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The Poetry that Lingers in a Clipped Article

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Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007

We’re so attuned to the immediate quality of the media and the high adrenalin of the big stories—the explosion about to happen, the man-made tragedies and natural disasters—that it goes almost unnoticed that the Internet has been capturing the sweet scrapbook quality of an article clipped and slipped between the pages of a book, because it made someone smile.


New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik wrote in “Paris to the Moon,” the book he wrote after spending the last five years of the last century in Paris as the New Yorker’s correspondent there: “If there is a fault in reporting, after all, it is not that it is too ephemeral but that it is not ephemeral enough, too quickly concerned with what seems big at the time to see what is small and more likely to linger.”


My favourite form of journalism is the comic-sentimental essay in the form of community news, which has been practiced brilliantly at the New Yorker, from James Thurber from the magazine’s beginnings in the 1920’s, through to Adam Gopnik. In this week’s edition Adam Gopnik writes on community food projects:


Twelve-thirty on a beautiful summer day, and the chicken committee of the City Chicken Project is meeting at the Garden of Happiness, in the Crotona neighborhood of the Bronx. The chicken committee is devoted to the proliferation of egg-laying chickens in the outer boroughs, giving hens to people and having them raise the birds in community gardens and eat and even sell the eggs (“passing on the gift,” as this is called in the project), and thereby gain experience of chicken, eggs, and community—or fowl, food, and fellowship, as one of the more alliterative-minded organizers has said.


The invention of the New York Times permalink has allowed us to create scrapbooks, to clip articles from newspapers and magazines, and over a cup of coffee on a slow day, when looking idly for something to read, they can be casually flipped through. It may seem like a flippant, time wasting activity, but with APEC starting in Sydney this weekend, and the security measures written about in the Sydney Morning Herald starting to read like an episode of the 1960’s television spy-spoof Get Smart, it’s illuminating to re-read the original review of Dr. Strangelove, published in the New York Times in 1964, which now seems more like a documentary than satire.


Stanley Kubrick’s new film, called Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is beyond any question the most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across. And I say that with full recollection of some of the grim ones I’ve heard from Mort Sahl, some of the cartoons I’ve seen by Charles Addams, and some of the stuff I’ve read in Mad magazine. For this brazenly jesting speculation of what might happen within the Pentagon and within the most responsible council of the President of the United States if some maniac Air Force general should suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union is at the same time one of the cleverest and most incisive satiric thrusts at the awkwardness and folly of the military that has ever been on the screen. It opened yesterday at the Victoria and the Baronet.


Self Portrait with Lox and Bagel by Dayna Bateman

Self Portrait with Lox and Bagel by Dayna Bateman


Dayna Bateman is someone who riffs on articles from newspapers, finding the poetry and charm and ephemeral sweetness in stories, condensing them on her blog—suttonhoo—and running them with her photographs, which she features on Flickr.


A recent example:


we were at
at high mass
on a summer Sunday
in Prague


sitting below
a large bishop
in a swingy skirt
bottomed off
with gold booties


thinking
his moves had
a sort of stripper
quality to them


Found in Justine Hardy’s “Guilt in the Golden City”
in the 25 August issue of the Financial Times.


Tagged as: new yorker | newspapers
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