonia I need the address object to the show: the copy of Late
that doesnt, like literature, please Kashif please I will Art, a readymade. Ill just drop it on
where any two copies of not tell where I got it from. the gallery oor. Late Art, a kind of
the work are more or less I am sorry they will re non-site, referring as it does to 203 Riv-
considered the same. me I have a family. ington, the building, the cathedral,
Id always been jealous I have no family just into which Sonias diptych has dis-
of painters and sculptors my paintings I will not tell. appeared. It will cost many times the
and other visual artists, ba- How much money do cover price, only one indication that
sically jealous of any artist your paintings cost people. this copy of Late Art, while possess-
who worked with some- These paintings are ing the same words as all the other cop-
thing other than words, probably 20k total to- ies, is utterly distinct. Pierre Menard,
with paint or foam or metal, jealous of gether but it is more than the money. Marcel Duchamp. One object, two sys-
their stained clothes, the small cuts all Wow you must be a famous artist tems. Now its really raining out. Its
over their handsjealous because of (smiley face). one-fteen.
my unsophisticated but unshakable I am not famous and I only get half I say cathedral because 203 Riving-
sense that a work of visual art is more of the money the gallery takes half. ton is 0.6 miles from here but feels as if
real, more actual, than writing. But Worked on these all year. I can give it were in another world, or suspended
maybe the comparative unreality of you money if the paintings are back between worlds, a building henceforth
writing is precisely its advantage, how to me. charged with both the presence and ab-
it can be abstracted from any particu- I am not asking for your money sence of art, the actual and the virtual.
lar material locus. Isnt that what Shake- that is not my thought. Sonia what did Really what I keep imagining is the build-
speare says in Sonnet 55? Not marble Uber say then. ing in Ghostbusters (could Sonia have
nor the gilded monuments are going Nothing they tell me go to the police. seen it before 1989?), where Zuul, a demi-
to endure, but these rhymespower- Kashif again did the police officers god, has established a portal for Gozer,
ful in part because they are so easy to help you. the Sumerian god of destruction. If she
58 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
never recovers the paintings, that build-
ing will glow for her and for me and
maybe for you as a temple of art. I am
only half joking. Google tells me the ac-
tual building in Ghostbusters is 55 Cen-
tral Park West. Sonnet 55. The traces of
a mysterious system. They lend the world
a certain handmade quality. As if some-
one has reached out.
Im reading this to you in place of a
conversation Sonia and I had about a
photograph of two politicians kissing,
a photograph that was painted, a paint-
ing that was destroyed, repainted, then
repainted multiple times by Sonia in a
range of historical styles. Honecker, se-
cret documents would reveal in the early
nineties, had pushed in 1980 for War-
saw Pact countries to invade Poland in
order to crush the rise of Solidarity, in
which Sonias father was active. Brezh-
nev was sympathetic to Honeckers
request, but, for a variety of reasons, the
invasion never happened. Where and
who would Sonia be if it had? (The
small size of the disappeared canvases
was supposed to make the historical
and the personal kiss, or make the fail-
ure of that contact felt.) Maybe Sonia
would have been no different; her fa-
ther was jailed in the crackdown any-
way, absent from her rst-birthday
party, a year after Pope John Paul kissed
the tarmac of the airport in Warsaw.
Has that kiss, or its photograph, been Its not a sexual thingI just enjoy dressing up in sheeps clothing.
painted? A kiss represents a formal limit
to speech, lips locked, and so a painted
kiss is anti-literary, anti-ekphrastic, says

the coffee. Its no longer raining. Rin-
dy Sam, a French woman, kissed a Cy De Palma ran the Sunshine Cab Com- dom declares martial law in Poland
Twombly canvas in 2007 in Avignon, pany. This requires of course that you and Kashif is jailed without charge but
smudging it with lipstick. She said that conate West and East (Village), c- then the wide-eyed Andy Kaufman
she was overcome with passion for the tion and reality, systems and times. But dies, or fakes his death, for us all.
white canvas, a Madonna of the future. lets imagine that Louie, instead of just And then, here it comes, a new ver-
Damage to medieval objects of Chris- cordinating taxis driven by a commu- sion of Bob Jamess theme song, an ar-
tian devotion from repeated kissing is nity of lonersEastern European im- rangement for recorder and ute, elec-
an important problem in the eld of migrant with multiple personality dis- tric piano, drums, and cello, a period
conservation. My rst kiss was with order, beautiful single mother, struggling style from both the past and the fu-
Ashley Marker in Collins Park the year actor, washed-up boxer (Taxi was ture, a song without words that can be
the Wall came down. She used to col- about solidarity among otherwise alien- described but not played, notes that
lect free perfume samples from White ated workers)can cordinate all the fall one after the other all at once, Ro-
Lakes Mall, empty the little vials onto systems, private and public, above- mantic music, unheard melodies in
her stonewashed jeans, strike a dispos- ground and under: Uber, subway, gal- F major, a portal or door, the news a
able lighter, and run, slicked with blue lery, representational, temporal, spatial, mentor almost brings you in a dream,
ame, through the dark. At the time, national, natural, supernatural, not that the living record of your memory. That
it was life; at the time of writingart. any of these things, by itself, exists. sort of thing.
Now Id like to ask everyone to imag- Louie De Palma or Henry James in
ine that 203 Rivington was built over his metal cage giving Judd Hirsch or NEWYORKER.COM
the gas station and garage where Louie my dad a hard time. Louie De King- Ben Lerner discusses The Polish Rider.

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 59


was colored, a muddy brown and not
good-looking. It was he who danced
alone. His dancing was too fanciful to
be masculine and too grotesque to be
feminine. But everything that he did
was like that, so it was very easy to tell
that he was a fairy. He did not mind
dancing alone, because, although the
party was at his house, it was not his
party. Marcel often gave parties to make
money. He sold drinks and rented
roomseven to mixed couples, which
many housemen in Harlem did not do.
Perhaps that was why there was one
white person dancing to the big ma-
hogany combination dropping its twelve
wonderful records.
The reason I say perhaps about the
white girl is that I do not know the ul-
timate why of anything. I know all
about that girl except why. Why is
the very mystery. In fact, why is the
final wonder called God.
Joan was a very attractive girl. Any-
one could see that she was not a tramp.
And the slight, young, golden-skinned
boy with whom she danced was attrac-
tive, too, in a tennis-playing intellectual
way. Until Claude brought her, the white
girl had never been to Harlem. Now,
however, she had been uptown a dozen
times. But this was the first time that
Claude had brought her to an apartment
where they rented rooms to couples.
In the cold coming wintertime, it is
good to be very close to someone who
FICTION is warm. And to be wrapped in warm
wonderful music, danceable but bop-

SEVEN PEOPLE DANCING


pish, spiked with modern chords and
flatted fifths, and to be away from home,
where the big library, even with the
BY LANGSTON HUGHES fireplace glowing, looks cold and too
full of knowledge, and the bedroom is
lonesome, although Mademoiselle has
photographed it, and there is nobody
ovember. Cold outside. It was had been so tickled at this addition of interesting to drink with, although there
N warm inside, and the big combi- a y and an e (Aw, you still aint noth- is plenty to drink in the liquor cabinet,
nation played twelve wonderful records ing but old Smith!) that Marcel had and it is better to be in Claudes arms
without stopping. Seven people were dropped the Smythe affectation, keep- in Harlem, wonderful colored boy the
dancing, three couples and Marcel. ing merely the de la as an indication color of caramel-custard pie or a ginger-
Midnight. of French Creole origin, although he ale highball who makes you feel warm
It was Marcels apartment, and he had never been near New Orleans. He deep down inside and is sweet like
was a fairy. Nobody else was unusual was from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, pie, too.
in that regard. But Marcel was a fairy and although he had a good nature, he You-all stop dancing on a dime,
and he had inserted a de la in his did not really relish being made fun of Marcel said.
nameMarcel de la Smith was how on certain scores. The other couples laughed and the
he had been known for a long time on It was Marcels apartment, and seven laughter bounced, like very hard rub-
his cards. He had once called himself people were dancing. Six were colored ber balls, around the room, not like
Marcel de la Smythe, but his friends and one was white. Marcel himself tennis balls but like solid hard rubber
60 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION BY NO SENDAS
balls, and Marcel laughed, too. Mar- Marcel came into the living room
cels laughter was like a painters ground and put the drinks down on a long
cloth that protects the furniture and table. Then, leaving a door open on
anything else under a ceiling being purpose, he went into the bedroom and
painted. Marcels laughter somehow turned on a soft pretty light on a bed-
cleared the air of evil and left only the side table. The light sent a golden sheen
music and the seven people dancing, over the silken coverlet and sparkled
including himself. on the rich deep hairs of the Bokhara
One of the men was a very dark, rug, which had come from a very ex-
very handsome hard-rubber-ball man clusive auction disposing of the fur-
of indefinite age, maybe young, maybe nishings of a great Long Island estate.
fifty, but too dark to tell. (I know that Nobody could accuse Marcel of lack-
he was thirty-eight.) The woman with ing good taste.
whom he was dancing was the color But maybe it was the music. Other-
of green tea in an off-white cup. He wise, why did the laughter ring out again,
liked her. She did not like him. Mar- louder than the music, and bounce, like
cel liked him. He did not and could a dozen hard rubber balls, around the
not like Marcel. room after 2 a.m., when usually his guests
The other couple was just there. knew better than to be that noisy? And
Had you been there yourself, you would why did Marcels laughter stop being a
not have paid them much attention. ground cloth and start bouncing like a
Some people are like that, like chairs rubber ball, too, and a very hard one at
in a room, taken for granted but not that? Who knows why anything?
noticed, except when one wants to sit But this is what happened: the tall
down. Nobody wanted anything from dark fellow said, I dont have enough
the other couple, because they had money, to the woman with whom he
nothing to give. Marcel did not even was dancing.
press them to buy a round of drinks, Before she could reply, the white
discreetly, as he did the others when it girl said, Oh, but I do.
was time to change the twelve records. The Oh, but identified her as hav-
The big handsome dark fellow had ing been around at least a little in Har-
set up the house twice. Claude said, lem, and therefore the laughter bounced
Its on me this time, Marcellus. like rubber balls. Claude looked star-
Joan lifted her cheek along his coat tled. The tea-colored woman looked
lapel as the first of twelve new records mean. The tall dark fellow said, I been
dropped and Marcel went into his wanting to dance with that girl all eve-
spick-and-span kitchen for the drinks. ning. Come here! Joan went. At that
The drinks! Social workers say there moment, a new record began to play.
are more liquor stores in Harlem in pro- It was a Dizzy Gillespie record, and
portion to its area than in any other part what it said without words summed
of Manhattan. I dont know. Certainly up the situation pretty well. It was not
little house parties for profit, such as that room but the world in that room
Marcel conducted, help keep the liquor that was in the record. The music was
stores way out of the red. Marcel car- uranium, and those seven people, had
ried many a bottle of whiskey into his they been super-duper spies, could not
elevator and up to the fifth floor, where, have known more about atomic en-
from his kitchen window, if you stuck ergythat is, its reason for being a
your head out, you could see Riverside mighty way of dying, Oh, but I do
Drive and sometimes the warships in being a component.
the Hudson. But warships did not make That made both of the colored women
Marcel think of sailors. He was an old very angry. The one whom nobody
fairy who had lost interest in uniforms. noticed stopped still, grabbed the man
In fact, his interest now was money. That by his lapels, and said, Sit down, you
was why he gave parties primarily for clown!
people who did not touch his heart. He sat down.
Could it have been the records, the (This story was written circa 1961.)
new records for dancing, with their off
rhythms and their odd chords? Could NEWYORKER.COM
it have been the music? Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes.

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 61


62 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 PHOTOGRAPH BY MIRKA LAURA SEVERA
FICTION

MAYBE IT WAS THE DISTANCE


BY JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER

ell, now Ill have an an- casefrom the back seat: Opinions I do, Max said, opening up a pinch
W swer, Irv said, with a self-
satised nod that resem-
cant be wrong.
So heres why that idiots opinion
to zoom in on an image of a gored
bullghter.
bled davening or Parkinsons. He and is idiotic. . . . Irv ticked off each be- Hey, Maxy, Irv said, pressing the
his forty-three-year-old son, Jacob, cause on the ngers of his left hand: accelerator while trying to catch his
and eleven-year-old grandson, Max, Because only an anti-Semite can be grandsons eye in the rearview mirror,
were on their way to Washington Na- provoked to anti-Semitisma hid- you gotta hear this. You put a million
tional to pick up their Israeli cousins. eous phrase; because the mere suggestion monkeys in front of a million typewrit-
(The Blochs would sooner have re- of a willingness to talk to these freaks ers and you get Hamlet. Two billion
nounced air travel than refer to it as would just be throwing Manischewitz in front of two billion and you get
Reagan National.) NPR was on, and, on an oil re; because their hospitals Jesus, Dad. Watch your lane!
to Irvs extreme revulsion, they had are lled with rockets aimed at our hos- The Koran. Funny, right?
just listened to a balanced segment on pitals, which are lled with them; be- Racist, Max muttered.
new settlement construction in the cause, at the end of the day, we love Arabs arent a race, bubeleh. Theyre
West Bank. Irv loathed NPR. It was Kung Pao chicken and they love death; an ethnicity.
not only the wretched politics but the becauseand this really should have Whats a typewriter?
amboyantly precious, out-of-no- been my rst pointthe simple and Irv turned back to Jacob. The world
closet sissiness, the wide-eyed won- undeniable fact is . . . were right! hates Jews. I know you think the prev-
der coming from the you-wouldnt- Max pointed to the light: Green is alence of Jews in culture is some kind
hit-a-guy-with-glasses voice. And all for go. of counterargument, but thats like say-
of themmen, women, young and But, instead of driving, Irv pressed ing the world loves pandas because
oldseemed to share the same voice, his point: Heres the deal: the world crowds come to see them in zoos.
passing it from one throat to another population of Jews falls within the I like pandas, Max said.
as necessary. margin of error of the Chinese census, You dont, Irv corrected.
Answer to what? Jacob asked, un- and everyone hates us. Ignoring the I would be psyched to have one as
able to swim past the bait. honking coming from behind him, he a pet.
When someone asks me what was continued, Europe . . . now, theres a It would eat your face.
the most factually erroneous, morally Jew-hating continent. The French, Awesome.
repugnant, and just plain boring radio those spineless vaginas, would shed no Or at least occupy our house and
segment Ive ever heard. tears of sadness over our disappear- subject us to its sense of entitlement,
Irvs knee-jerk response triggered ance. The English, the Spanish, the Jacob added.
a reex in Jacobs brains knee, and Italians. These people live to make us The Germans murdered one and
within a few exchanges they were rhe- die. He stuck his head out the win- a half million Jewish children because
torical Russian wedding dancers dow and hollered at the honking driver, they were Jewish children, and they got
arms crossed, kicking at everything but Im an asshole, asshole! Im not deaf ! to host the Olympics thirty years later.
anything. And then back to Jacob, Our only re- And what a job they did with that! The
And anyway, Jacob said, when he liable friends in Europe are the Ger- Jews win by a hair a war for our sur-
felt that theyd taken things far enough, mans, and does anyone doubt that vival and are a permanent pariah state.
it was an opinion piece. theyll one day run out of guilt and Why? Why, only a generation after our
Well, that stupid idiots opinion is lampshades? And does anyone really near-destruction, is the Jewish will to
wrong doubt that one day, when the condi- survive considered a will to conquer?
Without looking up from his fa- tions are right, America will decide Ask yourself, Why?
thers iPad, Max defended National that were noisy and pushy and way Why what, exactly?
Public Radioor semantics, in any too smart for anybody elses good? The what doesnt even matter. The
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 63
answer is the same to every question lis didnt seem to give a shit about any- to conrm Mr. Kowalskis continued
about us: Because the world hates Jews. thing. All Jacobs family ever did was existence; skip dinner; check the house
What are you saying? give shits. They were shit-givers. to make sure all the lights are still off;
Nothing. Im just saying. When Isaac shattered his hip and go to bed at seven and have eleven
died, as all Jews who outlive cancer hours of the same nightmares. Is that
acob was the only one who re- and Gentiles eventually do, Tamir sur- happiness?
J ferred to the Israeli cousins as prised everyone by ying in for the fu- Its a version.
our Israeli cousins. To his wife, Julia, neral. He and Jacob stayed up late that Not one that anyone would choose.
to Max, and to their older son, Sam, night, drinking beers at Jacobs kitchen Jacob was ashamed both of the in-
they were the Israeli cousins. Jacob felt table. adequate life hed tolerated for his grand-
no desire for ownership of them, and He lived a good, long life, Tamir father and of judging it inadequate.
too much association made him itchy, said, and then took a good, long drink. I regret that we didnt keep in bet-
but he felt that they were owed warmth I suppose so, except for the good ter touch, he said.
commensurate with the thickness of part, Jacob said. He spent his days You and your grandfather?
blood. Or he felt that he should feel clipping coupons for things he would No. Us. Jacob brought his beer to
that. It would have been easier if theyd never buy, while telling anyone whod his lips and said, Remember that night
been easier. listen that no one listened to him. A we snuck out of my parents house?
Hed known Tamir since they were drink. We once took the kids to a zoo Years and years ago?
children. Jacobs grandfather Isaac and in Berlin No.
Tamirs grandfather Benny were broth- Youve been to Berlin? When we went to the National
ers in a Galician shtetl of such minus- For work. It coincided with a school Zoo?
cule size and importance that the Ger- break. The National Zoo?
mans didnt get to it until their second Youve taken your children to Ger- You really dont remember? A few
pass through the Pale to wipe up Jew- many and not to Israel? nights before my bar mitzvah?
ish crumbs. Isaac and Benny had As I was saying, we went to a zoo Of course I remember. And it was
avoided the fate of their ve brothers in the East, and it was pretty much the the night before your bar mitzvah. Not
by doing things that were often spo- most depressing place Ive ever been. a few nights before.
ken around but never spoken of. After There was a panther in a habitat the We were so dumb, Jacob said,
the war, Benny moved to Israel, where size of a parking space, with ora as chuckling.
he had a son, Shlomo, who had Tamir. convincing as a plastic Chinese-food We still are.
Isaac moved to America, where he had display. He was walking gure eights, But we were also romantic.
a son, Irv, who had Jacob. over and over, the exact same path. Romantic?
The brothers would visit each other Every time he turned, hed jerk his head About life. Remember what that
every few years, as if the performance back and squint. Every time. We were was like? To believe that you could be
of familial intimacy would retroactively mesmerized. Max, who was maybe ve, in love with life itself ?
defeat the German people and save ev- pressed his palms to the glass and asked,
eryone. Isaac would lavish Benny and When is Great-Grandpas birthday? acob first visited Israel when
his family with expensive-looking What kind of ve-year-old asks such J he was fourteenan overdue pres-
tchotchkes, take them to the best sec- a question at such a moment? ent that he didnt want for a bar mitz-
ond-tier restaurants, close his Jewish The kind who worries that his vah he didnt want. The next genera-
bodega for a week to show them the great-grandfather is a depressed pan- tion of Israeli Blochs took the next
sights of Washington. And when they ther, Tamir said. generation of American Blochs to the
left hed spend twice as long as their Exactly. And he was right. The same Wailing Wall, into whose cracks Jacob
visit bemoaning how bigheaded and routine, day after day after day: instant inserted prayers for things he didnt ac-
tiny-minded they were, how Ameri- black coffee and black bread with can- tually care about but knew that he ought
can Jews were Jews and these Israeli teloupe; read the Jewish Week with that to care about, like a cure for AIDS and
lunatics were Hebrewspeople who, enormous magnifying glass; check the an unbroken ozone layer. They oated
given their way, would sacrice ani- house to make sure all the lights are in the Dead Sea together, among the
mals and serve kings. Then hed reit- still off; push a walker on tennis balls ancient, elephantine Jews reading
erate how important it was to main- to shul to have the same Sad Libs con- half-submerged newspapers bleeding
tain closeness. versations with the same macular de- Cyrillic. They climbed Masada early
Jacob found the Israeli cousinshis generates, substituting different names in the morning and pocketed rocks
Israeli cousinscurious, at once alien into the news about cancers and grad- that might have been clenched in the
and familiar. He saw his familys faces uations; thaw a brick of chicken soup sts of Jewish suicides. They watched
in their faces, but also something differ- while ipping through the same photo the windmill break the sunset from the
ent, something that could equally well albums; eat the soup while advancing perch of Mishkenot Shaananim. They
be described as ignorant or unself-con- through another paragraph of the Jew- went to the small park named after
scious, phony or free. Perhaps it was ish Week; nap in front of one of the Jacobs great-grandfather Gershom
existential constipation, but the Israe- same ve movies; walk across the street Bloch. He had been a beloved rabbi,
64 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
I still recall the description of the narrator ejecting from
CHILDHOOD READING the plane, and later nding his teeth in his hands. It seems
that I was engaging in what could be called a crash course.

UNINHABITED
I felt a little shipwrecked myself, a Crusoe washed up
and landlocked on the strange isle of Topeka. We had
moved cross-country from upstate New York to Kansas in
BY KEVIN YOUNG the heat wave of 1980, with two cars, no air-conditioning,
and a black dog. I can still see the infernal temperature of
a hundred and nineteen degrees on a bank sign somewhere
near Ohio. Wed wake early and be on the road by dawn,
when it was already ninety and climbing. It felt as if we
were moving to the sun, or some hell far below that. Like
our dog, we all panted, my thick glasses fogging.
It turned out that I had already read the fth-grade read-
ing textbook the year beforeall but the nal, longish short
story. My parents reached a compromise with the school:
I would sit in the back of the room during Reading class
and work independently, which at my grade school meant
going through old issues of Readers Digest. I remember the
magazines squat format, and learning what the word
abridged meant. But like the Sears catalogue, Readers Di-
gest did contain a whole world in its thin pages, often de-
spite itself. I vividly recall an article on The Ingenious Es-
kimo, and being puzzled about why the writer called him
ingeniousfrom what I knew, the prex in- meant if not
non- then something negative, as in infamy. That Inuit
gure building homes from ice, shing for food, and sur-
viving the cold struck me as deeply genius.
Even in 1980, that old portrayal was outmodeda quick
search online reveals that the story appeared in June, 1939.
hen I was ten and in fth grade, I read all of Rob- If those who had sued to integrate that very school district
W inson Crusoe in one weekend. Not one of the many I was in now could have seen mesegregated at the back
abridged versions, mind youthere have been at least eight of the class, reading forty-year-old articles about natural
hundred editions since Daniel Defoes novel rst appeared, history and racial typesI wonder what they would have
in 1719but the whole shebang, from the bloody shipwreck thought. Each Sunday, as I stared at the tinted photograph
of that slaver to Crusoes fateful encounter with Friday, of Reverend Brownthe Brown of Brown v. Boardin
written all alone on an un-inhabited Island. the same vestibule of the church he had pastored, I could
I wasnt trying to show off. I had picked Crusoe for a only guess. Reverend Browns daughter, Linda, played piano
book report much the way I had picked Gullivers Trav- there, and sang beautifully. Her voice seemed ingenious to
els earlier in the year: they were both books Id seen im- me, connected to a long history of struggle and song and
ages or even cartoons of, and sought out in the library. The successand the idea that one followed the other. A few
report was due on Monday, and I wish I could remember years ago, I asked my mother why shed tolerated such a
if I even had the book until the Friday before. Knowing my strange arrangement at my school. She could only shrug at
ten-year-old dedication to procrastination, or at least un- the battles fought, those won, and those you have to let go.
derestimation, I likely got my copies at the last minute, Having a son now myself, I certainly understood.
never imagining that they would be four-hundred-plus Reading class did provide other lessons: in a weird way,
pages. Who knew Gulliver met more than just Lilliputians? the condensing of words, and worlds, in those digests proved
Though I didnt realize it then, I was conducting my instructive for a poet. So, too, all that independent reading;
own seminar on the origins of the novel. Both of these mas- it was in school that I learned how to be an autodidact.
terpieces had appealed to me, as they had to their rst au- The rest of the class didnt make it all the way to the last
diences, as adventure stories, wild travelogues that left read- story in the book, eitherso I still dont know what hap-
ers torn between believing the tale wholeheartedly and pened in the end. In any case, comic books, those colorful
revelling in its obviously fantastical telling. The two things serial epics that were at least honest about their fantasies,
werent so separate then. Even to me, neither novel seemed would soon grab hold of my imagination. In them, Boy Fri-
stranger than the true story of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, days could become supermen and Ingenious Indigenous
GRARD DUBOIS

a brutal and gory account of the U.S. bombing of Japan could be anything they wanted to be, gaining power and
during the Second World War, which I had stumbled across changing skinsturning green, orange and chunky, or black
and reported on, too. Running out of fuel after the bomb- as a panther or some summer storm breaking through the
ing, the pilot author had crash-landed on yet another coast. steady heat.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 65
and his surviving disciples remained spent in Tamirs home, a two-story Art head of his penis within inches of the
loyal to his memory, choosing never Decoish construction perched on a screenclose enough for static shock.
to have another rabbi, choosing their Haifan hill. There were diagonally sliced How does it feel? Jacob asked,
own demise. cucumbers and cubes of cheese for while simultaneously reprimanding
One morning, while Tamirs father, breakfast and, two hours later, huge himself for allowing such a creepy ques-
Shlomo, was driving them to a hike spreads of side dishes for lunchhalf tion to escape his mouth.
along the sea, an air-raid siren started a dozen salads, dips. At home, the And then, as if in response, Tamir
blaring. Jacobs eyes opened to half-dol- Americans made a point of trying not grabbed a Kleenex from the box on
lars and found Irvs. Shlomo stopped to turn on the TV. The Israelis made his desk and moaned as he shot a load
the car. Right there, where it was, on a point of trying not to turn it off. into it.
the highway. Did we break down? Irv Tamir, who was a highly signicant Why had Jacob asked that? And
asked, as if the siren might have been why had Tamir come right then? Had
indicating a cracked catalytic converter. Jacobs question made him come? Had
Shlomo and Tamir got out of the car that been Jacobs (entirely subconscious)
with the vacant determination of zom- intent?
bies. Everyone on the highway got out They masturbated side by side a
of cars and cargo trucks, off motor- dozen or so times. They certainly never
cycles. They stood, thousands of Jew- touched each other, but Jacob did won-
ish undead, perfectly silent. Jacob didnt der if Tamirs moans were always irre-
know if this was the end (a kind of pressibleif there wasnt something
proud greeting of nuclear winter), a performative about them. They never
drill, or some national custom. Like six months older than Jacob, was ob- spoke about these sessions afterward
dupes in a grand social-psychology ex- sessed with computers and had a li- not three minutes after, and not three
periment, Jacob and his parents did as brary of RGB porn before Jacob had decadesbut they werent a source of
everyone else was doing, and stood by word processing. (In those days, Jacob shame for either of them. They were
the car in silence. When the siren concealed The Art of Sensual Mas- young enough, at the time, not to worry
stopped, life reanimated. Everyone sage inside The Big Who of Base- about meaning, and then old enough
got back in the car and they were on ball at Barnes & Noble, searched lin- to revere what had been lost.
their way. gerie catalogues for pubes with the Pornography was only one example
Irv was apparently too afraid of re- dedication of a Talmudist searching for of the chasm between their life expe-
vealing ignorance to resolve his igno- Gods will, and listened to the moans riences. Tamir walked himself to school
rance, so Jacobs mother, Deborah, was of the visually blocked but aurally before Jacobs parents would leave him
left to ask what had just happened. spread-eagled Spice Channel. The at a drop-off birthday party. Tamir
Yom HaShoah, Shlomo said. greatest of lewd treats was the three cooked his own dinner, while an air-
Thats the one for the trees? Jacob minutes of preview that hotels used to plane full of dark-green vegetables
asked. offer for all movies: family, adult, adult. searched for a landing strip in Jacobs
For the Jews, Shlomo said. Who Even as a teen-ager, Jacob recognized mouth. Tamir drank beer before Jacob,
were chopped down. the masturbatory tautology: if three smoked pot before Jacob, got a blow
Shoah, Irv said to Jacob, as if minutes of the adult lm convinced job before Jacob, got arrested before
hed understood everything all along, you that it was a worthy adult lm, you Jacob (who would never be arrested).
means Holocaust. would no longer have a need for it.) When Tamir was given an M16, Jacob
But why does everyone stop and Tamirs computer took half a day to was given a Eurail pass. Tamir tried
stand in silence? download a titty fuck, but what else without success to stay out of risky sit-
Shlomo said, Because it feels less was time made for? Once, while they uations; Jacob tried without success to
wrong than anything else we might watched a pixellated woman jerkily nd his way into them. At nineteen,
do. open and close her legsa movie Tamir was in a half-buried outpost in
And what is everyone facing? Jacob composed of six stillsTamir asked southern Lebanon, behind four feet of
asked. Jacob if he felt like beating off. concrete. Jacob was in a dorm in New
Shlomo said, Himself. Jacob gave an ironic, Tom Bro- Haven, whose bricks had been buried
Jacob was both mesmerized and re- kaw-voiced No, assuming that his for two years before construction so
pulsed by the ritual. The Jewish-Amer- cousin was joking. that they would look older than they
ican response to the Holocaust was Suit yourself, Tamir said, and pro- were. Tamir didnt resent Jacobhe
Never forget, because there was a ceeded to suit himself, pumping a glob would have been Jacob, given the
possibility of forgetting. In Israel, they of shea-butter moisturizer into his palm. choicebut he had lost some of the
blared the air-raid siren for two min- Jacob watched him remove his hard lightness necessary to appreciate some-
utes, because otherwise it would never penis from his pants and begin to stroke one as light as his cousin. Hed fought
stop blaring. it, transferring the cream to its length. for his homeland, while Jacob spent
What Jacob remembered most ten- After a minute or two of this, Tamir entire nights debating whether that
derly about the trip was the time they got up onto his knees, bringing the ubiquitous New Yorker poster where
66 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
New York is bigger than everything was cursed to be judged by the increments earth, and yet how many passersby
else would look better on this wall or he fell short of perfect menschiness. would even guess they were related?
that one. Jacob tried to persuade Tamir to Tamirs skin color could be explained
After his service, Tamir was nally come and see Isaac before he moved by exposure to the sun, and the differ-
free to live on his own terms. He be- to the Jewish Home. But Tamir denied ences in their builds attributed to diet
came hugely ambitious, in the sense of the signicance of the event. Ive and exercise and will power, but what
wanting to make shitloads of money moved six times in the last ten years, about his sharp jaw, his overhanging
and buy loads of shit. He dropped out he e-mailed, although like this, iv mvd brow? What about the size of his feet,
of Technion after a year and founded 6 tms n lst 10 yrs, as if English were his perfect eyesight, his ability to grow
the rst of a series of high-tech start- as vowel-less as Hebrew. Or as if there a full beard while a bagel toasted?
ups. Almost all of them were ops, but were no possible way for him to give He went right to Jacob, like an Iron
it doesnt take many non-ops for you less of a shit. Dome interceptor, took him into his
to make your rst ve million. Jacob Sure, Jacob wrote back, but never arms, kissed him with his full mouth,
was too jealous to allow Tamir the plea- to an assisted-living facility. then held him at arms length. He
sure of explaining what his companies Ill come when he dies, O.K.? squeezed Jacobs shoulders and looked
did, but it wasnt hard to surmise that, him up and down, as if he were con-
like most Israeli high tech, they ap- amir managed to pull three roll- templating eating or raping him.
plied military technologies to civilian T ing suitcases behind him while Apparently, we arent children
life. carrying two duty-free bags overow- anymore!
Tamirs homes and cars and ego and ing withwhat? What dignity-free Even our children arent children.
girlfriends breasts got bigger every doodie could he possibly need? A Tamirs chest was broad and rm.
visit. Jacob put on a respectful face wading pool of cologne? Twenty thou- It would have made a good surface
that revealed just the right amount sand cigarettes? A massive plastic on which someone like Jacob could
of disapproval, but, in the end, all M&M lled with tiny chocolate write about someone like Tamir.
his emotional dog whistles were ren- M&Ms? Whats your shirt mean? Jacob
dered pointless by Tamirs emotional The surprise upon seeing him never asked.
tone-deafness. Why couldnt Jacob just diminished. Here was someone with Funny, no?
be happy for his cousins happiness? whom Jacob shared more genetic ma- I think so, but Im not sure I get it.
Tamir was as good a person as just terial than just about anyone else on You look like I need a drink. You
about anyone whose great success made
his good-enough values increasingly
difficult to act on. Its confusing to
have more than you need. Who could
blame him?
Jacob could. Jacob could because he
had less than he neededhe was an
honorable, ambitious, near-broke nov-
elist who barely ever wrote. Nothing
was getting bigger in his lifeit was
a constant struggle to maintain the sizes
hed establishedand people without
fancy material possessions have their
fancy values to aunt.
Isaac had always favored Tamir. Jacob
could never gure out why. Isaac seemed
to have serious problems with all his
post-bar-mitzvah relatives, very much
including those who forced their chil-
dren to Skype with him once a week,
and took him to doctors, and drove
him to distant supermarkets where one
could buy six tins of baking powder for
the price of ve. Everyone ignored Isaac,
but no one less than Jacob, and no one
more than Tamir. Yet Isaac would have
traded six Jacobs for ve Tamirs.
Maybe it was the distance that
Isaac loved. Maybe the absence al-
lowed for a mythology, while Jacob Well, if I practiced all day, too.
I thought maybe wed head to the
house and
Let the man eat, Irv said, creat-
ing sides by choosing one of them.
Why the hell not, Jacob said, re-
membering that Kafka quote: In the
struggle between yourself and the
world, side with the world.
Tamir surveyed the airport termi-
nal and clapped his hands. Panda
Express! The best!
He got sweet-and-sour pork. Irv
did everything he could to conceal
his displeasure, but his everything
wasnt too formidable.
You know where you can get the
best Italian food in the world right
now? Tamir asked, stabbing a piece
of pork.
Italy?
Israel.
Ive heard that, Irv said.
Jacob couldnt let such a prepos-
terous statement go unchallenged.
You mean the best Italian food out-
side of Italy.
No, he said, cracking the knuck-
know, you look like I need a drink. Everyone who wasnt Irv laughed. les of his forkless hand simply by mak-
What, like, youre so ugly I need Then Tamir pulled Barak forward, ing a st and opening it. Im telling
a drink? Or I can see, reected in your mussed his hair, and said, Look at you the best Italian food being cooked
expression, my own need for alcohol? this one. Hes a man, no? right now is being cooked in Israel.
Tamir turned to his fourteen-year- Man was exactly the right word. Thats denitionally impossible.
old son, Barak, and said, Didnt I Barak was towering, cut from Jeru- Like saying the best German beer is
tell you? salem stone, with the kind of pecs Israeli.
Barak nodded and laughed, and you could have bounced pocket Its called Goldstar.
Jacob didnt know what that meant, change off, if it werent for the forest Which I love, Irv said.
either. of thrice-curled hair so dense that You dont even drink beer.
Hugs were exchanged all around. all that entered it was deposited for But when I do.
Tamir lifted Irv off the ground, push- good. Let me ask you something, Tamir
ing a small fart out of himan anal Max! Tamir said, turning his said. Where do they make the best
Heimlich. sights on the boy. bagels in the world?
I made you fart! Tamir said, Affirmative. New York.
pumping a st. Jacob gave an embarrassed chuckle: I agree. The best bagels in the
Just some gas, Irv saida dis- Affirmative? Really? world are being made in New York.
tinction without a difference, as Ja- It just came out, Max said, smell- Now let me ask you, is a bagel a Jew-
cobs shrink, Dr. Silvers, would say. ing his own blood. ish food?
Im going to make you fart again! Tamir gave him a once-over and Depends on what you mean by
I wish you wouldnt. said, You look like a vegetarian. that.
Tamir wrapped his arms around Irv Pescatarian, Max said. Is a bagel a Jewish food in the
and lifted him back into the air with You eat meat, Jacob said. same way that pasta is an Italian food?
a rmer squeeze. And again it worked, I know. But I look like a pescatarian. In a similar way.
this time even betterif you applied Barak gave Max a punch to the And let me also ask you, is Israel
a very specic denition of better. chest. the Jewish homeland?
Tamir put him down, took a deep Ouch! What the Israel is the Jewish state.
breath, then opened his arms once more. Joking, Barak said. Joking. Tamir straightened in his seat.
This time you shit. Max rubbed at his chest. Your That wasnt the part of my argument
Irv backed away. joke fractured my sternum. you were supposed to disagree with.
Tamir laughed heartily and said, Food? Tamir asked, slapping his Irv shot Jacob a look. Of course
Joking, joking! paunch. its the Jewish homeland.
68 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
It depends on what you mean by sounded like a symptom. When the But he had been profoundly moved.
homeland, Jacob said. If you mean man let out a small grunt, Jacob re- Irv had denounced the impulse to tell
ancestral homeland exively glanced over, and they ex- an uplifting Holocaust story, to give,
What do you mean? Tamir asked. changed the briefest of smiles before for all intents and purposes, a statis-
I mean the place my family comes remembering where they were: a tically negligible happy ending gen-
from. place where exactly one extremely erated by that statistically negligible
Which is? eeting moment of acknowledg- of species, the good German. But
Galicia. ment was tolerable. But Jacob had even he had been moved to his lim-
But before that. the strong sensation that he knew its. Isaac couldnt have been more
W hat, Africa? It s arbitrar y. this person. He often had that feel- moved: You see, you see what was
We could go back to the trees, or ing at urinals, but this time he was done to usto mine parents, to mine
the ocean, if we wanted. Some go sure, as he always was. Where had brothers, to me, you see? Everyone was
back to Eden. You pick Israel. I pick he seen that face before? A teacher moved, and everyone was convinced
Galicia. from grade school? One of the boys that being moved was the ultimate
You feel Galician? teachers? One of his fathers friends? aesthetic, intellectual, and ethical
I feel American. He was momentarily convinced that experience.
I feel Jewish, Irv said. this stranger was a gure in one of Jacob was going to have to cop a
The truth, Tamir said to Jacob, Julias old family photos from East- look at Spielbergs junk. The only
winking as he popped the last piece ern Europe, and that he had trav- question was on what pretext.
of pork into his mouth, is you feel elled through time to deliver a warn- Every annual physical ended with
Julias titties. ing. And then it hit him: Spielberg. Dr. Schlesinger kneeling in front of
Apropos of nothing, Max asked, Once the thought appeared, there Jacob, cupping Jacobs balls, and ask-
Do you think the bathroom is clean? was no doubting or suppressing it. ing him to turn his head and cough.
Jacob wondered if Maxs question, Of course it was him. Jacob was That experience seemed to be uni-
his desire to get away, was apropos of standing, his penis exposed, next to versal, and universally inexplicable,
some knowledge, or intuition, that his Steven Spielberg, whose penis was among men. But coughing and turn-
father hadnt touched his mothers exposed. What were the odds? ing ones head had something to do
breasts in months. Jacob had grown up, as had every with genitals. The logic wasnt air-
Its a bathroom, Tamir said. Jew in the last quarter of the twenti- tight, but it felt right. Jacob held his
Ill just wait until we get home. eth century, under Spielbergs wing. balls, coughed, and turned.
If you have to go, go, Jacob said. Rather, in the shadow of his wing. He The size didnt make an impres-
Its not good to hold it. had seen E.T. four nights in a row, sionSpielberg was no longer, shorter,
Says who? Irv asked, making and each time through his ngers as the wider, or narrower than most doughy
taking a side. bike chase reached a climax so delicious Jewish grandfathers. Neither was he
Says your prostate. it was literally unbearable. He had particularly bananaed, pendular, re-
You think my prostate speaks to seen Indiana Jones and the next one, ticulated, light bulbish, reptilian,
you? and the next one. Tried laminar, mushroomed,
I dont have to go, Max said. to sit through Always. varicosey, hook-nosed, or
Its good to hold it, Tamir said. Nobodys perfect. Not cockeyed. What was no-
Its like a . . . what do you call it? Not until he makes Schin- table was what wasnt
a kugel . . . dlers List, at which point missing: his penis was un-
Give it a shot, O.K., Max? Just he is not even he anymore circumcised. Jacob had
in case. but representative of them. had precious little expo-
Let the kid not go, Irv said. And Them? The murdered sure to the visual atrocity
to Tamir, A Kegel. And youre abso- millions. No, representa- that is an intact penis, and
lutely right. tive of us. The Unmur- so wouldnt bet his life on
I ll go, Jacob said. You know why? dered. But Schindler what he sawand the
Because I care about my prostate. wasnt for us. It was for them. Not the stakes felt that highbut he knew
Maybe you should marry it, Max Murdered, of course. They cant watch enough to know that he had to look
said. movies. It was for all of them who again. But, though urinal etiquette for-
Jacob didnt have to go, but he went. werent us: the goyim. Because thanks gives a greeting, and the cough might
He stood there at the urinal, an ass- to Spielberg, into whose bank account have been a passable alibi for the glance,
hole with an exposed penis, passing the general public was compelled to there was simply no way to return to
a few moments to further his absence make annual deposits, we nally had the scene without propositioning sex,
of a point, and just in case. a way to force them to look at our ab- and even in a world in which Spiel-
A man his fathers age was uri- sence, to rub their noses in the Ger- berg hadnt made A.I., that wasnt
nating beside him. His pee came out man shepherds shit. going to happen.
in bursts, as if from a lawn sprinkler, Jacob had found the movie schmaltzy Jacob ushed (his face and the urinal),
and to Jacobs unaccredited ear it and overblown, irting with kitsch. washed too quickly to accomplish
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 69
SKETCHBOOK BY RICHARD MCGUIRE

70 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016


anything, and scrambled back out to the remnants of six packets of duck more than three billion dollars? Bil-
the others. sauce from the corners of his mouth. lion with a b?
Youre never going to believe who Whatever you say. He got up and Really?
I just peed beside. headed in the direction of the con- He had no reason to lie to me.
Jesus, Dad. diments bar. But why did he have reason to share?
Close. Spielberg. You have to go back in and be I asked.
Whos that? Tamir asked. sure, Irv said. Introduce yourself. How much hes worth?
Youre serious? You will do no such thing, Max Yeah.
What? said, exactly as his mother would And you probably asked if hes
Spielberg. Steven Spielberg. have. circumcised, right?
Never heard of him. Irv closed his eyes and said, My I did.
Give me a break, Jacob said, un- core has been shaken. Jacob embraced Tamir. He hadnt
sure, as ever, to what extent Tamir was I know. meant to. His arms simply reached for
performing. Whatever else could be said What are we to believe? him. It wasnt that Tamir had gathered
about him, Tamir was smart, worldly, I know. the piece of information. It was that he
and restless. But, whatever else could be All the while we thought his Ho- had all the qualities that Jacob lacked
said about him, he was foolish, solipsis- locaust schlock was compensating for and didnt want but desperately missed:
tic, and self-satised. If he had a sense the Holocaust. the brashness, the fearlessness where fear
of humor, it was drier than matzo meal. Now its schlock? was not required, the fearlessness where
Which enabled him to practice a kind It was always schlock, Irv said. fear was required, the giving of no shits.
of psychological acupuncture on Jacob: But it was our schlock. Tamir, you are a beautiful human
Did a needle just enter me? Does it Its not as if he isnt Jewi being.
hurt? Is this complete bullshit? He But Jacob couldnt nish the sen- So . . . ? Irv begged.
couldnt have been serious about Israeli tence. Or he didnt need to. As soon Tamir turned to Jacob.
Italian food, could he? About not hav- as the fragment of the possibility en- He knows you, by the way. He
ing heard of Spielberg? Totally impos- tered the world, there was no room didnt recognize you, but when I men-
sible, and entirely possible. for anything else. tioned your name he said he read your
Thats heavy, Irv said. I need to sit down, Irv said. rst book. He said he considered op-
And the heaviest part? Jacob You are sitting down, Max told tioning it.
leaned in and whispered, Hes not him. He did?
circumcised. Irv rested his head in his hands Thats what he said.
Max threw his hands into the air. and said, If God had wanted us to If Spielberg had made a lm out
What, did you kiss his weiner in a be uncircumcised, he wouldnt have of that book, Id
bathroom stall? invented smegma. Exhume the lede, Irv said. Is he
Who is this Spielberg?Tamir asked. In silence, they watched dozens short-sleeved?
We were at urinals, Max. And of people balancing overstuffed trays Tamir jiggled his soda cup, freeing
just to be clear: And of course I didnt weave and dodge and never touch. the ice cubes from their group hug.
kiss his weiner. And then, several minutes later, Ta- Tamir?
That simply cannot be right, Irv mir came back. Theyd been too pre- We agreed it would be funnier if
said. occupied by their apocalyptic spec- I didnt tell you.
I know. But I saw it with my own ulations to notice how long he was We?
eyes. gone. Steve and I.
Why were your own eyes check- So heres the deal, he said. Were mishpacha, Irv pleaded.
ing out another mans penis? Max What deal? Yes. And if you cant keep secrets
asked. He has problems with urinary from your family, whom can you keep
Because hes Steven Spielberg. retention. secrets from?
Why wont someone tell me who He? So I emancipate myself from the
this person is? Tamir said. Steve. family. Now tell me.
Because I dont believe that you Irv clapped his cheeks and squealed Tamir scraped the remaining lo
dont know who he is. as if it were his rst visit to the Amer- mein from his bowl and said, Ill tell
Why would I pretend? ican Girl agship store. Max. An early bar-mitzvah present.
Because its your bizarre Israeli I can see why you assumed I would What he chooses to do with the in-
way of diminishing the achievements know who he is. Very impressive r- formation is his own business.
of American Jews. sum. What can I say? I dont watch You know Im eleven, Max said.
And why would I want to do that? a lot of movies. Theres no money in Of course, he said with a wink.
Youd have to tell me. watching movies. A lot in making them, This is a very early present.
O.K., Tamir said, calmly wiping though. Do you know that hes worth He put his hands on Maxs shoulders
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 71
and brought him close. His lips almost
touching Maxs ear, he whispered.
And Max smiled. He laughed. ERIK ESTRADA DEFENDS HIS PLACE IN THE CANON

s they walked to the parking See, back then, Latinos were served only with a side of
A lot, Irv kept signalling for Jacob pocketknives
to take one of Tamirs bags, and Jacob hair greased sharp as blackletter print. Back then,
kept signalling that Tamir wouldnt Spanish Harlem stank of stray dogs and gasoline.
let him. And Jacob signalled to Max Back then, I sold snow cones with my grandfather
that he should talk to Barak, and Max and learned to shortchange. I wasnt raised to be a beauty.
signalled back that his father should Back then, my mothers Spanish moved about the house
smoke through a stoma? like a ghost only she could see.
Ill drive, Jacob said to Irv as they Back when I knew what was good for me,
approached the car. the stage ached for my foot to grace it.
Why? Then, I was the question to an answer on Jeopardy!
Because Ill drive. Then, I saw my reflection in the teeth of John Wayne.
I thought the highway made you The term trailblazer has been applied. Back then,
anxious? even my arms had their own sceneswhen Hollywood
Dont be ridiculous, Jacob said, drank the exhaust of my motorcycle, and my dark
ashing Tamir a smile of dismissive- skin lit up the screen: small and silver.
ness. And then, to Irv, with force, Give I may be the worlds quietest Republican.
me the keys. I may be the Puerto Rican in every Mexicans heart.
In the car, Tamir pressed the sole of Back when my father left usback then, I knew
his right foot against the windshield, Id be a man whose very presence was art.
parachuting his scrotum for any infra-
red traffic cameras they might pass. He J. Estanislao Lopez
braided his ngers behind his head
more knuckle-crackingnodded, and
began: To tell you the truth, Im mak- our economy. Were sixty-eight years amazing body, and she knows how to
ing a lot of money. Here we go, Jacob oldyounger than you, Irv. We have nd anything. You could leave this
thought. Tamir impersonating a bad only eight million people, no natural foosball table in the rain for a year and
impersonator of Tamir. High tech has resources, and are engaged in perpet- it would be ne.
gone crazy, and I was smart enoughI ual war. All that, and we le more pat- I thought it never rains in Israel,
was brave enoughto get into a lot of ents every year than any other coun- Jacob said.
things at the right moment. Thats the try, including yours. It does, Tamir said.But youre
secret to success: the combination of Things are going well, Ir v right, the climate is ideal. So when
intelligence and bravery. Because there conrmed. we were walking through the new
are a lot of intelligent people in the Things have never been better apartment I turned to Rivka and said,
world, and a lot of brave people in the anywhere, at any time, than they are Eh? And she said, What do we need
world, but when you go searching for in Israel right now. Look, Rivka and with an apartment this big? I told her
people who are intelligent and brave I are in a triplex nowthree oors. what Ill tell you now: the more you
you dont nd yourself surrounded. And We have seven bedrooms buy, the more you have to sell.
I was lucky. Look, Jake Why did he Eight, Barak corrected. You should really write a book,
think it was O.K. to capriciously shear Hes right. Its eight. Eight bed- Jacob said to Tamir, taking a tiny nee-
Jacobs name? It was an act of aggres- rooms, even though were only four dle from his back and placing it in
sion, even if Jacob couldnt parse it, even people now that Noam is in the Army. Tamirs.
if he loved it. I dont believe in luck, Two bedrooms a person. But I like the So should you, Irv said, taking
but only a fool wouldnt acknowledge space. Its not that we have so many that tiny needle from Tamirs back
the importance of being in the right guests, although we have a lot, but I and placing it in Jacobs aorta.
place at the right time. You make your like to stretch out: a couple of rooms And I told her something else: its
own luck. Thats what I say. for my business ventures; Rivka is in- always going to be rich people who
Thats also what everyone else sane about meditating; the kids have have money, so you want to have what
says, Jacob pointed out. air hockey, gaming systems. They have the rich people will want to have. The
What about Israel? Irv asked from a foosball table from Germany. I have more expensive something is, the more
the back seat. an assistant who has nothing to do expensive it will become.
Israel? Israel is thriving. Walk with my business ventures but just But thats just saying that ex-
down the streets of Tel Aviv one night. helps with life-style things, and I said, pensive things are expensive, Jacob
Theres more culture per square foot Go nd me the best foosball table in pointed out.
than anywhere in the world. Look at the world. And she did. She has an Exactly.
72 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
Well, Jacobs better angel ventril- I dont know, Tamir said. What were miserable at sports but great at
oquized, Id love to see it someday. do you think? fantasy sports. They avoided ghts
And the bathrooms . . . The bath- Do you think they should ? Jacob but sought arguments. They were
rooms would blow your mind. Every- asked. dened by, and proud of, their agrant
thing made in Germany. Of course they should, Irv said. weakness. Yet they were driven wild
Irv groaned. If there were a way to bomb Iran by the muscular application of the
My assistantthe personal one, without bombing Iran, that would be Jewish brain: Maccabees rolling under
with the bodyfound me a toilet with good. Any other course will be bad. the bellies of armored Greek elephants
a camera that recognizes who is ap- So what do you think they should to stab the soft undersides; Mossad
proaching and adjusts to preset settings. do? Jacob asked. missions whose odds, means, and re-
Rivka likes a cool seat. I want my ass He just told you, Irv said. He sults verged on magic; computer vi-
hairs singed. Barak faces backward. thinks they should bomb those Stone ruses so preternaturally complicated
I dont face backward, Barak said, Age psychopaths back into the pre- and smart they couldnt not leave Jew-
punching his fathers shoulder. Stone Age. ish ngerprints. You think you can
You think Im crazy, Tamir said. I think you should bomb them, mess with us, world? You think you
Youre probably judging me, even Tamir told Irv. can push us around? You can. But
laughing at me in your mind, but Im America? brain beats muscle as surely as paper
the one whose toilet warms itself for You specically. You could use beats rock, and were gonna learn you;
me while my refrigerator does the some of those biological weapons you were gonna sit at our desks and be
shopping online. displayed earlier. the last ones standing.
Jacob didnt think Tamir was crazy. Everyone laughed at that, espe- But, for all that Tamir, Irv, and Jacob
He thought his need to exhibit and cially Max. wanted to talk about, the conversa-
press the case for his happiness was All Tamir wanted to talk about was tion thinned, or went internal. They
unconvincing and sad. And under- moneythe average Israeli income, drove the George Washington Park-
standable. That was where the emo- the size of his own easy fortune, the way in silence, A.C. battling the hu-
tional logic broke down. All that unrivalled quality of life in that n- midity that seeped through the in-
should have led Jacob to dislike Tamir gernail clipping of oppressively hot visible points of entry, past Gravelly
brought him closernot with envy homeland hemmed in by psychopathic Point, where aviation buffs holding
but with love. He loved Tamirs bra- enemies. radio scanners, and fathers holding
zen weakness. He loved his inabil- All Irv wanted to talk about was sons, could almost reach up and touch
ityhis unwillingnessto hide his the situationwhen was Israel going the landing gear of jumbo jets; the
ugliness. Such exposure was what to make us proud by making itself Capitol on the right, across the brown
Jacob most wanted, and most with- safe? Was there any inside piece of Potomac. They crossed Memorial
held from himself. information to be dangled above Bridge, between the golden horses,
And what about the situation? friends in the dining room at the circled around the backside of the
Irv asked. American Enterprise Institute? Wasnt Lincoln Memorial, the steps that
What situation? it high time weyoudid something seemed to lead to nothing, and slid
Safety. about this or that? into the ow of Rock Creek Parkway.
What? Food safety? After passing under the terrace of
The Arabs. the Kennedy Center and beside the
Which ones? teeth of the Watergate balconies, they
Iran. Syria. Hezbollah. Hamas. followed the curves of the creek away
The Islamic State. Al Qaeda. from the outposts of the capitals
The Iranians arent Arabs. Theyre civilization.
Persian. The National Zoo, Tamir said,
Im sure that helps you sleep at looking up from his phone.
night. The National Zoo, Jacob echoed.
Things could be better, things All Jacob wanted to talk about was Jacob searched the rearview mir-
could be worse. Beyond that, you know living close to death: Had Tamir killed ror for Maxchildren learn to trust
what I know. anyone? Had Noam? Did either have the permanence of their parents, par-
So how does it feel over there? Irv any stories of fellow-soldiers tortur- ents learn to doubt the permanence
pressed. ing or being tortured? What was the of their children. And there he was,
Would I be happier if Noam were worst thing that either had seen with an eleven-year-old boy falling asleep
a d.j. for the Army radio station? his own eyes? The Jews Jacob had as he had since he was a baby: his
Sure. But I feel ne. Barak, you feel grown up with adjusted their aviator body straight, his gaze directly in front
ne? glasses with only the muscles in their of him, his eyes closing so slowly that
I feel cool. faces while analyzing Fugazi lyrics as their movement was imperceptible
You think Israels going to bomb they pushed in the lighters of their only by looking away and looking back
Iran? hand-me-down Volvo wagons. They could you register any change. The
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 73
physicality of it, the fragility evoked the moment that he became his own In there.
by such slowness, was perplexing and opposite. What?
beautiful. They walked down Newark in the For a second.
I think about that night all the darkness, took a right at the Cleve- Fuck you.
time, Jacob said, knowing already, in land Park branch of the public library. Im serious.
the rst hours of Tamirs visit, that he Silently, more like sleepwalkers than No, youre not.
wouldnt have whatever human qual- like Mossad agents, they padded down Yes, I am.
ity was required to tell Tamir that his Connecticut, over the Klingle Valley Then youre fucking crazy.
marriage was failing, or how dishev- Bridge (which Jacob was incapable of Im also fucking serious.
elled and disappointed he had be- crossing without imagining jumping), Tamir had taken them, Jacob then
come, how agnostichow far from past the Kennedy-Warren apartments. realized, to the only part of the en-
that best night of his life his life had They were awake, but it was a dream. closure where the wall was short
travelled. They came to the verdigris lions and enough for some seriously fucking
the large concrete letters: Z-O-O. crazy person to be able to jump in and
hirty years earlier, Tamir and Tamir had been right: nothing then climb back out. Hed obviously
T his parents had come to D.C. for could have been easier than hopping found it earlier in the day, maybe even
Jacobs bar mitzvah. The day before the waist-high concrete barrier. It was measured it with his eyes, maybe
the event, the extended Bloch clan so easy as to feel like a trap. Jacob certainlylet the scene play out in
had schvitzed through their under- would have been happy enough just his mind.
wear at the zoo. They saw the famous to cross the border, make the trans- Dont, Jacob said.
pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, gression official, and turn right back Why not?
the elephants and their memories, the around, newly acquired trespassing Because you know why not.
porcupines and their shields of writ- badge in trembling hand. But Tamir I dont.
ing implements. The parents argued wasnt content with the story. Because you will be eaten by a lion,
about which citys weather was less Like a tiny commando, he crouched, Tamir. Jesus Christ.
sufferable, D.C.s or Haifas. Each searched his eld of vision, then gave Theyre asleep, he said.
wanted to lose, because losing was Jacob a quick beckoning gesture to Theyre asleep because nobody is
how you won. Tamir spent most of follow. And Jacob followed. Tamir led invading their territory.
the time pointing out how little se- him past the welcome kiosk, past the And theyre not even out here.
curity there was, how easy it would orientation map, farther and farther Theyre inside.
be to sneak in, perhaps not realizing away from the street, until they lost How do you know?
that the zoo was open, and they were sight of it, as sailors lose sight of the Do you see them?
already there, and it was free. shore. Jacob didnt know where Tamir Im not a fucking zoologist. Of all
That night, a few hours after go- was leading him, but he knew that he the things that are going on right now,
ing to bed, Tamir shook Jacob into was being led, and would follow. This I probably see about none of them.
wakefulness. is so unlike me. Theyre asleep inside.
What are you doing? Jacob asked. The animals, as far as Jacob could Lets go home. Ill tell everyone
Lets go, Tamir whispered. tell, were asleep. The only sounds were you jumped in. Ill tell them you killed
What? the wind moving through the copi- a lion, or got a blow job from a lion,
Come on. ous bamboo and the ghostly buzzing or whatever will make you feel like a
Im asleep. vending machines. Earlier, the zoo hero, but lets get the fuck out of here.
Were going. had resembled an arcade on Labor Nothing I want here has to do
Where? Day. Now it felt like the middle of with anyone else.
The zoo. the ocean. Tamir had already begun to hoist
What zoo? Animals had always been myster- himself over.
Come on, shithead. ies to Jacob, but never more than when Youre going to die, Jacob said.
Its my bar mitzvah tomorrow. they slept. It felt possible to outline So are you, Tamir responded.
Today. if only a crude, gross approximation What am I supposed to do if a
Right. And I need to sleep. the consciousness of a waking animal. lion wakes up and starts running for
Sleep during your bar mitzvah. But what does a rhinoceros dream you?
Dont be a pussy. about? Does a rhinoceros dream? What are you supposed to do?
Maybe Jacobs common sense was They reached the lion enclosure. That made Jacob laugh. And his
still offline, or maybe he actually cared I havent stopped thinking about this laughter made Tamir laugh. With his
about being a pussy in Tamirs esti- since we were here this morning, small joke, the tension eased. With
mation. He sat up, rubbed his eyes, Tamir said. his small joke, the stupidest of all ideas
and put on his clothes. A phrase About what? became reasonable, even almost sen-
formed in his mindthis is so unlike He put his hands on the rail and sible, maybe even genius. The alter-
methat he would nd himself re- said, I want to touch the ground. nativesanitybecame insane. Be-
peating throughout the night, until You are touching the ground. cause they were young. Because one
74 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
eyes, I suppose that I can see over the top of the wall of
CHILDHOOD READING the secret garden: I can see the ideological underpin-
nings, understand the context, sniff out the falsities.

AT HOME IN
And yet . . . submission is stronger. Or, at least, it is in the
case of a book as richly, bravely, nely made as The Se-

THE PAST
cret Garden. My doubting, critical self seems smaller,
moving around inside the novels spaces, than the believ-
ing child who was here rst. Its the adult who feels dwarfed
BY TESSA HADLEY and tiny within the huge shape of the childs experience.
Who would dare to begin a childrens book now with this
raw, spare rst chapter, in which were introduced to Mary
Lennoxs early life, her privileged, neglected childhood in
British India? Her pretty mother had not wanted a little girl
at all; her father was absent and ill. In a contemporary novel,
those conditions would cue much indignant sympathy for
Mary. Instead, were told that she was a sickly, fretful, ugly
baby, and that by the time she was six years old she was as
tyrannical and selsh a little pig as ever lived; she bullied
and slapped her ayah, her nurse, who disliked and feared her.
Strong diet, for a young reader! And then, in one week, when
Mary is nine years old, everything changes. The disaster is
written with such cool economy: the arrival of cholera, the
ayahs death, the mothers panicking fear and then her own
death, and the fathers, and the ight of the remaining ser-
vants. Abandoned, Mary wakes up in an empty house. No-
body thought of her, nobody wanted her. Fifty years later, I
can recover something of the fascination with which I once
pored over all this. So that could happen! My imagination
strained and altered, taking in new possibilities.
Ungrateful, unlovable little Mary is rescued from India
and sent to a big house on the Yorkshire moors, to stay
with her uncle, who is reclusive and embittered because
his wife was killed in an accident in a gardenthe gar-
den is locked now, so no one can get inside. I can per-
ceive all the value systems encoded here: sapped by the
torpid decadence of India, with its eternal servitude, Mary
can be healed only by contact with the rugged moors and
wholesome English Nature, and by learning to respect
didnt possess many books when I was a child; mostly, the robust English working classes. Martha the maid isnt
I I borrowed them from the library. But the ones I did servile; she speaks sharply back to Mary when shes rude,
own I read over and over, and some of them soaked in in broad Yorkshire. Marthas brother, Dickon, is a kind of
deep under my skin, composing my private mythology Pan gure, taming the animals. The class divide between
and shaping my mind. On the cover of my nineteen- Mary and these working people is wholly sentimental-
sixties Puffin paperback edition of Frances Hodgson Bur- ized. Perhaps its Dickon I nd hardest to believe in now,
netts The Secret Garden was a little dark-haired girl in though I think I loved him once.
a white coat, standing among thorny bare rosebushes: she Yet, even while Im decoding all this, Im still enthralled.
looks just as Mary Lennox is described inside the book My skepticism feels like a trivial thing beside the myste-
skinny and sallow-faced and glum. The melancholy of rious psychic spaces the story opens up: the secret garden
that cover spoke to me. The Secret Garden was pub- where Mary can grow to new life, the uncle with his
lished in 1911, but I had no sense that I was divided from stunted grieving, the cries of the lost boy-child that Mary
the Edwardians by a gulf of time or history. Because of hears at night in the great, empty house, though the ser-
my reading, I felt I knew that era so well; I was at home vants swear that theres no one. As the novel gathers mo-
in it. In fact, I preferred the past, and found modernity mentum toward its resolution, I know in my critical self
inferior, a disappointment. that it becomes too heavily didactic and sweet with sen-
Its a strange experience to reread a book that was for- timent for our contemporary tastes. But Im not sorry that
GRARD DUBOIS

mative in your childhoodas potent as revisiting a lost I grew up on this rich fruitcake diet of feeling and mor-
place. The books landscape is at once intimately known alizing. There are worse things. This is one of the mira-
and unfamiliar; I seem to be stepping in the footprints I cles that ction works: you can be a doubter and a be-
left when I was last here. Looking around with adult liever in the same moment, in the same sentence.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 75
is young only once in a life lived only But I have glasses and acne. tain point, Jacob was halfway over the
once. Because recklessness is the only That small joke defused nothing, glass, without ever having climbed it.
st to throw at nothingness. made nothing almost sensible. His hands were shaking so violently
It happened so quickly, and took Tamir punched Jacob in the chest. that he could barely hold on.
forever. Tamir jumped down, landing He punched hard enough to send Let go, Tamir said.
with a thud he obviously hadnt antic- Jacob into the railing. It was the rst He shook his head and let go.
ipated, because his eyes met Jacobs time Jacob had ever been punched. And then he was on the ground,
with a ash of panic. And, as if the What the fuck, Tamir? inside the lions den.
ground were lava, he tried to get off it. What are you crying about? This is the opposite of me.
He wasnt quite able to reach the rail Im not crying. There, on the dirt, in the middle
on his rst jump, but the second try If youre not crying, then stop of the simulated savanna, in the mid-
looked easy. He pulled himself up, Jacob crying. dle of the nations capital, he felt some-
hoisted him over the glass, and together Im not. thing so irrepressible and true that it
they fell onto the pavement, laughing. Tamir placed a hand on each of would either save him or ruin his life.
What did Jacob feel, laughing with Jacobs shoulders, and rested his fore- Three years later, he would touch
his cousin? He was laughing at life. head against Jacobs. Jacob had breast- his tongue to the tongue of a girl for
Laughing at Tamir, and at himself. fed for a year, been given baths in the whom he would happily have cut off
Even a thirteen-year-old knows the kitchen sink, fallen asleep on his fa- his arms, if only she had let him. The
thrill and terror of his own insigni- thers shoulder a thousand times following year, an air bag would tear
cance. Especially a thirteen-year-old. but this was an intimacy he had never his retina and save his life. Two years
Now you, Tamir said as they experienced. after that, he would gaze with amaze-
picked themselves up and brushed You have to do it, Tamir said. ment at a mouth around his penis.
themselves off. I dont want to. And, later that year, he would say to
No fucking way. You do, but youre afraid. his father what for years he had been
This is so unlike me. I dont. saying about him. He would smoke a
Come on. He did. But he was afraid. bushel of pot, watch his knee bend the
Id rather die. Come, Tamir said, leading Jacob wrong way during a stupid tag-foot-
You can have it both ways. Come to the wall. Its easy. It will take only ball game, be inexplicably moved to
on, you have to. a second. You saw that it wasnt a big tears in a foreign city by a painting of
Because you did it? deal. And youll remember it forever. a woman and her baby, touch a hiber-
Because you want to do it. This is so unlike me. nating brown bear and an endangered
I dont. Dead people dont have memories. pangolin, spend a week waiting for a
Come on, he said. Youll be so I wont let you die. test result, pray silently for his wifes
happy. For years youll be happy. No? What will you do? life as a new life came out of her
Happiness isnt that important to Ill jump in with you. bodyso many moments when life
me. So we die together? felt big, precious. But they made up
And then, rmly, Now, Jacob. Yes. such an utterly small portion of his
My parents would kill me if I died But that doesnt make me any less time on earth: ve minutes a year?
before my bar mitzvah. dead. What did it sum to? A day? At most?
This will be your bar mitzvah. It does. Now go. A day of feeling alive in four decades
No way. Somehow it happened without of life?
And then Tamir got up in Jacobs happening, without any decision hav- Inside the lions den, he felt sur-
face. Im going to punch you if you ing been made, without a brain send- rounded and embraced by his own ex-
dont do it. ing any signal to any muscle. At a cer- istence. He felt, perhaps for the rst
time in his life, safe.
But then he heard it, and was
brought back. He looked up, met
Tamirs eyes, and could see that Tamir
heard it, too. A stirring. Flattening
foliage.
Jacob turned and saw an animal.
Not in his mind but an actual animal
in the actual world. An animal that
didnt deliberate and expound. An un-
circumcised animal. It was fty feet
away, but its hot breath was steaming
up Jacobs glasses.
Without saying a word, Tamir ex-
tended his hand. Jacob leaped for it but
couldnt reach. Their ngers touched,
which made the distance feel in-
nite. Jacob jumped again, and again
their ngertips brushed, and now the
lion was running. Jacob had no time
to gather himself or contemplate how
he might get an extra inch or two; he
simply tried again, and this timebe-
cause of the adrenaline, or because of
Gods sudden desire to prove His ex-
istencehe caught hold of Tamirs
wrist.
And then Jacob and Tamir were
once again sprawled on the pavement,
and Tamir started laughing, and Jacob
started laughing, and then, or at the
same time, Jacob started crying.
Tamir was crying, too.

hirty years later, at Jacobs


T kitchen table, the night after Isaac
was buried, they were still on the brink
of the enclosure. But, despite all the
inches theyd grown, it no longer felt
possible to enter. The glass had grown,
too. It had grown more than theyd
grown.
A lot has happened, Jacob said, as
Tamir opened two beers. But nothing
like that.
There are versions of happiness.
I know. Dont expect too much. Thank you. middle-aged men, the fathers of still-
Learn to love the numbness. He pulled back and said, No, like, young children.
Did you ever stop to ask yourself too trusting. Too childlike. Jacob thought about all that was hap-
why you put such an emphasis on Google knew how far Tel Aviv was pening behind the walls, above the ceil-
feeling? from Washington, and a tape measure ing, and under the oorhow little he
What else would one put an em- could determine the width of the table, understood the workings of his home.
phasis on? but Jacob couldnt even approximate What was going on at the outlet when
A wind passed over the house, and his emotional distance from Tamir. He nothing was plugged in? Was there water
deep inside the range hood the damper wondered: Do we understand each in the pipes at that moment? There
apped. other? Or are we near-strangers, just must have been, since it came out as
It was a hard day, Tamir said. assuming and pretending? He swal- soon as the faucet was opened. So did
Yes, but the day has been decades. lowed a mouthful of beer and used his that mean the house was constantly
But its felt like only a few seconds, palm to dry the ring left on the table, lled with sitting water? Wouldnt that
right? wishing, as he did, that he were the weigh an enormous amount? When
Whenever someone asks me how kind of person who could let such hed learned in school that his body was
Im doing, I nd myself saying, Im things go. more than sixty per cent water, hed
going through a passage. Everything Julia wasnt home. His kids were done as his father had taught him to
is a transition, a stop on the way to the supposed to be asleep in their rooms, do, and doubted. Water simply wasnt
destination, turbulence. But Ive been but Sam had seven apps open on his heavy enough for that to be true. Then
saying it for so long I should probably iPad, and Max was looking up words hed done as his father had taught him
accept that the rest of my life is going from The Catcher in the Rye that he to do and sought the truth from his fa-
to be one long passage: an hourglass didnt understandpissed, as Holden ther. Irv lled a trash bin with the gar-
with no bulbs. had taught him to be, that he wasnt den hose and challenged Jacob to lift
Tamir leaned over and in a low yet allowed to have a device of his it. As Jacob struggled, Irv said, You
voice, almost whispering, said, You are own and had to use a paper dictionary. should feel blood.
innocent. Barak was in the guest room, asleep
What? Jacob said. and expanding. Downstairs, it was NEWYORKER.COM
You are innocent. only the two cousinsold friends, Jonathan Safran Foer discusses his story.

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 77


AMERICAN CHRONICLES

CITIZEN KHAN
Behind a Muslim community in northern Wyoming lies one enterprising manand countless tamales.
BY KATHRYN SCHULZ

he first person in Sheridan, to spontaneous combustion from the hugeyou could t all of New England

T Wyoming, to learn that Hot


Tamale Louie had been knifed
to death was William Henry Harri-
underground res burning perpetually
beneath it. Because its economy is tied
to the energy industry, it is subject to an
inside it, then throw in Hawaii and Mary-
land for good measurebut it is the least
populous state in the Union; under six
son, Jr. The news came by telegram, the endless cycle of boom and bust, and to hundred thousand people live there, fewer
day after the murder. Harrison was the a ballooning population during the good than in Louisville, Kentucky. Its Muslim
son of a member of Congress, the great- years. The pattern of social problems population is correspondingly tinyper-
grandson of one President, the great- that attend that kind of rapid popula- haps seven or eight hundred people.
great-great-grandson of another Presi- tion growthincreased crime, higher Contrary to the claims of Stop Islam
dent, and the great-great-great-great- divorce rates, lower school attendance, in Gillette, however, the Muslims who
grandson of one of the signers of the more mental-health issueshas been established the mosque are not new to
Declaration of Independence. Hot known, since the nineteen-seventies, as the region. Together with some twenty
Tamale Louie was the son of nobody Gillette Syndrome. Today, the town con- per cent of all Muslims in Wyoming,
knows who, the grandson of nobody sists of three interstate exits worth of they trace their presence back more than
knows who, and the great-great-grand- tract housing and fast food, surrounded a hundred years, to 1909, when a young
son of nobody knows who. He had by open-pit mines and pinned to the map man named Zarif Khan immigrated to
been selling tamales in Sheridan since by oil rigs. Signs on the highway warn the American frontier. Born around
Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, about the fty-mile-per-hour winds. 1887, Khan came from a little village
sold them when President Taft came to A couple of hundred Muslims live called Bara, not far from the Khyber
visit, was still selling them when the Rus- in northeastern Wyoming, and last Pass, in the borderlands between Af-
sians sent Sputnik into space and the fall some of them pooled their money ghanistan and Pakistan. His parents
British sent the Beatles to America. to buy a one-story house at the end of were poor, and the region was politi-
By then, Louie was a local legend, Gillettes Country Club Road, just out- cally unstable. Khans childhood would
and his murder shocked everyone. It side a development called Country Club have been marked by privation and
was front-page, above-the-fold news Estates, in one of the nicer neighbor- conictif he had any childhood to
in Sheridan, and made headlines hoods in town. They placed a sign at speak of. Family legend has it that he
throughout Wyoming, Colorado, and the end of the driveway, laid prayer rugs was just twelve when he left.
South Dakota. It travelled by word of on top of the wall-to-wall carpeting, What he did next nobody knows,
mouth across the state to Yellowstone, and began meeting there for Friday but by September 3, 1907, he had got him-
and by post to California, where for- worshipmaking it, in function if not self a thousand miles south, to Bombay,
mer Sheridan residents opened their in form, the third mosque in the state. where he boarded a ship called the Peno.
mailboxes to nd letters from home- Most locals reacted to this develop- Eight weeks later, on October 28th, he
town friends mourning Louies death. ment with indifference or neighborly arrived in Seattle. From there, he struck
That was in 1964. Two years later, the interest, if they reacted at all. But a out for the interior, apparently living for
killer was tried, found guilty, hanged, re- small number formed a group called a while in Deadwood, South Dakota,
moved from the gallows, then hanged Stop Islam in Gillette to protest the and the nearby towns of Lead and Spear-
again. Within a few years after that, Louie, mosque; to them, the Muslims it served sh before crossing the border into Wy-
his tamales, his murder, and everything were unwelcome newcomers to Wyo- oming. Once there, he settled in Sheri-
else about him had faded from the head- ming, at best a menace to the states dan, which is where he made a name for
lines. A half century passed. Then, late cultural traditions and at worst incip- himself, literally: as Hot Tamale Louie
last year, he wound up back in the news. ient jihadis. When those protests dark- beloved Mexican-food vender, Afghan
The events that propelled him there ened into threats, the local police got immigrant, and patriarch of Wyomings
took place in the town of Gillette, involved, as did the F.B.I. now besieged Muslim population.
ninety minutes southeast of Sheridan. Whatever their politics, many outsid-
Situated in the stark center of Wyo- ers, on hearing about Stop Islam in Gil- hen Khan arrived in Sheridan,
mings energy-rich but otherwise empty lette, shared at least one of its sentiments: W he and Wyoming were roughly
Powder River Basin, Gillette grew up a measure of surprise that a Muslim com- the same agethe man in his early
around wildcat wells and coal mines munity existed in such a remote corner of twenties, the state nineteen. At the time,
dry as a bone except in its saloons, prone the country. Wyoming is geographically the idea that anyone at all would move
78 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
Zarif Khan, a.k.a. Hot Tamale Louie, arrived in small-town Wyoming in 1909 and eventually became a local legend.
ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 79
ginning in 1869, women in the terri-
tory could vote, serve on juries, and, in
some instances, enjoy a guarantee of
equal pay for equal workmaking it,
Susan B. Anthony said, the rst place
on Gods green earth which could con-
sistently claim to be the land of the
free. Despite resistance from the U.S.
Congress, Wyoming insisted on retain-
ing those rights when petitioning for
statehood; in 1890, when it became the
forty-fourth state in the Union, it also
became the rst where women could
vote. On the spot, it acquired its nick-
name: the Equality State.
At statehood, Sheridan was a tiny
settlement, just across the line from
Montana, just east of the Big Horns,
and otherwise very far from much of
anything. But two years later, follow-
ing rumors of coal (true) and gold (over-
blown), the population began to boom.
By 1909, when Khan arrived, around
eight thousand people lived there and,
on the evidence of the local business
pages, the town had developed a kind
of frontier-cosmopolitan chic. It had
seventeen Blacksmiths, one Bicycle
Dealer, and ve purveyors of Buggies
and Wagons. It had a Clairvoyant
one Mrs. Ellen Johnstonand a great
many Coal Miners. Residents could go
Bowling, or to the Opera House, or
visit a Health Resort. They could get a
Manicure from a Mrs. Rosella Wood,
who was also available for Massages.
I trust himhe has a science background. They could read two different newspa-
persone Republican, one Democratic.
They could buy Grain and Guns and
Horses, Books and Stationery and
Coffee, Camping Outts, Driving
to the region was a novelty. Although a ash-frozen ocean. But at least it had Gloves, Musical Instruments, and
Native Americans had lived there for grandeur, and verdure. In the east, by Talking Machines.
millennia, Europeans didnt visit until contrast, you could travel ve hundred But perhaps the most striking entry
at least 1743, and they didnt linger. As miles and not see a tree. Precipitation in the Sheridan business directory was
late as 1870, scarcely nine thousand was similarly scarce. The Homestead the one tucked in between Tallow and
people lived in the entire territory.The Act offered Western settlers a hundred Grease and Taxidermists: Tama-
coming of the railroad, which was sup- and sixty acresnot enough, in that les. When Zarif Khan rst began sell-
posed to solve that population prob- landscape, to keep ve cows alive. In ing them, he shouldered a yoke with a
lem, temporarily exacerbated it instead. winter, the mercury could plunge to bucket swinging from each end and
Hundreds of thousands of people had fty degrees below zero. People froze walked to wherever he could nd cus-
seen Wyoming from train windows, to death in blizzards in May. Frontier tomers: outside the bank at lunch, out-
the historian T. A. Larson wrote, and Texas, the saying goes, was paradise for side the bars at closing time, down at
were spreading the word that the ter- men and dogs, hell on women and the railroad depot when the trains came
ritory looked like a barren wasteland. horses. Frontier Wyoming was hell on in. Business was good enough that he
That was particularly true in north- everyone. soon bought a pushcart. By 1914, the
eastern Wyoming. The rest of the state Perhaps because it so desperately Sheridan Enterprise was referring to
could be daunting, with its successive needed people, Wyoming was, from him, inaccurately but affectionately,
mountain chains rising like crests on the outset, unusually egalitarian. Be- as the well-known Turkish tamale
80 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
vendor. (In fairness, nearly all refer- the burgers in chicken fat, or sizzled until midnight or one or whenever the
ences to Khans nationality were inac- bay leaf into the grease, or mixed in last of the bar crowd went home. It also
curate, including his own. Although hearts and tongues. helped that he would serve anyone. Sher-
he identied as Afghan and official Whatever his secret, Khan was par- idan in 1919 was still the kind of place
documents pertaining to his life reect ticular about how he served his ham- where businesses posted signs saying
that, his natal village was ceded to Brit- burgers. Cheese was unheard of, and No Dogs or Indians Allowed, but Na-
ish India before his birth, and today woe betide those who requested tive Americans were welcome at Lou-
belongs to the Federally Administered ketchup. A burger from Louies came ies. Some of them, in consequence, be-
Tribal Areas of Pakistan.) plain, or, if you chose, with mustard, came strikingly loyal customers. Joe
In 1915, or maybe the year after, Khan pickles, and onions. (Several former Medicine Crow, the scholar and Sec-
opened a restauranta hole-in-the-wall repeat customers, now in their seven- ond World War hero, who died this past
on Grinnell Avenue, around the corner ties and eighties, pointed an imagi- April, at a hundred and two, loved Khans
from Main Street. The hand-painted nary knife at me and said, You wan burgers so much that, on his way home
lettering on the faade said Louies, onions, keed?) He sliced the pickles to Montana after the war, he hopped
and, forever afterward, that is what both the long way, with a rapidity that mes- off the train during a thirty-minute stop
Khan and his restaurant were called. It merized his customers. On a good day, in Sheridan and was still down at Lou-
had a service window that opened onto he went through a hundred and fty ies eating when it pulled out again
the street for customers who wanted buns. On a really good daywhen the much to the dismay of his mother, who
their food to go, and a counter lined with rodeo came to town, sayhe would had organized a town-wide celebration
stools for those who preferred to eat in- re up a second grill and bring on an at his home station.
side. In addition to the tamales, Khan extra high-school kid, and tour buses Kids were welcome at Louies, too,
served hamburgers, chili, pie, and ice would pull up and order a hundred as were the women who worked at the
creamany avor except chocolate, burgers at a time. By 1919, the restau- nearby brothels and people who were
which he avoided because it sullied the rant was doing so well that Khan too broke to buy a meal. Khan would
cuffs of the white button-down shirts opened a Ladies Annex, tted with hand out a tamale anyway, although
he liked to wear to work. tables for the convenience of women, the next time he saw you he might say,
For nomenclatural purposes, how- as the Sheridan Post reported. The Hi, Mr. Ten Cents, and if by then
ever, none of these other menu items place was still a hole-in-the-wall you had a dime youd pay him back.
mattered. To the town of Sheridan, those tables numbered precisely The only people he refused to serve
Khan would always be Hot Tamale threebut it was the most popular were the drunk, the foulmouthed, and
Louie, or Tamale Louie, or, because it hole-in-the-wall in town. the brawling, whom he personally threw
sounded best, Louie Tamale. He could It helped that it was always open. out on their ears. He was ve feet six
have served steak tartare and the name Seven days a week, fty-two weeks a year, and weighed a hundred and twenty
would have stuck. Purists insist that Khan began prepping at ten, opened pounds, but nothing and no one in-
it was apt, because nothing Khan or the window at eleven, and served food timidated him. For one thing, he had
anyone else ever served was as deli-
cious as his tamales. He made them
at home, from chickens he kept in the
back yard and killed in halal fash-
ion. Everett McGlothlin, who last
tasted one of Louies tamales when
he worked there as a high-school kid,
in the nineteen-fties, said, I love ta-
males, and I still havent found any-
thing that comes close.
For another faction, however, it was
Louies hamburgers that dazzled. Sixty
years on, locals who hear someone
talking about Khan will cross the room
and interrupt the conversation to say
that he made the greatest burgers in
the history of burgerdom. Five gener-
ations of Sheridan residents ate them,
and those who are still around go into
a kind of blissed-out cholesterol-bomb
reverie when attempting to describe
them. Some claim that he used only
bull meat, and rendered his own tal-
low to fry it in. Others say he cooked As exercise, its torture, but as torture its not so bad.
the uorescent classroom lights and squinted, the way one
CHILDHOOD READING might examine counterfeit money. I could tell, by the slowly
brightening room, that it had started to snow. I pointed to my

SURRENDERING
work dangling from his ngers. No, where is the poem you
plagiarized? How did you even write something like this?
Then he tipped my desk toward me. The desk had a cubby at-
BY OCEAN VUONG tached to its underside, and I watched as the contents spilled
from the cubbys mouth: rectangular pink erasers, crayons, yel-
low pencils, wrinkled work sheets where dotted letters were
lled in, a lime Dum Dum lollipop. But no poem. I stood be-
fore the rubble at my feet. Little moments of ice hurled them-
selves against the window as the boys and girls, my peers, stared,
their faces as unconvinced as blank sheets of paper.
Weeks earlier, Id been in the library. It was where I would
hide during recess. Otherwise, because of my slight frame and
soft voice, the boys would call me pansy and fairy and pull
my shorts around my ankles in the middle of the schoolyard.
I sat on the oor beside a tape player. From a box of cassettes,
I chose one labelled Great American Speeches. I picked it
because of the illustration, a microphone against a backdrop
of the American ag. I picked it because the American ag
was one of the few symbols I recognized.
Through the headset, a robust male voice surged forth, emp-
tying into my body. The mans inections made me think of
waves on a sea. Between his sentences, a crowdI imagined
thousandsroared and applauded. I imagined their heads
shifting in an endless ow. His voice must possess the power
of a moon, I thought, something beyond my grasp, my little
life. Then a narrator named the man as a Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. I nodded, not knowing why a doctor was speaking
eading and writing, like any other crafts, come to the like this. But maybe these people were ill, and he was trying
R mind slowly, in pieces. But for me, as an E.S.L. student to cure them. There must have been medicine in his words
from a family of illiterate rice farmers, who saw reading as can there be medicine in words? I have a dream, I mouthed
snobby, or worse, the experience of working through a book, to myself as the doctor spoke. It occurred to me that I had
even one as simple as Where the Wild Things Are, was akin been mouthing my grandmothers stories as well, the ones she
to standing in quicksand, your loved ones corralled at its safe had been telling me ever since I was born. Of course, not being
edges, their arms folded in suspicion and doubt as you sink. able to read does not mean that one is empty of stories.
My family immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1990, My poem was called If a Boy Could Dream. The phrases
when I was two. We lived, all seven of us, in a one-bedroom promised land and mountaintop sounded golden to me, and
apartment in Hartford, Connecticut, and I spent my rst ve I saw an ochre-lit eld, a lushness akin to a spring dusk. I imag-
years in America surrounded, inundated, by the Vietnamese ined that the doctor was dreaming of springtime. So my poem
language. When I entered kindergarten, I was, in a sense, im- was a sort of ode to spring. From the gardening shows my grand-
migrating all over again, except this time into English. Like mother watched, Id learned the words for owers I had never
any American child, I quickly learned my ABCs, thanks to the seen in person: foxglove, lilac, lily, buttercup. If a boy could
age-old melody (one I still sing rapidly to myself when I for- dream of golden elds, full of lilacs, tulips, marigolds . . .
get whether M comes before N). Within a few years, I had I knew words like if and boy, but others I had to look
become uentbut only in speech, not in the written word. up. I sounded out the words in my head, a dictionary in my
One early-spring afternoon, when I was in fourth grade, lap, and searched the letters. After a few days, the poem ap-
we got an assignment in language-arts class: we had two weeks peared as gray graphite words. The paper a white ag. I had
to write a poem in honor of National Poetry Month. Nor- surrendered, had written.
mally, my poor writing abilities would excuse me from such Looking back, I can see my teachers problem. I was, after
assignments, and I would instead spend the class mindlessly all, a poor student. Where is it? he said again.
copying out passages from books Id retrieved from a blue Its right here, I said, pointing to my poem pinched be-
plastic bin at the back of the room. The task allowed me to tween his ngers.
camouage myself; as long as I looked as though I were doing I had read books that werent books, and I had read them
GRARD DUBOIS

something smart, my shame and failure were hidden. The trou- using everything but my eyes. From that invisible reading, I
ble began when I decided to be dangerously ambitious. Which had pressed my world onto paper. As such, I was a fraud in a
is to say, I decided to write a poem. eld of language, which is to say, I was a writer. I have plagia-
Where is it? the teacher asked. He held my poem up to rized my life to give you the best of me.
82 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
got himself all the way to Sheridan That left immigrants from Asian him citizenship, ruling that the words
from the Khyber Pass. For another, he nations in the lurchdeliberately, as white person were meant to indicate
was the one holding the foot-long knife. Congress soon made clear. The 1882 only a person of what is popularly known
Also, he had good aim with an onion. Chinese Exclusion Act prevented any- as the Caucasian race. A year later, the
Khans egalitarian attitude raised eye- one born in China from becoming Court took up the case of Bhagat Singh
brows among Sheridans snootier citi- American. The Immigration Act of 1917 Thind, an Indian man who was, as the
zens. In the end, though, no one could established an Asiatic Barred Zone: a Justices reluctantly conceded, techni-
stay away from the food, and so Lou- region, encompassing dozens of coun- cally Caucasian. This time, however,
ies gradually became its own little Equal- tries, from the Middle East to Mela- the judges ruled that white persons
ity Statean American kind of place, nesia, whose native citizens could not was synonymous with the word Cau-
diverse and democratic, where the staff be naturalized. In theory, such laws casian only as that word is popularly
of the newspaper wolfed down post-dead- were plenty clear. In practice, however, understood.
line burgers elbow to elbow with soci- Asians petitioning for citizenship sim- Like Zarif Khan, Thind had al-
ety ladies, and schoolkids counted out ply contended that they were white. ready been naturalized; upon ruling
their nickels next to stockbrokers order- Whether that was true was a matter against him, the Supreme Court
ing large. Meanwhile, Louie himself had of heated dispute among ethnologists, stripped him of his citizenship. For
gradually become American as well, and anthropologists, political scientists, pol- most of U.S. history, that process,
in 1925, after nearly twenty years in the icymakers, and government officials called denaturalization, was used to
United States, he decided to make it around the nation. revoke citizenship that had been
official. The town fathers, all of them The courts, brought in to clarify fraudulently obtained, or to remove
Louie regulars, were happy to help; when the issue, made a mess of it instead. from the ranks of Americans felons,
Khan led his naturalization petition, it In White by Law: The Legal Con- traitors, and war criminals. The former
was witnessed for him by the general struction of Race, the Berkeley law Auschwitz guard Jakob Frank Den-
counsel for the city of Sheridan and one professor Ian Haney Lpez provides zinger was denaturalized, as was the
of its former mayors. a tragicomic list of court rulings on anarchist Emma Goldman and the
The citizenship hearing was held racial identity, together with their alleged Communist spy Solomon
on November 6, 1925. Because natu- legal rationales. Among those rul- Adler. But, beginning in the early
ralization examiners showed up in ings: that Hawaiians are not white twentieth century, the Naturalization
Sheridan only once a year, the event (based on scientic evidence); that Bureau (later the Immigration and
was crowded with would-be Ameri- Mexicans are not white (based on legal Naturalization Service) sought to de-
cans from around the county: seven- precedent); that Burmese are not white naturalize Asians who had been
teen from Poland, six from Austria, (based on common knowledge); that granted citizenship by courts that
four from Czechoslovakia, two each Japanese are not white (based on legal were either ignorant of current im-
from Greece, Scotland, Hungary, and precedent); that people who are one- migration law or deliberately defy-
Montenegro, one from Russia, one quarter Japanese are not white (based ing it. According to the legal scholar
from Sweden, and oneHot Tamale on legal precedent); that Syrians are Patrick Weil, this process was so far
Louie, n Zarif Khanfrom Afghan- white (based on scientic evidence); from systematic as to be scattershot.
istan. On February 2, 1926, the paper- that Syrians are not white (based on In effect, it came down to chance: an
work came through, and Louie be- common knowledge); that Arabs are Asian citizen whod had the good
came a citizen. Five months after that, white (based on common knowledge); luck to nd a lenient representative
he received a subpoena from the U.S. that Arabs are not white (based on of the Naturalization Bureau then
Attorney for the district of Wyoming, common knowledge); that Native had the bad luck to be found by a
ordering him to appear in court in the Americans are not white (based on strict one.
matter of the United States of Amer- nothing). No one knows exactly how such a
ica v. Zarif Khan. That is the kind of wild inconsis- person found Zarif Khan. Perhaps he
tency that eventually compels the Su- tried to obtain a passport, or perhaps
he first naturalization law preme Court to weigh in, and in 1922 he was summoned for jury duty, or per-
T in the United States was passed in it agreed to do so. Instead of resolv- haps someone read about his citizen-
1790, one year into George Washing- ing the muddle, however, the Court ship ceremony in the local papers and
tons rst term as President. It estab- issued two rulings in under a year decided to tip off the authorities. What-
lished that only free white persons that made matters worse. In the rst, ever happened, on August 12, 1926,
were eligible to become citizens, a Ozawa v. United States, a Japanese man U.S. Attorney Albert D. Waltonbest
constraint designed to exclude Native brought up and educated in Berkeley known for helping to represent the fed-
Americans and slaves. After the Civil argued that, for naturalization purposes, eral government during the Teapot
War, that law was changed to extend he was white. The Court acknowledged Dome scandalled a suit alleging
eligibility to people of African descent. that Ozawas character was irreproach- that Khans naturalization was ille-
As a result, beginning in 1870, those able, and also that he had a paler com- gally procured.
petitioning for American citizenship plexion than many people whose white- Khans case arrived at a curious mo-
had to be either black or white. ness went uncontested. But it denied ment in immigration history. The year
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 83
before, an Indian man from San Fran-
cisco named Vaishno Das Bagai had
been stripped of his citizenship, as had FAILURE
his wife and childrena particularly
dire development for a California res- I looked like a woman. Id begun
ident, because, by state law, those in- to bleed, something Id wanted with a fervor,
eligible for citizenship could not own like the fervor with which I burned
property. Sometime later, Das Bagai to kiss Earl Freeman, to smell his man sweat
told his family that he was going on a and nger the hollow at his breastbone
business trip, booked a hotel room in when we lay in the hot sand in Atlantic City,
San Jose, and killed himself. In the the white sky arched over us. I was in such a hurry
note he left behind, he described his to grow up, my mother said. But I was innocent
suicide as a political protest. I came in the sense of not yet guilty
to America thinking, dreaming, and as I lifted the spoonful of oatmeal
hoping to make this land my home, to my fathers lips
he wrote. But now they come to me the day he came home from the hospital.
and say, I am no longer an American My mother had to go back to work
Citizen. . . . Now what am I? What Hy-Grade Wines and Liquors,
have I made of myself and my chil- which paid for the brown Formica table and pink
dren? Das Bagai addressed the note refrigerator, pink dishwasher. Wed moved
to the San Francisco Examiner, which from the apartment over the store
published it. into a house with a front door.
Das Bagais death marked the be-
ginning of a gradual shift in both pub-
lic opinion and official policy on de- ber 30, 1926, a judge declared him town was that hed already made a mil-
naturalization. In 1927, the Supreme forever restrained and enjoined from lion dollars by 1929.
Court refused to hear a case against setting up or claiming any right, priv- Whatever his earnings were, they
a naturalized Indian man, thereby ilege, benet, or advantage whatso- were wiped out in the Great Depres-
sending a message to the lower courts ever of U.S. citizenship. All told, sion. But he still had the restaurant,
to stop revoking citizenship on the Khan had enjoyed those rights for and now he had experience. He began
basis of race. By then, it was clear that, under a year. Then his naturalization buying up stocks made cheap by the
as a practical matter, no good would was cancelled, and the form on le crashGeneral Motors, for instance,
come of judicial wrangling over white- with the court was emended to read which was then trading at eight dol-
ness, and also that attempting to main- member of the yellow race. He was lars a share and had hit ninety by 1960.
tain a white population through nat- ordered to pay the cost of the law- Also General Electric, Standard Oil,
uralization policy was a losing battle. suit, plus tax. Union Carbide, Northern Pacic Rail-
Moreover, immigration laws were rap- way, B. F. Goodrich, International Tele-
idly becoming ideologically unten- f Khan was bitter about his loss of phone and Telegraph, and Texaco. He
able as well. At the start of the Sec- I citizenship, he didnt show it. He favored utilities, the energy indus-
ond World War, the United States may never even have mentioned it; no try, and mining companies. He bought
was the only developed nation other one I talked to, including his children, thousands of shares in Lucky Friday, a
than Germany to explicitly restrict knew that it had happened. Instead, he silver and zinc mine in Idaho, for thirty
citizenship on the basis of race set his sights on that most American cents each, and sat on them as they rose
a common ground that became in- of goals: making money. to thirty dollars.
creasingly uncomfortable as Nazi atroc- It began in the nineteen-twenties, In 1944, he hired a woman named
ities came to light. Midway through with the wealthy men who settled into Helen Ellis as a combination book-
the war, Congress repealed the Chi- the stools at Louies and studied their keeper and all-purpose assistant. She
nese exclusion laws. Immediately af- newspapers. Whats so interesting in worked for him for twenty years, doing
terward, it lifted all race-based citi- there? Khan wanted to know. They everything from handling his corre-
zenship requirements. laughed at him, but they told him. He spondence to tying the strings on the
But all that came too late for Zarif began buying the paper every day and ends of his tamales. When his nances
Khan. His citizenship was challenged asking whichever kid was working for got more complex, he hired an accoun-
at a time when the courts had con- him to take a break from peeling on- tantBill Harrison, of the Presiden-
sistently held that whiteness was a re- ions to read the business pages aloud. tial lineageand Ellis began working
quisite quality in a new American, Khan couldnt read or write English. exclusively in the restaurant. Khan him-
and one that Afghans lacked. At some He had no formal education to speak self kept working there, too. Very few
point, his cause must have seemed of. But he was frugal, focussed, patient, people knew that he had any other
hopeless; when his case came to court, and, as it turned out, exceptionally good source of income, and his day-to-
Khan did not contest it. On Decem- at picking stocks. The rumor around day life betrayed no signs of improved
84 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
Khan making a small fortune plus a
whole lot of Mexican food under the
I wanted people to ring the bell name Louie Tamale?
and Id answer it like on TV.
It didnt seem like it would be too hard eople floated theories, of
to feed my father. I can do it, P course. Some thought that Khan,
I assured my mother. before arriving in the United States,
I think I may see us there forever, my weak father had worked as a cook in Mexico, then
in pajamas, me holding gradually made his way north to Wy-
the spoon of thin oatmeal, lifting it oming. Others claimed that he rst ar-
to his lips and the lips not rived in San Francisco, where a Latino
taking it, not really willing or immigrant taught him to make tama-
unwilling. So the gruel les. In reality, Khan never went to Mex-
slid back out again, dribbling ico and was not taught his trade by
down his badly shaved chin and he anyone from Latin America. Instead,
not doing anything to stop it. My father. in becoming Louie Tamale, Zarif Khan
I left him there. This was my rst also became part of a curious piece of
entrance into the land of failure, a country culinary, labor, and immigration his-
I would visit so often tory: an entire network of Afghan ta-
it would begin to feel like home. male venders who, from roughly 1900
to 1920, sold their wares on the streets
Ellen Bass of nearly every city in the West, from
small-town Wyoming all the way up
to Alaska.
nancial circumstances. He still rented never forgot anyone on a birthday or Tamales are old, as food goes; they
the same house on North Scott Street Christmas. The hungry could count preceded Columbus, and possibly Christ.
that hed moved into in 1909. He still on him for meals, kids could count on They originated in Mesoamerica, like-
rented the same tiny restaurant space him for jobs, overseas service mem- ly courtesy of the Maya, and were the
on Grinnell Avenue. He still walked bers for money and gifts. Yet, as open carry-out food of their day, much prized
everywhere, and he still worked eighty as he was toward others, Khan was re- by soldiers, hunters, and other hungry
hours a week. served about his own life, almost to people on the go. By the time Euro-
The only way Khan ever displayed the point of shyness. He was profes- peans got to the New World, tamales
his wealth was through his generos- sionally close to Bill Harrison, Helen could be found, at a minimum, in much
ity, which had always been remarkable Ellis, and his lawyer, Henry Burgess. of Central America and throughout
and eventually became legendary. In Beyond that, he had no known friends. Mexico. As late as 1884, however, they
the nineteen-twenties, for instance, a Perhaps for that reason, no one ever were sufficiently unfamiliar in the
country kid named Archie Nash began United States that the Associated Press
boarding in Sheridan so that he could felt compelled to refer to them thus:
attend high school there. In the long A queer article of food, locally known
gaps between visits from his parents, as tamales.
when his money and his tolerance for Ten years later, tamales were the
loneliness ran out, Nash would go to nations hottest new food trend, the
Louies to soak up the company and cronuts of n-de-sicle America. Ac-
gratefully accept free food. After grad- cording to Gustavo Arellano, the au-
uation, he took a job at the Sheridan thor of Taco USA, the craze began
Press, and began buying a whole lot in 1892, when a San Francisco man
of meals at Louies. Eventually, he and named Robert H. Putnam started the
a local woman fell in love; too poor to seems to have asked Khan many ques- California Chicken Tamale Company.
afford a wedding, they decided to elope. tions about himself. Any information Putnam took his culinary cue from the
Nash told no one except Louie, who that circulated about him was largely citys popular Mexican tamale peddlers
had only one question. As Nashs rumor and often wrong. He was from and his fashion cue from, apparently,
daughter later told it: You got ring Greece; he was from Turkey; he was pharmacists: the venders he hired wore
for dat girl? Nash did not. Louie from Mongolia. He was Buddhist; he white from head to toe, with the com-
opened his register, took out some cash, was Hindu. He had spent some time panys brand emblazoned on their hats
and told him to go buy one. That girl in Texas; he once owned a grapefruit and their bucketsmobile chang
wore it for nearly forty years. farm in Arizona. But, of all the ques- dishes, basically, with re below, boil-
Stories like that abound. Khan knew tions that went unasked, the most ing water in the middle, and steamed
everyones name, never failed to ask glaring omission was the obvious one: tamales above. Putnam then took
after sick children or aging parents, Why was an Afghan man named Zarif his tamales to Chicago, where they
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 85
became the hit of the 1893 Worlds Fair. reached a climax last evening, the Col- during this decline was a German-born
Like other forms of peddling, the orado Springs Weekly Gazette reported Wyoming man named Louis Menge.
tamale business required relatively in 1895: gunre had broken out be- In 1910, Menge placed an ad in the
little up-front money, which made it tween rival venders and a boy named Sheridan Daily Enterprise: Wanted:
attractive to immigrants and the poor. Harry Risner was shot in the arm. In some one to learn hot tamale business.
In New York City, tamales were sold Montana, in 1901, a man named Jo- After nding a successor, he moved
chiey by Irish and Italians, while in seph Marino was killed by Salvagora with his wife and child to Montana to
the South and the Midwest most vend- (Bull Dog) Demicilli over a rivalry in try his hand at farming. Two years later,
ers were African-American. But in the tamale business. Among the Af- a return visit to Wyoming found him
the Rocky Mountain West the ta- ghan venders, the worst of the tamale in dismal straits: the work was brutal,
male trade was dominated by men wars took place in Seattle, where the good help was scarce, and drought was
from Afghanistan. trade was dominated by a Khan with destroying his crops. The Sheridan Post,
Specically, it was dominated by a maoso reputation: mean, menda- which reported the visit, reminded read-
men from Afghanistan with the sur- cious, scary as hell. Eventually, he was ers that they had known the struggling
name Khan. (The men were generally shot in the back, presumably by one farmer in better days: Mr. Menge is
unrelated; the name is extremely com- of his fellow-peddlers, but, if the mur- more familiarly known to Sheridan
mon.) In the rst two decades of the der was meant to ease tensions in people as Hot Tamale Louie.
twentieth century, tamale-selling Af- the tamale scene, it failed. Nearly a de- These days, Mr. Menge is known
ghan Khans could be found in Dead- cade later, the Seattle Star was still re- to almost no one. His farm failed, his
wood and Fargo and Reno; in Seattle porting on the vendetta of the hot wife and child predeceased him, and
and Spokane and Wenatchee, Washing- tamale men. he died alone at the Yellowstone County
ton; in Butte, Montana, which boasted All of this sheds some light on why Poor Farm. Hot Tamale Louie, how-
eighteen such tamale men by 1913, and Zarif Khan ended up in Sheridan. No ever, lived on. In time, the rst man to
all over the rest of the state as well one there seemed to know about the hold that title was forgotten, along with
in Flathead, Fort Benton, Silver Bow, Afghan tamale trade, but some peo- all the other Khans who had come
Anaconda, Havre, Great Falls, Red ple recalled hearing that Khan had through Sheridan and the entire na-
Lodge, Miles City, Chinook, Billings. been treated poorly by other South tionwide tamale craze. Soon enough,
Starting in 1908, you could buy tama- Asians when he rst came to Amer- only Zarif Khan was remembered, be-
les in Alaska from a Buhadin Khan, a ica, and headed for the hinterlands cause only Zarif Khan remained. As
Habib Khan, an M. Khan, and a guy in search of a place with fewer immi- many immigrants can tell you, some-
called Tamale Joe, whose real name was grantsa report that comports with times a story about leaving turns into
likely also Khan. the climate in Seattle when Khan ar- a story about staying.
Not every tamale vender in the West rived. If you were himnew to the
was from Afghanistan, of course, and country, new to the tamale trade, by y the time Zarif Khan applied to
not every Afghan vender sold tamales. all accounts private and peaceable B become a United States citizen for
A smaller but still signicant group, you, too, might have gravitated toward the second time, he had been living in
for instance, sold chili, as Zarif Khan small-town Wyoming. Wyoming for nearly half a century. He
later did in his restaurant. (One such Contrary to family legend, how- was in his late sixties. On the natural-
vender, Dollha Jaffa Khan, got his start ever, Khan did not show up in Sher- ization petition, his official hair color
with a pushcart in Seattle, in 1916, be- idan alone with his yoke and pails and had turned from brown to gray. His
fore opening a successful chili parlor introduce the town to tamales. He had skin color remained unchanged but no
there. Later, Jaffa Khan changed his a predecessor: one Azed Khan, born longer constituted a barrier to citizen-
name to Joseph Joffrey; his son Rob- in 1871 in the Afghan village of Beh- ship. On May 4, 1954, the federal gov-
ert went on to found the Joffrey Bal- budi. Azed was the towns rst tamale ernment conferred upon Khan the priv-
let.) But it was the Afghan tamale vend- vender; when Zarif rst appears in the ileges and duties it had once forever
ers who were so common as to become Sheridan business directory, it is as his enjoined him from claiming.
a stereotypeakin to Turkish coffee- assistant. Over the next ten years, three Meanwhile, Khans life had changed
shop owners, Syrian rug dealers, and more tamale salesmen and one chili in another momentous way. The year be-
Jewish pawnbrokers. peddler set up shop in Sheridan. All fore, he had travelled to Pakistan and re-
With that stereotype went another: were named Khan, all lived in the same turned home a married man. The mar-
that tamale sellers were constantly at modest house on North Scott Street, riage was an arranged one; the bride, Bibi
one anothers throat. There was some and by 1923 all but Zarif were gone. Fatima Khan (no relation), was fteen
truth to that, but the problem was not By that time, tamales themselves were years old. People in town talked, of course,
limited to Afghans. Throughout the also on the way out. Between 1900 but the tone was less judgmental than
country, for the duration of the culi- and 1916, sales fell from four million jokeyalong the lines of I wouldnt
nary craze, headlines about tamale per year to just forty thousand, and have thought he had it in him.
wars were comically abundant. The the once omnipresent tamale vender He did, apparently; in the course
hot tamale war which has been rag- began vanishing from city streets. of the next eleven years, the couple
ing in this city for the past few weeks Among those who left the trade had six children. Khan, a doting father,
86 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
at the zoo. Some of the books have plots, but she reads
CHILDHOOD READING them more like eternal landscapes. In that sense, noth-
ing is happening, and she reads for that nothing, I think.

WHERE IS LUCKILY
I dont really know my daughters heart; she doesnt, ei-
ther. Last night, in her sleep, she called out, I dont want
a balloon! What happens next?
BY RIVKA GALCHEN Remember when we used to read that book? my
daughter asked yesterday. She was talking about Moby-
Dick. I mean, Moby-Dick for kidsits Moby-Dick
in ten words. I mean, I guess thats what she was talking
about. Its hard to tell if shes just miming something I
forgot I said to her. Remember? Is she nostalgic, at two
and a half, for way back when?
My memory of my childhood home is that the main
source of reading material was the inspirational quotes
on the Celestial Seasonings tea boxes. Seven words of
Emily Dickinson. Twelve words of Ralph Waldo Emer-
son. Were there really so few books? I ask my mom. She
says yes, very few books: I only read you books that I
thought were not boring. That was hard to nd. One I
remember was No Room for the Baker. I remember it!
Its about a baker who eventually has so many pets in his
house that he has nowhere to sleep. I recall a story that
my father told me: my mother for a time worked a night-
shift job selling solar panellingI have no idea why one
sells solar panels at nightand so she took naps during
the day in a closet, hoping to sleep undisturbed by me
and my brother.
Having a child is like rereading your own child-
hood. I have long been attached to the story that my
ne favored story tells of a family moving into a parents were bothand I basically admired thisin-
O lighthouse, of the birds that die ying into its bea- different to child culture: openly bored by piano recit-
con, of a buoy that turns out to be a oating mine. Along- als, graduations, childrens books. But the story that the
side the through-line of gross mismanagement of pub- story tells has recently shifted for me. I see how in-
lic facilities is that of the fathers ongoing failure to meet difference to child culture was in no way indifference
his lighthouse goal: to write an epic novel of the sea. The to children.
tone of this illustrated story is comic, the color palette One idea of what childrens literature might be is
like taffy. Its currently the most beloved read of my daugh- whatever children read. In that sense, I read a lot as a
ter, who is a toddler. When she sets it down, she turns child. And I realize that I associate almost all of what
to a pop-up book about a young sailor who is going to I read with my mother. The mysterious Banacol stick-
be eaten by his shipmates. She also loves the tragico-in- ers on the apples she peeled for me, the Royal Dansk
structive tale Should I Share My Ice Cream?, in which, Danish Butter Cookies tin, mailings from Ed McMa-
while the protagonist deliberates extensively about the hon, deputized to me, which might make us millions,
ethical and gustatory implications of sharing, his beloved my parents odd names on checks that had pale moun-
ice cream melts, unnoticed. Read childrens books enough tain ranges in the background, mountain ranges that I
times, and they start to seem like Shakespeare. Who is had been invited to select myself, from the sheet of so
Corduroy if not a modern Miranda, full of wonder? What many options. Its mostly a clatter of carbohydrates and
does the boy in Snowy Day learn if not that our world junk mail, but all those words were so hauntedre-
is but an insubstantial pageant? The Cat in the Hat is main so hauntedby a sense of well-being, meaning,
Falstaff, and Max, that wild thing on the heath, longs, and light. My heart still lifts when I see language that
Lear-like, for the kingdom of real love that he failed to recalls the covers of my mothers textbooks: Basic basic,
recognize. Fortran.
Or not. My daughter and I dont read her books in My daughters favorite book, the lighthouse story set
quite the same way. Where is luckily? she asks. If I among the pale Moomins, is in one sense a story of post-Sec-
often experience her books as mock-epic, she sees lan- ond World War Finland, but its also a story of someone
GRARD DUBOIS

guage poetry. She doesnt read for what happens next, I falling in love with the home he had all along, the one that
think, even as she has taken on her preschool teachers had before seemed so insufficient. Moominpappa gives up
lilting Whats going to happen? before turning a page. on his epic novel of the sea. He writes, with pride, How I
What happens next is often just another random animal miss my own secure verandah.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 87
could be seen around Sheridan hoist- Uncle Zarif in America had helped probated, his estate was worth around
ing his rstborn, Roenna, on his hip, bail him out and got him into private half a million dollarsalmost four mil-
while pushing his infant son Zarif in school, but the kid had not shown lion in todays money. Supposedly, he
a carriage. When they got older, they signs of reforming. Now Sultan was had an equivalent amount back in Pa-
recalled for me, he took them to the thirty years old, and rich Uncle Zarif kistan. Apparently worried that some-
restaurant, set them at the counter, was no longer inclined to be gener- one would marry his wife for her money,
emptied the till, and used the money ous. Sultan screamed and threatened; he had placed most of the estate in sep-
to teach them how to count. Mean- Khan held his ground. arate trusts for the children, leaving Bibi
while, more children kept coming: The next day, Khan and a different Fatima just ten thousand dollars plus a
Fatima, named for her mother, then grandnephew left Bara early in the monthly allowance. Under Wyoming
Zarina, then a second boy, Nazir, and, morning to run an errand in a neigh- law, she was entitled to more, and, with
nally, Merriam. After each birth, Khan boring town. In keeping with Khans the guidance of a lawyer, she sued for
ew the whole family back to Paki- lifelong habit, they went by foot. Part- it. Eventually, she was awarded half
stan to introduce his relatives there to way along the route, Sultan was wait- the estate.
the new arrival. ing with a knife. It was June 23, 1964. Thus began the afterlife of the Wy-
In 1963, not long after Merriam was Khan was roughly eightyone of the oming Khans. At the time of Louies
born, the family once again returned few eighty-year-olds of whom it could death, Fatima was twenty-six years old,
to Bara. This time, though, in addi- be said that he still had most of his life responsible for six children under the
tion to showing off his baby, Khan had ahead of him. In a picture taken ear- age of ten, uneducated, illiterate, un-
business to conduct. Like many im- lier that year, he is holding the toddler accustomed to so much as leaving the
migrants, he had spent much of his Nazir on his lap, surrounded by his wife house on her own. She brought a
working life funnelling money back and other children. The oldest is barely brother and a nephew over from Pa-
home: paying to build wells and ten, the next one eight, the next one kistan to help, and then, in an act of
mosques in areas where travellers would seven. The others are too young to have self-creation that rivalled Khans, set
otherwise have no water to drink and begun salting away memories of their about guring out how to thrive in
nowhere to pray, buying land for his father, and they would never get to make Sheridan under radically changed cir-
relatives to farm and houses for them new ones. Sultan Khan killed his cousin, cumstances. She hired an English tutor,
to live in. Now he began giving all of then stabbed his uncle seven times. learned to read and write, and joined
that away, distributing deeds to those Zarif Khan died in the dirt in a place the PTA. She got her drivers license
who were living in his properties and as important to his life as any other: the same day as her oldest daughter.
money to nearly everyone. the road out of town. In 1970, she became an American cit-
In the course of doing so, his chil- izen. Two years later, she bought the
dren told me, he got into a dispute he shock of Khans death was fol- J.E. Motel and Caf in Sheridan. Ever
with a neer-do-well grandnephew by T lowed by the surprise of his will. since then, the Khan family has been
the name of Sultan Khan. When Sul- Other than his accountant and his law- in the hospitality businesswhich, in
tan was a kid, just sixteen or so, he had yer, no one, not even his wife, had known a sense, Zarif was, too.
been involved in a violent crime; rich that he was rich. When the will was In time, the relatives whom Fatima
brought over to help with her children
married and had children of their own.
Some of them brought over other rel-
atives, who also married and had kids.
Many of those kids now have children
as well. As the family multiplied, it
also dispersed. In 2003, the brother
Fatima brought to Sheridan moved to
Gillette to open a hotel; these days,
his branch of the Khans owns eleven
hotels in the area, and his grown chil-
dren have young kids of their own. In
total, there are now some hundred and
fty or two hundred Khans, mostly in
Wyoming, though also in South Da-
kota, Colorado, and beyond. As with
most families, there have been fallings
out, about the kinds of things families
fall out over: who got more money,
who got more affection, who slighted
so-and-so at such-and-such a time.
Time passes more slowly in that dimension, so take these sudokus. Still, most of them get along, and they
try to get togetherat Eid al-Fitr and
Eid al-Adha, at births and weddings
and funerals.
Many of the Khans contributed
money to fund the mosque in Gil-
lette, and the threats against it came
as a shock to them all; none had ever
personally experienced such vitriol in
Wyoming. Zarif Khans children, in
particular, seem to have been shielded
from whatever racism and xenopho-
bia they might have otherwise en-
countered in nearly all-white Sheri-
dan by their fathers standing. Grow-
ing up here, it was great, Zarina, who
now owns Sheridans Holiday Lodge,
said. We had friends. No one asked
about our skin. No one asked about
our religion. No one would say, Where
are you from? Instead, the commu-
nity recognized the Khans as its own;
immediately after 9/11, Zarif told me,
his Jewish pediatrician showed up to
make sure the family was all right.
Even in those tense times, Zarina Cmonwe are not staying home on a Saturday night.
said, we had no troubles, no friction,
no ght.
The ght, when it arrived, came in

the form of Bret Colvin, the founder
of Stop Islam in Gillette. Colvin, who been in the West for a long time, of this nation, though so is the perni-
is forty-nine, grew up on a Wyoming though it represents a very different cious practice of determining that some
ranch, left after high school, and spent strain of the American character. among us do not deserve full human-
the next decade in the Marines. Later, Theres been Colvins in Wyoming ity, and full citizenship. Zarif Khan was
he worked in private security, in crab since the wagon-train days, he told me. deemed insufficiently American on the
shing, and in the oil and methane My great-grandfather used to shoot basis of skin color; ninety years later,
elds of the West. But these days oil is Indians for the cavalry for ve dollars when the presence of Muslims among
down, Gillettes economy is suffering, a head. That conductthe effort by us had come to seem like a crisis, his
and employment is hard to nd. You a group of newcomers to subdue or descendants were deemed insufficiently
cant even get a fast-food job in this eradicate their predecessors through American on the basis of faith.
town, Colvin said; to get by, hed been violenceis precisely what Colvin fears Over and over, we forget what being
doing some computer and cell-phone from Muslims. He believes that they American means. The radical premise
repair. are planning a violent invasion of of our nation is that one people can be
That left him with a lot of time to America, and considers himself per- made from many, yet in each new gener-
stare at the Internet, which is how he sonally responsible for trying to stop ation we nd reasons to limit who those
learned about the mosque. Colvin was it. That is why, he told me, he went to many can beto wall off access to
the one who organized the protests investigate the mosque after it opened. America, literally or guratively. That
against it, and, according to the Khans, Im one of those people that just does impulse usually nds its roots in claims
threatened to train a scope on it as well. stuff, O.K.? he said. I went down about who we used to be, but nativist
He also menaced the towns Muslims there and beat on the door and asked nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always
more generally; when he heard about them who the hell they were and where been a pluralist nation, with a past far
a public lecture on Islam being held in they came from and what they were richer and stranger than we choose to
Gillette, he used a podcast he produces doing. They said, Were the Khan fam- recall. Back when the streets of Sheri-
to announce his plans to attend and ily. I said, Well, that doesnt mean any- dan were still dirt and Zarif Khan was
fuck some shit up, and urged his lis- thing to me. still young, the Muslim who made his
teners to come help him run the rag- Who the Khans are and where they living selling Mexican food in the Wild
heads out of town. At some point, the came from and what theyre doing here West would put up a tamale for stakes
threats grew sufficiently serious that is a long story, and a quintessentially and race local cowboys barefoot down
the F.B.I. got involved. American one. The history of immi- Main Street. History does not record
Like the Khans, Colvins family has grants is, to a huge extent, the history who won.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 89
THE CRITICS

BOOKS

MAKING THE CUT


A dbut novel about a girl and a cult in late-sixties California.

BY JAMES WOOD

mma Clines first novel, The den, electric connection between its
E Girls (Random House), is a song poles. The novel is narrated in the pres-
of innocence and experiencein ways ent, by a middle-aged Evie, who re-
that she has intended, and perhaps in calls the confusions and ardor of her
ways that she has not. Its a story of teen-age folly. As she looks back, so
corruption and abuse, set in 1969, in she evokes for us with sunlit clarity
which a bored and groundless Califor- every detail and texture of her Califor-
nia teen-ager joins a Manson-like cult, nia childhood: the secret ash of other
with bloody, Manson-like results. Evie driveways, other lives, as seen from a
Boyd, an only child whose upper-mid- car; the nothing jump of soda in my
dle-class parents have recently divorced, throat (is anyone likely to better that?);
wants to be older than her fourteen the rotted pucker of sherry, on rst
years, and is drawn to the free-spirited, taste; Evies mother at a party, her neck
rebellious young women she sees one getting blotchy with nerves; the shy
day in a Petaluma park. They are look- way that she looked at herself in the
ing for food to take back to the ranch oracle of the mirror; the sparkly mess
where they live. The novel charts Evies of ies Id swept from the corners.
accelerated sentimental education, as Much of this has to do with Clines
she is inducted into the imprisoning ability to look again, like a painter, and
liberties of free love, drugs, and even- see (or sense) things better than most
tual violence, all of it under the sway of us do. Thus a pile of dusty old ies
of the cults magus, Russell Hadrick. is not, as you might assume, mainly
In another way, though, Clines novel black, but sparkly with translucent
is itself a complicated mixture of fresh- wings. The child is, after all, an artist
ness and worldly sophistication. Finely of estrangement. Even to a disaffected
intelligent, often superbly written, with teen-ager, the world is still proximate
ashingly brilliant sentences, The and new, and ones relationship to things
Girls is also a symptomatic product is often fetishistic. Clines prose sinks
not of the sixties but of our own age: us into this world of precious textures.
a nicely paced literary-commercial Plenty of us have puzzled over the
dbut whose brilliant style, in the end, strange chalky color of a stick of gum,
seems to restrict its reach and depth. but in one sentence Cline brings back
Twenty-seven years old, Cline is al- the memory: I unwrapped two cloudy
ready a talented stylist, apparently fast- sticks from their silver jackets. Gen-
tracked by the Muses. I dont mean this erally, Cline favors sentence fragments,
as the critics dutiful mustering of plau- sharp scintillae of impressions, and by
ABOVE: MIGUEL PORLAN

dits before the grim march of nega- and large these ably forward her proj-
tives. At her frequent best, Cline sees ect: Evie, unmoored, lost, greedily swal-
the world exactly and generously. On lows the world, in bright pieces. She
every other page, it seems, there is some- gets involved with the cult because she
thing remarkablean immaculate is attracted to one of its members, Su-
phrase, a boldly modifying adverb, a zanne, who is damaged and glamorous
metaphor or simile that makes a sud- and sexyshe reminds Evie of pictures Emma Cline, at twenty-seven, has been
90 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
fast-tracked by the Muses; she has the painterly ability to look again and see (or sense) things better than most of us do.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ISABEL MAGOWAN
she has seen of John Hustons daugh- an inamed hunger. When she rst dry hills and clean sidewalks. And there
ter. Her face could have been an error, climbs onto the cults customized black is the world of Russells cult: the black
but some other process was at work. It school bus, she takes everything in: the school bus, the ranch at the end of a
was better than beauty. Everything oor gridded with Oriental carpets, dirt road, llamas in a pen, footloose and
Suzanne does or has, however meagre, grayed with dust, the drained tufts of half-naked children too old to be still
transxes Evie: There was a rack of thrift store cushions. The stink of a joss in diapers, girls wearing thrift store
clothes hanging and more spilling out stick in the air, prisms ticking against rags, at work on the farm.
of a garbage bagtorn denim. Paisley the windows. Cardboard scrawled with The ranch seems at rst hospitable
shirts, long skirts. The hems stuttering dopey phrases. and sweetly alternative. Evie is quickly
with loose stitching. The clothes werent Evie Boyd is average, both at school adopted by Suzanne and some of the
nice, but the quantity and unfamiliar- and in looks: her mediocrity is the space other girls; she is their rich dolly. The
ity stirred me. Id always been jealous waiting to be lled by eccentricity. Her girls are by turns protective and in-
of girls who wore their sisters hand- father has left his wife for his twenty- different. But Evie gures out that sev-
me-downs, like the uniform of a well- something assistant. Evies mother has eral of the women are sleeping with
loved team. Here, Evie watches Su- responded with experimental disarray: Russell, and, soon enough, she is called
zanne slowly wake up (pay attention macrobiotic diets, group therapy, strange before the master, and essentially forced
to what Cline does with the unexpected new partners, and more or less benign into sexual service. She is co-opted in
but nely justied adjective gruff ): parental neglect. There is moneyEvies more insidious ways, too. At rst only
Suzanne always took a long time to get grandmother was a well-known lm irritated by her mother, she is slowly
ready, though preparation was mostly a mat- actressand listless truancy. A deci- taught to despise her, in part encour-
ter of time and not actiona slow shrug into sion has been made to send Evie to the aged by the newly jagged generational
herself. I liked to watch her from the mattress, boarding school, in Monterey, that her fault lines of the period, in which not
the sweet, blank way she studied her reflection mother attended. She does end up at to despise ones parents is to become
with the directionless gaze of a portrait. Her
naked body was humble at these moments, this school (we glimpse her there at the them. Evie begins to spend more time
even childish, bent at an unflattering angle as end of the novel), but as a very differ- at the ranch. Gestures become wilder,
she rummaged through the trash bag of clothes. ent girl from the one who was rst ad- more abandoned: she steals money from
It was comforting to me, her humanness. No- mitted: now heavy with knowledge, her mother to give to the chronically
ticing how her ankles were gruff with stubble, Evie in September, though still only impoverished cult; she and others break
or the pin dots of blackheads.
fourteen, has tasted the insanity of the into the home of a family friend.
The Girls is most acute at this local summer of 1969. The main characters are seen from
levelthe perfect pointillism evoking Intelligently, if not always pro- the outside by the narrator, brought to
a remembered world in which detail it- foundly, The Girls traverses this much life in bright, brief scenes, shrewdly ex-
self seems precariously balanced be- visited terrainwhat Cline calls the amined and placed. Suzanne was once
tween report and hallucination. Now a brainless dream of California in the a pole dancer in San Francisco. She
very different person, Evie nds it hard late sixties. There is Evies family life: hardly ever speaks of her family, and
to explain how she got caught up in the the Hockneyesque pools, the parties peaceably calls her mother that cunt.
bloody lunacy of the late nineteen- around them (tiki torches sending Roos, another of Russells groupies, was
sixties; the vividness of her impressions bleary ames streaking into the navy once married to a policeman in Cor-
is a large part of that explanation, as if night), the rst fumbled attempts at pus Christi: She oated around the
to suggest that all experience became sex, the embarrassing second youth of border with the dreamy solicitude of
for her a savage version of eros, food for Evies mother, the sun falling on the beaten wives. Guy, who, later in the
summer, will drive the girls to the mur-
ders, is a farm boy whod defected
from Travis AFB when hed discovered
it was the same bullshit scene as his fa-
thers house. Russell, despite all the
hazy adulation, is little more than a
third-rate musician, a utopian huckster
who knows how to snag depressed, un-
condent young women with talk of
building a new society free from rac-
ism, free from exclusion, free from hi-
erarchy. Outside the cult but friendly
with Russell is Mitch Lewis, a famous
rock musician who has promised Rus-
sell a record deal. Mitch invites Su-
zanne and Evie to his spectacular sea-
front house, and has sex with them both.
When Mitch loses interest in Russell
and the record deal collapses, the uto- the bulk of it) with questions of pres- One strength of the novel gradu-
pian turns out to be just another un- ent-day ideology and manners seem a ally becomes a vulnerability. Cline loves
derground man, boiling with resentment. bit thin; in this respect, the book is a phrasal fragments: The dark mari-
Mitchs house will become the scene of poor cousin to supercially similar proj- time cypress packed tight outside the
the decades gruesome nale. Guy and ects of historical archeology by writers window, the twitch of salt air. Or this,
the girls are dispatched by Russell to such as Don DeLillo, Rachel Kushner, near the end of the book, as the vic-
teach Mitch a lesson: It should be Dana Spiotta, Hari Kunzru, and Peter tims are herded into Mitchs living
big. . . . Something they cant ignore. Carey. As I read The Girls, my ad- room: Linda in her underpants, her
Cline is an astute chronicler with a miration for its many beauties was cor- big T-shirtshe must have thought
light historical hand. What might have rupted by a worming question: Why that as long as she was quiet and po-
been dutiful apprenticeship to the avail- lite, shed be ne. Trying to reassure
able material is instead precocious con- Christopher with her eyes. The chub
trol. We are spared the obligatory ref- of his hand in hers, his untrimmed n-
erences to Creedence Clearwater Revival gernails. This is a metonymic style, in
and Janis Joplin. Instead, Cline con- which the zealously chosen detail
centrates on mood, sense impression, (those untrimmed ngernails) stands
detail, garish comedy, elegant satire. in for a larger set of facts. It looks like
Though Evies anti-parental judgmen- tidied-up Joyce (a version of stream of
talism is itself judged by the novel, the consciousness), but it is really bro-
books adults are indeed a sorry bunch. ken-up Flaubert: heavily visual, it fe-
Her mother is out to lunch (and din- this subject? Without an answer, the tishizes detail and the rendering of de-
ner), and her bumbling father is a mere novel comes to seem manipulative. And, tail. When Evie encounters Russells
impersonator of a father, who regards in this respect, it performs to type. The ranch, she appraises it like Charles Bo-
his daughters teen-age brain as a mys- rst pages, just as they should, our- vary visiting Emmas farm for the rst
terious magic trick that he could only ish a teaser, a ash-forward to the mur- time: An old wood house: the knobby
wonder at. Russell and Mitch are seen ders: They scale the gate, still strung rosettes and plaster columns giving it
as patriarchal predators, appropriating with Christmas lights. . . . They herd the air of a minor castle. . . . The Day-
the generous ideologies of the sixties everyone into the living room. Simi- Glo symbols crawling up the side of
for their selsh use. One of the best lar references are sown throughout the the barn, clothes on a line ghosting in
things in The Girls, in fact, is its alert text, at properly measured intervals. a breeze.
vision of the way that gender structures The caretaker on the couch, the coiled The sentence fragment is suddenly
Evies life. Her father is a philanderer, casing of his guts exposed to the air. everywhere in ction today, and in-
her mother is liberal but not liberated, The mothers hair soaked with gore. creasingly seems an emblematic unit
and she herself is learning to be noticed, The boy so disgured the police werent of the literary age. It is vivid and pro-
drifting through gendered time and sure of his gender. And so on. visional, inhabits the vital moment, and
space: I waited to be told what was Clines style may be an obstacle, too. renders the world in a cascade of tiled
good about me. I wondered later if this It can be too brilliantoverwritten, ash- perceptions. But it also tends to restrict
was why there were so many more ing rather than lighting. Though it often a novels ability to make large connec-
women than men at the ranch. All that opens the doors of perception, it also tions, larger coherences, the expansion
time I had spent readying myself, the closes a number of windows. It is a style and deepening of its themes. The form
articles that taught me life was really hospitable to the senses but not espe- of a novel is the accumulation of its
just a waiting room until someone no- cially conducive to thought, to exposi- sentences; in this case, the tempo of
ticed youthe boys had spent that time tion or analysis. Cline has a habit of reach- the sentence becomes the stammering
becoming themselves. In Clines de- ing for glamorous phrases, even if the tempo of the form. The Girls draws
piction, Russells cult has special allure glamour blinds the meaning. When she much power from this style, aided by
for young women who lack the power writes that the air was candied with si- the immediacy of its rst-person nar-
and condence to seize the freedom lence or that Evies fathers breath was ration; but development and argument
that feminism is preparing for them. notched with liquor, she evokes little, tend to leak away. It is a style supremely
except an anxiety to be stylish. Every adept at plunging us into the helter-
espite these many qualities, phrase gets a brush of lacquer. Anger is skelter world of 1969, but less so at jus-
D The Girls never entirely suc- not just anger but the cut of anger, and tifying our belated presence, as con-
ceeds in justifying itselfin making hilarity is not just hilarity but a spill of temporary readers, in that world.
the case that there was anything per- hilarity. This becomes a slightly melo- 1
sonally or historically necessary about dramatic tic: a heave of discomfort; a Dont Give It a Second Thought Dept.
Clines decision to raid the Ameri- singe of clumsy fear; a slant of accusa- From the Shorewood Hills (Wis.) Village Bulletin.
can-culture store and pluck one of the tion; the dredge of discomfort. One
Children playing in leaf piles in the street
best-known and most lurid episodes encounters both the cut of anger and may not be seen by cars and they are easily
from the shelf. The novels attempts to the tinny cut of fear. One persons cut washed down our storm drains and eventually
link the story of 1969 (which consumes is another persons cut. into the lake.

THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 93


suspenders which lend him a Teutonic
BOOKS air, and he is happy to strike a pose. There
are eleven images, and in six of them he

IN THE PICTURE
stands with hands on hips. Most of the
time, he looks jaunty and self-possessed,
and you can count the missing teeth in
A new biography of Diane Arbus. his grin. So why did Arbus pick the shot
in which he tightens his mouth into a
BY ANTHONY LANE stretched-out grimace, cupping one
hand into an upturned claw while the
other grips a grenade? Isnt he just mak-
ing sport, or doing an impersonation of
someonean actor in a monster movie,
sayconsumed by sudden dread? Might
Arbus, in short, be guilty of rigging the
evidence to t a mood, making fear out
of fun?
That was what I had always sus-
pected, until I read Diane Arbus: Por-
trait of a Photographer, by Arthur
Lubow (Ecco). One coup, in this new
biography, is an interview with Colin
Wood, conducted by Lubow in 2012.
We learn that Wood was a Park Ave-
nue kid, stranded at the time with nan-
nies while his parents were busy divorc-
ing, and living primarily on powdered
Junket straight from the box. He brought
his toy guns to school. Wood says of
Arbus, She saw in me the frustration,
the anger at my surroundings, the kid
wanting to explode but cant because
hes constrained by his background. If
she did see all that, it was by instinct,
with a touch of fellow-feeling; she had
started out much like Colin, and con-
tinued that way. Now she found a boy
preparing to pull the pin, and snapped.
Giving a camera to Diane, Norman
Mailer said, after sitting for her, is like
n 1969, the Metropolitan Museum have followed suit. At Christies, in 2007, putting a live grenade in the hands of
I of Art agreed to buy three photo- Child with a toy hand grenade sold a child.
graphs by Diane Arbus, for seventy-ve for two hundred and twenty-nine thou- Arbus was born into wealth, and
dollars each. Wiser counsels prevailed, sand dollars. Last year, another print of you could, if inclined, construe the life
however, and a few months later the it, this one signed by the artist, fetched that followed as one long struggle to
museum decided to take only two. Why seven hundred and eighty-ve thou- get away from wealthto crawl free of
splurge? The Museum of Modern Art sand dollars. Thats quite a hike. it, like someone seeking the exit from
was more daring; in 1964, it had ac- Who is this kid, and what is he doing a treasure-stacked cave. The outside
quired seven Arbus photos, including with a weapon, even a fake one, in Cen- world was so far from us, Arbus said.
Child with a toy hand grenade in Cen- tral Park? Well, his name is Colin Wood, She was a Russek, which to anyone who
tral Park, N.Y.C. Not until the after- and Arbus met him there in early 1962, suddenly needed a mink stole, in the
math of Arbuss death, however, in 1971, when he was seven. We have a contact depths of the Great Depression, was a
and the retrospective of her work at sheet of the pictures that she took that name to reach for. Russeks, founded by
moma the following year, did public day. (It is reprinted in Revelations, a her maternal grandfather, was origi-
fascination start to seethe, swelling far hefty and absorbing volume published nally a furriers; by 1924, it was a de-
beyond the bounds of her profession. in 2003 to accompany an Arbus retro- partment store on Fifth Avenue, sell-
DAN BUDNIK

The swell has never slowed, and prices spective.) Colin is dressed in shorts and ing not only furs but also gowns, coats,
and, as an advertisement put it that
Arbus at the New Documents show at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1967. year, smart accessories for the correctly
94 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
dressed woman. In 1919, Dianes mother,
Gertrude, married a young window dress-
er at the store named David Nemerov.
Their son, Howard, who grew up to
become poet laureate, was born twenty-
one weeks after the wedding. Diane
was born in 1923, and her sister, Renee,
in 1928.
No woman was more correctly
dressed than Gertrude. She sailed
to Paris with her husband whenever
he went to survey the new couture
collections. Her pleasure was to be
chauffeured to Russeks and to parade
through its rooms, past bowing and
smiling staff, accompanied by her older
daughter, who, in white gloves and
patent-leather slippers, saw herself as
a princess in some loathsome movie.
One thing Arbus claimed to have
suffered from, as a child, was that I
never felt adversity.
There are two responses to this. One
is: Give me some of that suffering. If
you had asked any of the Dust Bowl
farmers photographed in their thin
clothes by Dorothea Lange whether
they would mind getting dressed up,
after a fancy breakfast, and going to a
workplace where everyone was nice to
them, they would have said that, all
things considered, they could handle
it. Was there, in Arbus, a lingering whiff
of the poor little rich girl? To say that
she slummed would be unfair, but she
revelled in settings that money couldnt
touch, or in surfaces where it had left
its scratch marks: Brenda Frazier, pic-
tured in 1966, twenty-eight years after
she had been crowned dbutante of
the year, appears to be held together
by powder, paint, and pearls.
Regular politics, and the calls of so-
cial responsibility, certainly meant lit-
tle to Arbus. She stepped aside from
the notion that a photograph might,
in addition to its aesthetic shape and
shock, harbor some documentary worth,
especially in an era of deprivation or
unrest. Not many Jews would go, will-
ingly and uncritically, to listen to Nazis
in Yorkville. If she was a pilgrim on
the fringes of society, it was fascina-
tion rather than compassion that drove
her there, and many of the outcasts she
discovered, far from being ground down,
had elected to cast themselves out. The
balding and shirtless gure who glares
at us in Tattooed man at a carnival,
Md. (1970) requests not an atom of
BRIEFLY NOTED our pity. Indeed, he puts our undistin-
guished bodies to scorn, brandishing
the art work of his torso as though to
Valiant Ambition, by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking). Philbrick holler, Get a load of me.
continues his survey of the Revolutionary War (following On the other hand, we may choose
Bunker Hill), focussing on the events that led to the trea- to take Arbus at her word. If all that
son of Benedict Arnold. Outsized personalities abound: the privilege brought her a world of pain,
dangerously monarchical George Washington; the proigate, so be it. And its hard to think of a more
sexy Arnold, whose ego exceeded his status; the dissolute frangible instance of motherhood than
British general William Howe; the duplicitous commander Gertrude, who, according to Lubow,
and statesman Joseph Reed, whose zealous pursuit of Arnold typically stayed in bed in the morning
may have precipitated his treachery. Ultimately, Philbrick ar- past eleven oclock, smoking cigarettes,
gues, much of the conict came down to money: the colonists talking on the telephone, and apply-
revolted over paying it to the British; the nascent country ing cold cream and cosmetics to her
nearly fell apart because of its unwillingness to fund an army; face. At one point, she fell into a ravine
and Arnolds desperation to provide for his beautiful young of depression and got stuck, sitting word-
wife led him to cross enemy lines. lessly at the family dinner table. I
stopped functioning. I was like a zom-
Empire of Things, by Frank Trentmann (Harper). This hefty bie, she recalled later. Her husband,
history of the rise of consumerism insightfully analyzes daily meanwhile, presented an alternative
luxuries over ve centuriesfrom the drinking-chocolate par- and no less dauntingrole model.
aphernalia popular in eighteenth-century northern Europe to Though Gertrudes parents had be-
the televisions bought by postwar Japanese, who followed an lieved that she was marrying down,
ethic of virtuous consumption in order to boost domestic David, smooth and frictionless, rose
manufacturing. Trentmann is no anti-capitalist. He praises the through the ranks of Russeks as if step-
emotional attachments that people have to things and observes ping into the elevator. By 1947, he had
that even revolutions make potent use of products; he describes arrived at the position of president.
Gandhi as a sartorial fundamentalist. But consumption, he Arbus inherited both strains: the urge
warns, must not go unchecked: if we dont cultivate deeper to follow your star, plus the rage to cut
and long-lasting connection to fewer things, the planet will yourself off and plunge into personal
continue to suffer from the amount of waste we produce. lockdown. One further twist in her up-
bringing was that she did not endure it
Arab Jazz, by Karim Misk, translated from the French by Sam alone, for her brother, Howard, was close
Gordon (MacLehose Press). Set in a Paris arrondissement of many to her, although whether that closeness
hues and faiths, this enthralling dbut revels in tropes of the offered aggravation or relief is open to
crime novel even as it careers cheekily beyond the genre. A debate. Both were precocious students,
young woman is murdered, her body lacerated and smeared and they shared other talents, too. Diane
with pigs blood. The initial suspect is her depressive and book- masturbated in the bathroom with the
ish Arab neighbor, long the object of her unrequited desire. Pur- blinds up, to insure that people across
suing leads that implicate Salasts, Hasidic Jews, and Jehovahs the street could watch her, and as an adult
Witnesses, the police duo assigned to the case hear stories not she sat next to the patrons of porno cine-
only of radicalization but of thwarted love, of righteous anger mas, in the dark, and gave them a helping
toward monstrous fathers, of sky-blue pills that make one feel hand. (This charitable deed was observed
like God, of hip-hop groups that fell apart. By the end, the dis- by a friend, Buck Henry, the screenwriter
parate threads connect and produce a satisfying surprise. of The Graduate.) Not to be outdone
in these vigorous stakes was her brother,
Exposure, by Helen Dunmore (Atlantic Monthly). This novel who later, in a book called Journal of
of Cold War conspiracy takes place in London, in 1960. the Fictive Life, dened his self-abuse
Conned to the hospital, a homosexual spy must ask his as worship. He added, My father once
ex-lover to return a top-secret le before it is missed. The caught me at it, and said he would kill
ex, now married to a German woman, cannot comply, but me if it ever happened again. A friend
his wife attempts another solution, which has far-reaching of Gertrudes once told Howard that
consequences. Dunmores strategy, placing a triangle of past reading Freud would make you sick. On
and present loves within a spy novel, yields an unexpected the contrary, it would be like a day in the
dividend. Even the most ordinary elements of lifethe life of the Nemerovs.
lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children, The summit of this weirdness comes
meeting someone special, what remains unsaid within a before Lubow has reached page twenty,
marriagebecome viscerally exciting. with the disclosure, from Arbus, that
96 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
the sexual relationship with Howard New School. When the war ended,
that began in adolescence had never Allan and Diane, with the encourage-
ended. She said that she last went to ment (and the nancial assistance) of
bed with him when he visited New David Nemerov, went into business to-
York in July 1971. That was only a gether. Their apartment was on West
couple of weeks before her death. The Seventieth Street, and their studio on
source for this is a psychiatrist named West Fifty-fourth. They shot fashion
Helen Boigon, who treated Arbus in spreads for Glamour, which hailed them
the last two years of her life, and who as a professional couple in a piece
was interviewedthough not named called Mr. and Mrs. Inc. With the
by Patricia Bosworth for her 1984 bi- article went a self-portrait: their heads
ography of Arbus. (The results are in an are touching, but they look at differ-
archive at Boston University.) William ent things. His eyes, dark and wide,
Todd Schultz, too, communicated with stare straight ahead; hers are lowered,
Boigon for An Emergency in Slow with the modesty of a Madonna. The
Motion (2011), his unblushing psy- thumb on the shutter release is his.
chological portrait of Arbus. He, like How and when did Arbus, as it were,
Bosworth, is more circumspect than turn into Arbus? What spurred her to
Lubow, proposing that something did forge imagesidentical twins in iden-
happen between the two siblings but tical dresses, in New Jersey, or Jewish
what exactly, and with what results, is giant at home with his parents in the
impossible to say. Bronx, N.Y., looming over his loved
Are we dealing with veriable facts onesthat we realize, instantly and in-
here, or with a yarn entwined with myth disputably, could have been made by
and spun by a woman in distress? Ei- nobody else? Such is the conundrum
ther way, what stands out is the tone that greets her biographers, and Lubow
of Arbuss telling. The intimate rap- begins his book with a dramatic solu-
port of brother and sister was appar- tion: an occasion, in the middle of the
ently recounted to the psychiatrist in nineteen-fties, when Diane announced,
a casual manner, as though incest were at the butt end of a day in which she
no big dealjust a family habit that and Allan had toiled on a shoot for
you kept up, like charades. And that Vogue, that she was done with fash-
otherworldly coolness drifts into Ar- ion photography. From now on, she
buss art. What her admirers respond would set her own course. In a letter
to is not so much the gallery of gro- from 1957, she wrote, I am full of a sense
tesques as her reluctance to be wowed of promise, like I often have, the feeling of
or cowed by them, still less to censure always being at the beginning.
them or to set them up for mockery. Her rst move was to study with Li-
She makes Fellini, a more urbane soul, sette Model, who steered her away from
look a little hot in the blood. Freaks the hazy (I used to make very grainy
may abound in her art, but not once things, Arbus recalled) and toward a
do they freak her out. clarity that would specify rather than
blurconfronting us with this person,
hen Diane Nemerov was thir- in this place, wearing this outt, or no
W teen, she fell in love with Allan outt at all. Other developments en-
Arbus, who worked in the advertising sued: in August, 1959, Arbus moved out,
department at Russeks and described taking with her the couples daughters,
himself as Mister Nobody. The ro- Doon and Amy (born in 1954). They
mance bore a startling resemblance to found a house on Charles Street, in the
that of her parents. Diane and Allan West Village, while Allan decamped to
married in 1941, once she had turned eigh- Washington Place; she regularly went
teen; in 1944, just after he was shipped there to use his darkroom, and he came
off to India on war service as a pho- over for Sunday breakfasts. In keeping
tographer, she found that she was preg- with the rules of concealment by which
nant, and their daughter, Doon, was she had been raised, Arbus didnt tell
born the next year. Allan had given his her parents about the split. It took them
wife a camera after their honeymoon, three years to nd out.
and she had taken a course with the Set against that is an air of artistic
photographer Berenice Abbott, at the haste and a quickening appetiteof
the photographers eye beginning to and a quarter inches square: a blessed
gorge on the world around her, and change from the landscape format that
on its panoply of goods. Arbus was a governs our visual experience, starting
chronic lister, and you get swept up and with the majority of paintings, proceed-
along by the host of things that she ing to movie and TV screens, and end-
hoped to seize on lm, as noted in her ing, these days, with laptops. Arbus moved
appointment book: diaper derby pal- in some pretty far-out circles, but she
isades, walkathon st. louis, chess champ, knew the value of squares.
miss appetite, miss uidless contact When we think of an Arbus photo-
lens, yeast raised donut queen. In 1963, graph, it will probably have been taken
she applied, successfully, for a grant with a Rolleiex, or else with a Mamiya
from the Solomon R. Guggenheim C33, to which she upgraded in the
Foundation. I want to photograph the mid-sixties, and which also adopts the
considerable ceremonies of our pres- square format. This meant a lot of bag-
ent, she wrote. I want to gather them, gage. Arbus was as slight as a pixie, but
like somebodys grandmother putting one acquaintance recalled her lugging
up preserves, because they will have around two Mamiya cameras, two
been so beautiful. Never was the fu- ashes, sometimes a Rollei, a tripod, all
ture perfect put to better use. sorts of lenses, light meters, lm. The
The document delves into detail: ash was often used to stark effect; de-
the Testimonial Dinner, the Seance, tractors of Arbus, who nd her cruel,
the Gymnasium and the Picnic, and might plausibly point to her photographs
so on. This is the most appealing side of babiesmost of them howling or
of Arbus: you feel a gust of Whitman, drooling and utterly bare of joy. Their
or of her near-contemporary Allen faces get in your face. Young or old, peo-
Ginsberg, in her sallying forth to com- ple tend to dominate the frame, with no
pile such tumultuous chronicles of idle space next to them. Even when they
America. She was a wonderful writer, get shunted off to the edges, as in her
and we deserve an anthology of her 1963 shot of a retired couplethe man
prose; no one else but her would re- seated on the left, his wife on the right
port, of a trip to Florida, There is kind the center doesnt go to waste, for there,
of a bad smell here like God cooking like an altar, stands a television, topped
chicken soup in the sky. And the lan- with a lamp, two photographs, and a
guage is full of money. All the while, clock. These pleasant folk, apart from
though, this frail adventurer could be their Biblical nakedness (for we are in a
pulled inward and downward, into a nudist camp), could be welcoming us into
whirlpool of old woes. It was as if any well-kept American home.
Leaves of Grass, in need of an up- If I could afford to buy an Arbus, I
date, had been handed to Sylvia Plath. would pick a landscape, or a roomscape
The early nineteen-sixties saw a one of those unpeopled places where our
change of tools. Having worked princi- fellow-citizens have been, and will come
pally in 35mm., Arbus turned to a Rol- again. Her 1962 photograph of a castle
leiex: a twin-lens reex, with one lens in Disneyland, after hours, makes you
placed above the other. You hold it, hang tremble for any prince who goes in search
it around your neck, or x it on a tripod, of Sleeping Beauty; who knows what fe-
at waist level, then peer down into the vered brand of dreams might come true?
viewnder. The image you perceive there And her shot of a Christmas tree, drip-
is reversed, with left becoming right, but ping with tinsel, next to a lamp whose
there are compensations. One, if you like shade is still wrapped in cellophane, is
to take pictures of your fellow-beings, as an ill omen for the festive seasonnot
Arbus did, and to nourish an unbroken cynical, I think, but humming with a
rapport with them, the Rolleiex is ideal; furtive trepidation. Such is the sign of
in contrast to most cameras, then as now, Arbus: all her vacancies are full.
you dont raise it to your eye and block
your face. Two, there is increased sharp- he singularity of Arbus came
ness, because of the area of lmor, in T to the fore in 1967, at the Museum
Arbuss words, whatever the heck that of Modern Art, in a show entitled New
stuff on lm isthat gets exposed on Documents. Three photographers
the negative. And three, that area is two were represented: Garry Winogrand,
98 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
Lee Friedlander, and, in a room of her
own, Arbus, who was greeted with yel-
low roses, by Richard Avedon, as she
arrived on opening night. According
to one friend, The press was all about
Diane, it was as if Garry and Lee didnt
exist. That sounds partial, but its easy
to imagine a visitor wandering into the
Arbus space and being struck by the
brunt of the impact. Winogrand and
Friedlander were, in their different ways,
trapping life on the hopsometimes
on the slant, too, in Winogrands case.
If the American throng approached
him down the avenue at full tilt, well,
he would tilt right back: anything not
to miss a trick. Friedlander paid his
own homage to such multiplicity, dou-
bling his subjects in windows, wing
mirrors, and storefront glass. With
Arbus, though, the hopping had to
stop. The men of New Documents
dealt in the glimpse and the glance; the
woman chose to stare, and she special-
ized in tracking down those who would
plant themselves, on center stage, and
return the look with interestmidg-
ets, musclemen, twins, transvestites,
hermaphrodites, bathers, strippers, and
a woman with a monkey, swaddled like
an infant, on her lap.
When it came to nudists, Arbus
went unclothed. Her job was to join
them, not beat them. We presume that
artists, whatever their medium, take
care to keep their distance, and Arbus
was scrupulous about the legality of her
ventures, obtaining permission from
her subjects to photograph them and
to reproduce the results. Time and
again, though, she crossed into their
territoryas a guest, a pal, a playmate,
or an invader, according to your point
of view. How does she do it? Irving
Penn reportedly asked. She puts a cam-
era between those bare breasts and pho-
tographs those nudists.That was noth-
ing. She once said that she had sex with
any man who asked for it, and de-
scribed a pool party at which she worked
through the various men, one after the
next, as if they were canaps. The cour-
teous Lubow calls her multivalent.
Whats remarkable is that such lib-
erty extended to her pictures. An orgy
counted as work and leisure alike. Look
at a contact sheet of young lovers, a
black man and a white woman, from
1966, and you notice that the naked
gure sprawled across him, in frame feel not just the heft of the thing, over
ve, is Arbus. Even Eddie Carmel, the seven hundred pages and twice as long
Jewish giant, said that she came on to as Bosworths, but a nagging suspicion
him, and he was at least eight feet nine. that it dreams of being a novel: Insis-
At the other end of the scale was Lauro tently, incessantly, the notes throbbed
Morales, the Mexican dwarf, whom in doleful cadence on the clarinet. When
Arbus photographed over many years; a mosquito lands on his subject, Lubow
in one bedroom shot, from 1970, he ra- is right there: Changing its strategy,
diates what Lubow calls a look of post- the insect whined upward and then
coital languor. All creatures great and landed on the nipple of her right breast.
small: nothing was foreign to Arbus, as This time, it sank its feeder deep into
she roamed the human zoo. her esh and drank. Even Boswell never
The Morales portrait is a case in got that close. Then, there are Arbuss
point. He is naked except for a tilted friends, each of them allotted a lengthy
hat on his head and a towel across his character sketch, and all of them jump-
lap. His smile, beneath a dapper mus- ing onto the sexual carousel:
tache, is collaborative and conspirato- She didnt realize it might be making Allan
rial. As Arbus said, A photograph is angry to think that his wife was yearning sex-
a secret about a secret. Compare Mo- ually for Alex, any more than she sensed that
rales to Sebastian de Morra, a dwarf at Jane might be alarmed and antagonized to learn
the court of Philip IV, who was painted that Allan thought Diane just wanted to go to
bed with Janes fianc.
by Velzquez around 1645. De Morra
is robed, seated, and foreshortened, I have read that sentence several
with his legs sticking out: a generous times, and I still dont get who is bunk-
pose, for we cant tell how tall he is, ing down with whom. It might have
and thats the point. His expression is been simpler if Lubow had drawn a
grave, steady, and inquiring, as though Venn diagram instead. Yet even these
we were in a police station or a princi- scenes have a purpose, for they remind
pals office, being held to account for our us of the atmosphere in which Arbus
activities. Both images exert a formida- thrived, and they compel the toughest
ble grip, but De Morra is examining us. questions: Did she carry the hothouse
Morales has eyes only for Arbus. Freaks, of the Nemerovs around with her for-
as she called them, dont have to go ever, and, if so, did it heighten or stunt
through life dreading what may happen, her art? Can you be honest to a fault,
its already happened. Theyve passed and does that fault lure you not merely
their test. Theyre aristocrats. into wild indiscretion but right to the
brink of ferocity? Was there a mote of
ubow is entering a crowded arena, meanness in her eye, or did it just see
L for the Arbus industry is hardly a more than our lazy gaze can ever hope
place of repose. Yet the author ghts to do? Arbus photographed her own
for his spot, and earns it. His research father, at his funeral, in his coffin, and
is unagging and his timing is good, confessed to being jealous of her young-
for Arbus could scarcely be more fash- er sister, Renee, for having been raped
ionable, with her thrill at the uidity as a teen-ager. Diane was said to radi-
of genders, and her trafficking with an- ate aggressive vulnerability, and some
onymity and fame. Bosworth may have people were worn down by posing for
a keener nose for detail (from her we her, hour upon hour, until they were
learn that at one moma show, an assis- frazzled and frayed; only then would
tant had to go around each morning she get the shot she required. In 1971,
and wipe the Arbus photographs where writing from London to a friend, Arbus
people had spat on them), whereas complained that nobody seems mis-
Lubow is more intent upon the shifts erable, drunk, crippled, mad, or des-
in Arbuss work. He is rightly amused, perate. I nally found a few vulgar
too, by the clash of her professional things in the suburb, but nothing sor-
ardor with her domestic duties, high- did yet.
lighting a note from her appointment If, in the end, any biography of
book, from 1959: Buy Amys birth- her becomes exhausting, that is be-
day present, go to the morgue. cause she is exhausting. If her genius
Readers of Lubows biography may both astounds and tires, it is because,
100 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
whatever the courage and the toler-
ance with which she sought out the
eccentric, she always seems to remain
at the center, while others revolve around
her. Of the triplets whom she photo-
graphed in Jersey City, in 1966, she said,
They remind me of myself. Though a
friend of Walker Evans, she found his
pictures insanely unconictive, which
tells you more about her than about
him. Since her quest for conict was
a natural reex, bred in the bone, even
her most outlandish pictures come
to seem like self-portraits: windows
transmuted into mirrors. As her mar-
riage to Allan failed, for instance,
she was, like her mother before her,
dragged into depression and sucked
down, declaring, The thing that sticks
most in the throat and hurts the most
is how easy it is. The joy and terror
are both in the swallowing. A decade
later, outside a circus tent, she photo-
graphed an albino woman swallow-
ing a sword.
Diane Arbus took her own life in
1971, with barbiturates and a blade.
She had complained of lacking the
condence even to cross the street, and
a nal entry in her appointment book
read, Last Supper. In those late years,
however, there had been grace notes
of a surprising kind: photographs of
mentally disabled women, many of
them in an institution in Vineland,
New Jersey, not far from Atlantic City.
The residents were, she found, the
strangest combination of grownup and
childas she herself was often said
to be. Some of the ladies are my age
and they look like they are 12, she
reported to her daughter Amy. And
yet, for once, the images do not feel
steeped in Arbuss presence, or in the
tidal pull of her needs. The women
exist in and unto themselves, and the
images, frequently misted with blurs,
are more tender than anything Ar-
bus had done beforefinally what
Ive been searching for, she wrote to
her ex-husband, Allan. Imprecision,
like mercy, did not make them less
true. Many of the subjects were pho-
tographed at play, masked for Hal-
loween, and Arbus did not hesitate to
register their joy. Others, she saw, were
more wretched, and one of them was
heard to say, over and over, Was I the
only one born?
lic citizenship, his presence almost man-
MUSICAL EVENTS datory at scenes of global disaster.
Yet the Piatigorsky Festivala ten-day

CELLO NATION
affair, divided between the University of
Southern California and Disney Hall
was not the place to muse on the cellos
The Piatigorsky Festival, in Los Angeles. reputation for solemnity. A try-anything
atmosphere prevailed, with a hint of late-
BY ALEX ROSS night collegiate shenanigans sneaking in.
Cellists sang, shouted, and banged gongs
during performances. The renegade Ital-
ian cellist-composer Giovanni Sollima led
exercises in improvisation, from Baroque
styles to avant-garde noise-making. The
repertory ran the gamut from Gesualdo
(the sakura cello quintet arranged his
madrigals) to Radiohead (Matt Haimo-
vitz and Christopher ORiley played the
bands Pyramid Song). The festival
seemed intent on maximizing that famil-
iar sense of the cellos humanness: in every
imaginable way, the instrument became a
proxy for the person behind it.

he festival is named for Gregor


T Piatigorsky, the golden-toned, big-
hearted Russian virtuoso, who moved to
L.A. in 1949 and later took a position
teaching at U.S.C. The Piatigorsky chair
at U.S.C.s Thornton School of Music
is now held by the veteran American cel-
list Ralph Kirshbaum, who launched the
festival, a quadrennial event, partly to
create a meeting place for touring mu-
sicians whose paths seldom intersect.
This year, he enticed twenty-ve of his
colleagues to perform and conduct mas-
ter classes, alongside several dozen stu-
I wish Id studied the cello was a
common lament among the crowds
ious pleasure of watching a master cel-
list give public shape to a private world.
dent fellows. Like some other sectors of
classical music, the cello world suffers
at the Piatigorsky International Cello The cello is a relative latecomer on the from a gender imbalance; only two of
Festival, which drew a hundred cellists concert platform, having achieved true the lead players were women, and nei-
to Los Angeles in the middle of May. I star status only in the nineteenth century. ther gave a master class. It would have
said it myself, recalling tense childhood Its autumnal voice seduced the Roman- been much healthier to have female voices
negotiations with the oboe. Outsiders tics: the pioneering concerto is Schumanns, sharing in the handing down of edicts.
like to think that the cello, the most un- which begins not with a heroic display Telling differences emerged as the fes-
cannily human-sounding of instruments but with a great meandering rumination. tival went on. Sometimes these echoed
(it approximates a vocal range from low At the start of the twentieth century, Pablo the old national schools of cello playing:
male to high female), would provide lim- Casals brought Bachs suites to a wide the pristine tone and smooth legato of
itless companionship and consolation. public, and an even deeper well of gravi- the French school, exemplied by Pierre
We imagine ourselves playing Bach as tas opened. In part because of Casalss Fournier; the exible precision of the Ger-
dusk descends, savoring pensive joys and moral force as a foe of Fascism and nu- man school, associated with Emanuel
sweet sorrows. That the fantasy is unre- clear arms, the cello took on an oracular Feuermann; the booming resonance of
alistic in the extremea regal contralto accent, an aura at once beatic and brood- the Russian school, embodied by Ros-
timbre arises only from a combination of ing. Mstislav Rostropovich played a sim- tropovich. These labels have long been of
freakish talent and thousands of hours ilar role during the Cold War, and Yo-Yo limited usefulness, but a given player often
of laborhardly detracts from the vicar- Ma now carries on this tradition of pub- leans in one direction or another. Ma, for
example, has a tinge of Frenchness, as he
A hundred cellists gathered at Disney Hall for an Anna Clyne premire. showed in a recital at Disney Hall, giving
102 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 ILLUSTRATION BY GUIDO SCARABOTTOLO
a silken sheen to the Shostakovich So- composer Matthew Aucoin led the
nata in D Minor. By contrast, Mischa premire of Anna Clynes Threads &
Maisky, who studied with both Rostropo- Traces, for the full ensemble. Clynes
vich and Piatigorsky, gave a startlingly vi- score maintained soft dynamics, and
olent reading of the Britten Sonata in C, the ensemble shimmered with harmon-
infusing it with the bite and fury that Ma ics and fragmentary modal melodies.
had omitted from the Shostakovich. Anyone who felt deprived of maximum
Above all, the question is how a noise could take satisfaction in the heav-
procient player can become a distinc- ing chant of Villa-Loboss Bachianas
tive one. At one master class, the Swiss Brasileiras No. 1.
cellist and composer Thomas Demenga, There was much else to celebrate
a musician of piercing intelligence who ap- in the series. The young Argentine
pears rarely in this country, cross-examined cellist Sol Gabetta was sinewy and
Coleman Itzkoff, a graduate student of sonorous in Martins First Con-
Kirshbaums at U.S.C. Itzkoff essayed the certoone of three concerto perfor-
Prelude of Bachs Fifth Suite, exhibiting mances with Leonard Slatkin and the
a awless technique and keen musical- Los Angeles Philharmonic. Zuill
ity. As Demenga pointed out, the inter- Bailey slalomed furiously through
pretation was shall we say, a bit Roman- Piatigorskys Variations on a Paganini
ticsanding away the sharper corners Theme, which contains parodic por-
of Bachs language. Demenga wanted traits of fellow-musicians, including
more naturalness, more grit. Dont be Jascha Heifetz on a high-register tear.
afraid to play these notes too harshly, he David Geringas gave an exacting, el-
said at one point. When a low C ap- evated account of Soa Gubaidulinas
peared beneath an upper line, he urged, Canticle of the Sun. (This was the
Dont connect!he wanted the voices piece in which the cellist doubled on
kept separate instead of integrated into gong.) On the nal night, eight cel-
a single owing line. He asked for one lists joined forces to play Beethovens
held note to rise and fall in volume like complete works for cello and piano,
a ball thrown in the air. After forty-ve capturing different sides of the Masters
minutes, Itzkoff had emerged with a more personality: Demenga brought intel-
idiosyncratic, articulate reading. lectual mischief to the Sonata Opus 102
That same day, Laurence Lesser, a Pi- No. 1; Jean-Guihen Queyras relished
atigorsky pupil who serves as the cello the cantilena of Opus 102 No. 2; and
sage at the New England Conservatory, Colin Carr animated every turn of
advised Annie Jacobs-Perkins, another the great Sonata Opus 69.
Kirshbaum protge, on Martins Sec- The performance that will stay lon-
ond Sonata. Jacobs-Perkins delivered the gest in my mind, though, was of the
desolate Largo with hypnotic lyricism, Elgar concerto, with the Norwegian
causing listeners to forget where they cellist Truls Mrk. No player at the
were for a moment. Lesser made a tech- festival produced a handsomer tone:
nical suggestion, asking her to bow more Mrk had the benet of a magni-
evenly across the rst falling phrase. He cent instrument, a 1723 Domenico
also pushed her to give the entire open- Montagnana, and he made it sing
ing melody an archlike shape, so that it with unforced splendor, his expan-
sang toward a climax, then subsided. Some sive, Russian-inected bowing and
people in the audience may have won- vibrato insuring that quiet passages
dered why Lesser was tinkering with an oated into the far reaches of the hall.
already gorgeous rendition, but he offered As an interpreter, Mrk avoided the
a credo: When someone plays as beau- noble-minded protocolthe high-
tifully as you do, its easy for me to be school-graduation treadthat is too
fussy, because no matter how far we are common in Elgar. Unmannered rubato
theres always more. gave a sense of moment-to-moment
improvisation, of a halting search
he sonic spectacular of the fes- for honest expression. What emerged
T tival was a gathering of a hundred was a monologue set against a land-
cellists at Disney Hall, with Kirshbaum scape of shadows: the cellist as Shake-
and his colleagues lling the front rows spearean actor, uneasy with the crown
of the orchestra. The young conductor- of power.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 103
in Berlin. Hed moved there, after teach-
THE ART WORLD ing at the Bauhaus in Dessau, in order
to concentrate on a career as a commer-

THE FUTURE LOOKED BRIGHT


cial and stage designer, while still collab-
orating with his former colleagues Wal-
ter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Herbert
A Moholy-Nagy retrospective. Bayer. An electric company backed the
research and the engineering required to
BY PETER SCHJELDAHL create the piece. It was his talisman. He
took it with him in 1934, when, after the
Nazis ascent to power, he moved rst to
the Netherlands, and then to London,
and, nally, in 1937, to Chicago, where
he directed the New Bauhaus school.
Two years later, he founded the School
of Design, which survives today as part
of the Illinois Institute of Technology;
the institution became what the art his-
torian and curator Elizabeth Siegel, writ-
ing in the Guggenheim shows catalogue,
calls his overarching work of art.
The fragile original Light Prop
resides in Harvards Busch-Reisinger
Museum, where it is sometimes turned
on during gallery talks. At the Gug-
genheim, a working replica occupies
the Room of the Present, a dazzling
futuristic environmentincluding a
serpentine steel-and-glass room di-
vider, Bauhaus lamps, plans for build-
ings and domestic interiors, photo-
graphs, lms, and postersthat Moholy-
Nagy conceived for a museum instal-
lation in 1930, but which went unreal-
ized in his lifetime. (He died of leuke-
mia, in 1946, at the age of fty-one.) I
kept returning to the Light Prop as
the peak of a variegated show that re-
Light Prop for an Electric Stage (1930): optimism for technical know-how. veals surprising hints of soulfulness in
the great experimenter.
y favorite work by the Hun- inventivenessthere had never been Moholy-Nagy is generally not my
M garian-born painter, sculptor, pho- anything like it beforeputs it in a kind of artist. Scientically inclined and
tographer, lmmaker, designer, writer, class of twentieth-century utopian icons. pedagogical, he seems bent on improv- PHOTOGRAPH: DAVID HEALD/SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION
COURTESY HATTULA MOHOLY-NAGY/VG BILD-KUNST, BONN/ARS, NY;

teacher, and all-around modernizing vi- Though hardly on a par with the Rus- ing me. But excessive condence is only
sionary Lszl Moholy-Nagy, the sub- sian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlins de- too human, too. Besides the extreme
ject of a powerful retrospective at the signs for the tilted, open-worked spiral historical drama in the arc of his devel-
Guggenheim Museum, is a one-of-a- tower of his Monument to the Third opment, there is personal pathos in the
kind gizmo: Light Prop for an Elec- International (1920), Light Prop ex- sense that his commitment to rational
tric Stage (1930). Its a sleek, motor- udes a similar optimism for a world abstraction deectedor sacriced,
ized medley of nely machined rods, not only bettered by technical know- evenhis softer yearnings. I hadnt
screens, perforated disks, and springs in how but set on a whole new footing. known that, before he became an art-
metal, glass, wood, and plastic, set in a That dream keeps recurring, of course. ist, largely self-taught, Moholy-Nagy
box with a circular cut in one side. The But creative people of no other period aspired to be a poet. His later paintings
gleaming partsa sort of industrialized dreamed bigger and harder than those break from his wonted mode of aes-
synthesis of Cubist and Constructivist in Europe and America between the thetic demonstration to express emo-
stylesreect a play of colored electric world wars, when concatenating eco- tion. Some, with ares of color and re-
lights inside the box. The work was de- nomic, political, and social disasters fed ceding grids adrift on airy gray grounds,
signed for a purpose, but its primary faith in the gospel of progress. are infectiously free-spirited and fan-
function is to fascinate. Its rhapsodic Moholy-Nagy nished Light Prop ciful. And he did late wonders with
104 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016
Plexiglas sculptures and reliefs. Having tuning fork for an evolving visual music
received his terminal diagnosis, he began of innovations whose beauty was at one
to abandon rigor in favor of delight. But with their use and signicance. (Not in-
consider Nuclear I, CH (1945) and cidentally, it provided a fabulous sub-
Nuclear II (1946), depicting spheres ject for odd-angled photographs.) The
reballsin which abstract elements aim was a sense of tradition that dis-
jumble and tatter: scientic progress cli- missed museum art and rooted itself in
maxing, horribly, at Hiroshima. The im- products of everyday necessity. The art-
plied admission of evil that stalks even ists role was to indoctrinate the pub-
the best of intentions casts a shadow lic: Moholy-Nagy noted that one of his
back across a career that began in re- exhibitions was arranged in order to be
pressive self-invention. handled and understood by the sim-
Moholy-Nagy was born in 1895, to plest individual.
a Jewish family in a Hungarian region An introduction to the Guggenheim
of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (The catalogue by the curators Carol S. Eliel,
conductor Georg Solti was his moth- Karole P. B. Vail, and Matthew S. Wit-
ers second cousin.) When he was kovsky adduces Moholy-Nagys in-
young, his father abandoned the fam- uence on the serial attitude of nine-
ily, and Lszl adopted the surname teen-sixties minimalism: art realized not
Nagy from a maternal uncle. (Moholy in unique forms but in repeated mod-
is from the name of the town in which ules. Still mildly sensational are three
he lived.) He studied law, and then enamel paintings, from 1923, of an iden-
served in the Austro-Hungarian Army tical abstract design in different sizes.
in the First World War, until an injury A factory made them, he claimed, from
(a shattered thumb) placed him on re- specications that he had conveyed by
serve duty. While convalescing in Bu- telephone. Less compelling are his ab-
dapest, he became involved in revolu- stract oil paintings from the twenties
tionary political and avant-garde circles. and thirties, mostly deploying geomet-
After the collapse of the short-lived ric planes that change color where they
Hungarian Soviet Republic, in 1919, seem to overlap. They radiate expertise
he went rst to Vienna and then to and some appealing tactile nuance, in
Berlin, where he thoroughly absorbed their contrasts of blunt brushwork and
the aesthetics of Constructivism. In raw canvas (Moholy-Nagy strove to
1923, he joined the original Bauhaus, train his students sense of touch by re-
in Weimar, teaching its foundation quiring them to explore surfaces with
course and leading its metalwork shop. their eyes closed), but one canvas is very
His interests expanded from painting like another: less a fulllment than an
to photographycameraless exposures illustration of the artists pictorial aes-
that he called photograms and new thetic, which was exacting in execution
vision pictures, involving unusual points but monotonous in feeling.
of viewand Dada-avored photo- You would hardly know, from this
montage, which usually consisted of show, that Moholy-Nagy shared an era
tiny cutout gures engaged in zany or with Picasso and Matisse. Perhaps chalk
enigmatic dramas, beautifully arrayed. it up to the First World War and the
He continually wrote theoretical Russian Revolution and a ssure in
books and articles advancing a utopian Western culture between art that main-
strain of high modernism. In 1928, he tained conventional mediums and art
collaborated with the brilliant art his- that subsumed them in a romance with
torian and critic Sigfried Giedion on a social change and new techniques. The
book that derived aesthetic and tech- former held rm in France; the latter
nical principles from recent industrial ourished in Germany. Americans could
feats. A particular focus was the Mar- thrill to both at once, as interchange-
seilles Transporter Bridge, built in 1905 able symbols of the modern. It was in
by the engineer Ferdinand Arnodin, America, while he was dying, that Mo-
which used a suspended gondola to holy-Nagy seemed to realize and begin
carry people and traffic across the old to remedy the imbalance, exposing the
port. (It was blown up by retreating heart that had always pulsed within
Germans in 1944.) The bridge served the technocratic genius. To be a student
Giedion and Moholy-Nagy as a sort of of his then must have been heaven.
THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 105
musician of the modern dancehall era
POP MUSIC and eventually the most notorious, thanks
to a murder conviction that resulted in

RHYTHM REVIVAL
a life sentence in prison, in 2014. Prior
to Kartels conviction, Hershey went to
Kingston to join him in the studio; these
Dancehalls vivid new sounds. sessions generated a modest hit called
Yuh Love, along with Kartels 2011
BY CARRIE BATTAN album, Kingston Story.
In the years since Mixpak launched,
its catalogue has grown to include a
wide range of stylesthe label is home
to an all-female Japanese post-punk
band called Hard Nips, as well as to a
suite of club-minded electronic musi-
ciansbut it has focussed on dance-
hall, reggaes thunderous digital step-
child. Hershey describes his path to the
genre as serendipitous, a logical exten-
sion of his longtime obsession with hip-
hop. With Mixpak, he has assembled
a cross-cultural, high-low list of records
from established heavyweights, like
Kartel and his softer-sounding protg
Popcaan, along with lesser-known and
more outr newcomers intent on up-
ending listeners expectations of Carib-
bean music. Mixpak is surely the only
label that offers a raucous Beenie Man
single and an ambient electronic pro-
ducer from New York on the same
SoundCloud feed. The label has become
such an exalted brand that unaffiliated
dancehall artists have released music
with fake Mixpak stamps attached.
At one extreme of the Mixpak spec-
trum is Benjy Keating, a young pro-
ducer and vocalist from London who
Palmistry, like others on the Mixpak label, puts a slant on Caribbean styles. sees dancehall music through a long-
focus lens. His dbut album, Pagan,
n 2012, Snoop Dogg set out to refash- though both musicians are white Amer- released under the name Palmistry, offers
I ion himself as a Rastafarian named ican men who are fascinated by far-ung a hyper-specic version of the genre. It
Snoop Lion. He travelled to Jamaica, cultures and sounds, Diplo has used his feels almost like a hallucinationblurry
where he called on a number of artists access as a platform for success and ce- but vivid, its sorrow and pleasure twisted
to help grease his transition. In a three- lebrity, while Hershey has remained a tightly together. The songs are dance-
week recording session for an album background gure. Diplo transcends his hall tracks distilled to their bare essen-
called Reincarnated, he worked closely outsider status with brazen force; Her- tials, with the music rarely consisting
with Diplo, the swashbuckling d.j. who shey, who performs as Dre Skull, tends of more than a plasticized synth line of
spearheads the dance-pop group Major toward assimilation, dutifully experi- buttery chord progressions and a spare
Lazer. The pairing seemed natural: Diplo menting within the existing framework bass drum. Anything more would over-
had the Midas touch as a producer and of reggae and dancehall music. power Keatings voice, a feminine lilt
was becoming a star in his own right, one Much of this experimentation has that hardly registers above a whisper.
who had built his reputation chiey by taken place on Mixpak, a small but in- The result is a sense of hushed intimacy,
playing the role of an outsider turned li- uential Brooklyn label that Hershey and yet Keating keeps the listener at
aison to Caribbean music. founded, in 2009. Years earlier, he had arms length, perhaps out of necessity.
But Snoop also enlisted the help of begun poking around on the Internet, He is cognizant of the complications
a soft-spoken d.j. and producer named attempting to forge relationships with of being a white British guy singing
Andrew Hershey, who has developed Caribbean artists, when he connected dancehall, a situation he tiptoes nimbly
a standing as a kind of anti-Diplo. Al- with Vybz Kartel, the most celebrated around by obscuring himself, slipping
106 THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK PECKMEZIAN
in and out of a light patois, using Auto- tradition. Rather, its born out of the melted down these styles to a sensual
Tune, and varying his phrasing until the hungry energy of someone realizing syrup, swirled with cheeky lyrics and
meaning of the words begins to drift that the elements of long-established hybridized slang. (In the earlier age of
into oblivion. Sometimes disarming styles are at his ngertips, available to playful new genre taxonomy, someone
lines will oat to the surface: Daddy be remolded. And yet the effect is never might have named this Reggae & B.)
was a pastor / Mommy was a pastor / Son, parodicwhen Keating sings a line such A few months ago, his breezy single
son was a pagan, he sings on Paigon, as Do the wine like its happy hour, Sweeterman captured the attention
one of the only moments on the record hes sombre and worshipful enough to of Drake, who proceeded to release his
that reveals biographical details. avoid sounding silly. own version. Drakes unofficial riff at-
Pagan is less a collection of songs tracted millions of listens on the Inter-
than a slow-moving accretion of sen- here was a period in the early net, both accelerating and muddling
sation. Keating is not concerned with T and mid-aughts when dancehall Ramriddlzs trajectory.
trying to replicate any one style of music; artists carried their own water in the Drake, in fact, has demonstrated a
instead, he explores what happens when American market. With the help of keen and growing curiosity about Ca-
he takes familiar elementsin this case, the major labels, Jamaican musicians ribbean music, owing partly to the in-
chord progressions and rhythms burned like Sean Paul, Sean Kingston, and El- uence of the many immigrant enclaves
into our senses by dancehall and soca ephant Man broke into Top Forty radio. in Toronto, his home town. For Drake,
and presents them in an uncanny way. You couldnt go a day in the summer dancehall has been an effective way to
The result is often quite affecting, an of 2003 without hearing at least one raise the temperature and the mood of
emotional blend of recognizable and single from Sean Pauls irresistible his otherwise chilly, downcast style. He
alien pop music. At the albums heart pop-dancehall album Dutty Rock, has also used the vocabulary of dance-
are sorrow and loss. On Sweetness, two of whose songs hit No. 1. Unless hall to shield himself from accusations
the stickiest and most conventional you count Rihannas mush-mouthed of theft. When asked in an interview to
pop track, Keating reels off a list of en- Bajan triumph, Work, which had a explain his use of the rapper D.R.A.M.s
ticing sensory details: smoke, silk water, recent stint at No. 1, those days are be- track Cha Cha on his hit song Hot-
jasmine, blood amber, bubbling tea, hind us. Today, Caribbean styles are line Bling, Drake invoked the riddim,
blackberry cream, cinnamon sheets. used in pop music like giant sandwich the tradition in which Jamaican artists
The sweetness is a malady, he sings, boards, announcing an American pop endlessly iterate on a single rhythm. In
on one of the albums rare choruses. stars desired effect in crude block let- Jamaica, youll have a riddim, and its,
The sweetness / I love your malady. ters: Here is a summery song. Here is like, everyone has to do a song on that,
Given Keatings accent and the airiness a light song. Here is a song that is de- he said. So sometimes Ill pick a beat . . .
of the album, its easy to hear this line signed to make you feel happy. Take and I just try my hand at it. Weeks
as I love your melody. Theres a dark- twice a day with sun. before the release of his new album,
ness to his sound that suggests that joy But reggae and dancehall are espe- Views, a track called Controlla leaked
and affliction are not unrelated. cially uid genres, well suited to exper- online. That version of the song, a sweet
Pagan has a meditative, hymnal imentation. Artists like Palmistry and spritz of dancehall, sampled a Beenie
quality; its songs could work well as others on the Mixpak roster show that Man track from 1995 and featured a
background music at a spa, at a dance Caribbean music can be more than a loud verse from Popcaan, Mixpaks marquee
club for shy people, or as objects of statement piece to be discarded at will Jamaican vocalist. But by the time Views
study in a semiotics seminar. It is a it can be a foundation for a new sound. came out the Popcaan verse had been
dancehall record at heart, but its not The clever Egyptian-Canadian singer discarded, the limits of a pop heavy-
the product of nostalgia or respect for Ramriddlz, on his new EP Venis, has weights curiosity plain to see.

THE NEW YORKER IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF ADVANCE MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS INC. COPYRIGHT 2016 COND NAST. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

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THE NEW YORKER, JUNE 6 & 13, 2016 107


CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST

Each week, we provide a cartoon in need of a caption. You, the reader, submit a caption, we choose
three finalists, and you vote for your favorite. Caption submissions for this weeks cartoon, by John Klossner,
must be received by Sunday, June 12th. The finalists in the May 23rd contest appear below. We will announce the
winner, and the finalists in this weeks contest, in the June 27th issue. Anyone age thirteen or older can
enter or vote. To do so, and to read the complete rules, visit contest.newyorker.com.

THIS WEEKS CONTEST


..........................................................................................................................

THE FINALISTS THE WINNING CAPTION

Then maybe you should just tell me what you want for
your birthday instead of saying you dont care.
Christine Hurt, Orem, Utah

Can we have one argument without you


bringing up the monkeys? I doubled my contribution to PBS.
Anna OLoughlin, Adelaide, Australia Lynda Altman, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Should I have gotten a half-barrel?


Mimi Kennedy, Van Nuys, Calif.