The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen; In Mid-Air by Adam Gopnik – review

Nuanced, elegiac essay collections by two New Yorker stalwarts offer welcome relief amid the current rancour of US politics Over the past couple of years, in the face of relentless attack from the 45th president and his cronies, the best liberal American journalism has held firm to principle. The phoney assault on “fake news” is best defended with an insistence on nuance not vitriol, on fact not invective. The opposite of populist rhetoric is not self-righteous anger but singular human complexity. That latter voice – which by its nature is discursive and playful – has often been most reliably heard in the pages of the New Yorker magazine. These two new collections of essays, by New Yorker stalwarts, can be read, in part, as a welcome alternative to the current, dominant American political tone of one-note belligerence. No writers self-deprecate with quite the self-assurance of New Yorker writers. Even as they disavow punctilious wit they tend to delight in it. In his introduction to his collection of short pieces, each written for BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View , Adam Gopnik observes how he is “accustomed to having breezy British reviewers of my books, not always hostile ones, detect a New Yorker tone or manner in them, though in truth if that tone exists at all it is now as a refugee dialect in the work of one or two nostalgists for a now mostly defunct style. We speak [James] Thurber and [EB] White in the way emigres in Broadway cafeterias only spoke Yiddish…” Continue reading...