Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I am quite profoundly distressed by next week's New Yorker cover. (No link – you can easily find it if you haven’t seen it yet.) Is this the image that will sink Obama, like Dukakis in his tank and Kerry in his wetsuit? How could they do it?

It’s not just any old magazine, either. The New Yorker and I go back a long, long way. My mother occasionally wrote for them – nothing to get excited about, maybe half a dozen pieces in all, but that’s six more than a lot of people manage. She once had a letter from them saying “Mr. Ross liked your story very much.”

It was always in the house, has always been in my life. I remember reading John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” when it came out (whole issue with no cartoons) and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”; Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, growing old with John Updike, and quite recently being introduced to William Trevor and Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri.

We subscribe, and give subscriptions to each of our four children. No small expenditure. James’s wife Cathy made me very happy a couple of weeks ago by telling me that she had taken out a subscription for her father.

I can see the point of the cartoon, of course. What I can’t see is how people so intelligent and sensitive could have thought it was a good idea to use it. It might be about right for the cover of the Harvard “Lampoon” if they have pictorial covers. But the New Yorker

It’s too smart by three-quarters, is the trouble. A normal political cartoon – it is only quite recently that they have appeared at all on the cover of the New Yorker – makes fun of the perceived faults of the target. I might, for example, draw a cartoon showing Senator McCain as an irascible old man alone in the Oval Office trying to get to grips with a computer. This cover appears to be along those lines. That is how it will be remembered. I shouldn't have to explain this to David Remnick.

Gretchen, you are a ray of comfort on a very dark day. I can’t get your Obama contribution onto our thermometer directly, but I have matched it, so you’re there in a sense.


Before we get to knitting, I’ll just say it’s been fun hearing from people who know Robin Lane Fox as an expert on Alexander the Great. He recently acted as historical advisor to a movie about Alexander, and required as part of his fee that he be allowed to ride, as an extra in the film, with Alexander’s army.


I got the feet pretty well done last night of the first rank of dinosaurs on the front of the sweater.

My friend Helen with Chronic Knitting Syndrome is coming for coffee today. We have much to discuss: knitting lace triangles, DVD players, new computers, why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.


The current plan is that I will go to Kirkmichael tomorrow and stay overnight by myself. A rare treat, eagerly anticipated. I should be able to bring back some small beets and perhaps some courgettes, and some sorrel for one of Mr Fox’s recipes. Blogging will resume on Friday, insh’Allah.


  1. I agree. I find the cover to be offensive and insulting. Someone at the New Yorker has a warped sense of humour. I appreciate good satire this is just bad on every level. Rather than "lampoon" they have given credence to stupid rumours. Someone at the New Yorker has an agenda.

  2. I just got back to the real world and saw the cover -- my subscription lapsed recently and I have meant to attend to it. Now I'm not sure. That may be satire, but it does not belong on the cover of the New Yorker. I was not just offended, but incensed at the cavalier attitude about the damage such an image can cause. It will be shown a million times on Fox news and seen by many who never see the magazine.

  3. Anonymous12:53 PM

    Like you, I have had the New Yorker in my life forever--I read it from childhood, my parents gave us a subscription when we married, and now we give them to our children. We did however take a break for ourselves during the Tina Brown era. This cover is all the more disturbing in that it doesn't come at a time of major editorial change. I look forward to an abject apology to the Obamas.

  4. Anonymous1:12 PM


  5. Anonymous1:15 PM


  6. I found the new yorker cover in bad taste too. Too smart for most voters here. I am almost as upset as I was about the reaction to Obamas kids interview. CNN was mad they didn't ask the kids any biting quesitons. Mr. Obama still has quite a hill to climb here. I am worried.

  7. i find this whole sordid episode extremely depressing. While I find the content objectionable (and I appreciate satire just as much as the next person), the damage is definitely in the vast exposure this is getting all over the media, with no adequate commentary. Without a doubt, the satirical aspects are way over the heads of many who will ultimately be voting. I still hold on to a semblance of youthful idealism, and I wish we could live in a world where people chose who to vote for based on issues, rather than on media manipulation.

  8. Hello to Helen from me! She very nicely commented on my blog the other day. It was lovely to read what she's up to and to follow the bus ride from Leith to Edinburgh. Does the buss pass your place?

    The NYer cover was commented on over here in the news - mostly to quote Sen McCain's disapproval of it. What were they thinking??? I would have thought the NYer would have been staunch Democrat in it's outlook. I'm not a reader myself so I can't tell if they have an editorial political bias.

  9. My best friend has gifted me a 'New Yorker' subscription which I have been very happy to receive. Unfortunately this cover picture may be taken the wrong way by many people who do not understand the sarcasm behind it. It should not have been on the cover. I just hope that no one at the New Yorker had an agenda as "myfanwy" said.

  10. thanks for posting about this Jean. We won't get this issue for a couple of week. But when I looked at it ... pretty sad, and really, what I wanted to say was: "why?" (as in why print that -- what IS the point, in the real world).

    There was also a recent cover where I was not amused from personal reasons: the cover showed a summer traveler going through x-ray security completely naked, having had to put all his things on the belt for the x-ray machine. You do feel like that when you travel these days ...

  11. I'm glad to hear about Robin Lne Fox. My DH gave me one of his books for Christmas. I think it's called The Classical Era (it's at work right now). I read it through and am rereading it. It's about Greeks and Romans.