What is this shit?

I bring in The New Yorker last week with this cover on it. I study it – think I’m missing something – then realize, “Nope. It’s a shitty iPhone drawing of bowl and a spoon without any fun extra-contextual jazz.” And I’ve been thinking that they’ve been giving Jorge Colombo a few too many covers, but at least the guy is a master with the Brushes app. But I’m thinking that it seems like he phoned this one in. So I flip to the table of contents. This is not a Colombo drawing. Cover by DAVID HOCKNEY. Now I get it. He’s famous. I know that Hockney has been working with Brushes over the past few months, but it seems like his use is still incredibly mundane. So complaining about The New Yorker pandering to fame seems a bit unnecessary. I realize this. This is why the poetry and fiction have been usually unreadable for some many years. But, Francoise Mouly’s art direction was always something I respected on another level. Her choices are almost impeccable. This one let me down, though. The famous guy has learned to play with an iPhone, so let’s give him the cover. C’mon, Francoise, I expect better.

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11 thoughts on “What is this shit?

    • Richard–

      George Saunders is usually the lone exception to the rule in The New Yorker as goes his fiction. I’m trying to think of other stories I’ve liked in the last year or two. DeLillo’s “Midnight in Dostoevsky” — but I seem to be alone in that. Stephen O’Connor’s “Ziggurat” was unusual and especially so for the New Yorker.

      If the New Yorker could merely steer clear of stories that are in some way dealing with familial interrelations, of the usually strained and Jonathan Franzen variety, every other issue they would vastly improve. Nicole Krauss’ “the Young Painters” was probably the best of their recent Top 20 Writers Under 40. (Also I can’t help but feel it’s a cop out when writers just provide excerpts from a forthcoming novel.)

      But yeah, John, I read The New Yorker for its journalism and not much else. (Especially after the great lack of compelling fiction from the “20 Under 40″ crowd.)

  1. Hey John,

    Hockney has been hit and mainly miss for decades now, so his Sunday painter still life is not surprising. I guess you can now judge the New Yorker even by it’s cover.

  2. I wonder whether Hockney measures the success of this picture by the degree to which he was able to imitate an easel painting, or a still life done on canvas with brushes. I think it’s an achievement to do so, using an iPad, but I wonder if it’s a gestural achievement, like batting left-handed (when one is naturally right-handed) as evidence of one’s virtuosity. I mean this in a good way, or at least in a fun way. Champions have to find ways to amuse themselves.

    The problem remains though that the picture is only remarkable because it was painted on an iPad. It risks being a novelty.

  3. Richard,

    I will check out that story. In fairness, I don’t even look at the NYer fiction anymore, so I’m sure that I’m missing the occasional good thing.

    Edward, I read an article a while back – maybe on the NY Review of Book website – about Hockney doing iPhone (not iPad, by the way) drawings. And the idea of his practice seemed really cool to me, in the exact way you describe. Like when Michael Jordan first decided to play baseball. Or when Shaq decided to me a cop. But, to feature this uninspired piece as the cover is just what you say – merely novelty. Mediocre practice of the medium, BUT, it’s by a guy who’s famous!

    • Jordan, whose gambling was hushed up and probably precipitated his first retirement, infuriated me with that baseball stunt, taking some other guy’s more well deserved position. Over a full season he batted .202 with .289 slugging %, a .266 On base %. To the non-fan these are horrendous numbers – no one else would be tolerated.

      I’m all for famous people using their influence to try and change the world (Colbert and the farmers) but I’m very against furthering their self-interests in respect to their ego.

      • So let me get this straight, Greg. You don’t think that having Shaquille O’Neal carry a gun and patrol the southern New Mexico border would make America a safer place?

        You don’t know what you’re talking about, Greg.

        • Ha, I’m fine with Shaq (for a long time I couldn’t even say his name I loathed the Lakers so much, instead I would hold out my hand in a palming of the basketball motion to signify I meant him) because of course with him patrolling there is more media around and hence the crooks think it’s too risky. Maybe all celebrities should be cops. Hockney too.

  4. actually, john, there might be some extracontextual jazz? don’t you wonder why the bowl is so close to the table edge? at first i thought, well that’s awkwardly done, but then i started to wonder about the ‘path’ that seems to be created behind the bowl, how it sorta wipes clean that tabletop business of squiggles. is it being pushed to the edge somehow? somehow by that electronic-y stream of lines in the tabletop? there is a sort of tension in that bowl sitting at the edge. and who put it there? the human actor is awfully absent in that fully pushed in chair. i mean, i’m not a big hockney fan really but just sayin. and that’s a great spoon, if nothing else.

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