' ' Cinema Romantico: Peak New Yorker Parenthetical

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Peak New Yorker Parenthetical

“A parenthetical sentence is a paradoxical thing. It straddles worlds: It is both inside and outside the text simultaneously, included and excluded. It is not quite important enough to merit the full center-stage spotlight but also not unimportant enough to be shoved entirely behind a curtain. A pair of parentheses is the sound of a text leaning over and whispering to us,” wrote Sam Anderson in The New York Times. He was referring to The Great Nadar by Adam Begley, but he could just as well be referring to the commentary traditions of The New Yorker Magazine, which, like the incandescent 1980s Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway executing the option pitch from some absurd angle the hapless defender never saw coming, proffers parentheticals with delightfully unexpected flourishes. And if that is an oblique similie, well hell, it’s The New Yorker we’re talking about here.

Their parentheticals are often merely about clarification, sure, though even then great care is taken in placement and wording. Consider the No Comment issuance of Reince Priebus in Ryan Lizza’s infamous recounting of an Anthony Scaramucci phone call. But just as often the parenthetical is for effect, a place for a fun-filled fact that feels like an inside joke, such as Evan Osnos in his recent North Korea piece mentioning clerks in said country must avoid creasing newspapers bearing the face of Kim Jong Un on the front page. But sometimes those parentheticals allow not simply for observations apart from the overall thrust of the article itself but observations that overpower the overall thrust of the article itself.

Anthony Lane, longtime film critic for the mag, pitches a damn good parenthetical. I sometimes see Anthony Lane get crap from the New School Film Critics who, paradoxically, comically, often seem more rigid in their views on what a review “should” be than the Old School. Godfrey Cheshire long ago dismissed Lane as “a quip-minded belletrist.” A quip-minded belletrist? That sounds fantastic! That sounds like just what I want in my parenthetical! I like Anthony Lane. He, as my girlfriend says, a great stylist. He, to paraphrase William Goldman, writes reviews to be read, and God bless him. And in reading his review of “Battle of the Sexes” in the latest issue, one particular parenthetical went next-level.

It might have been the text leaning over and whispering to me but it still blew me back like a gale, a bolt of lightning resounding not in a crack of thunder but a melancholy sigh because the parenthetical bore such hard truth. And after placing the magazine in my lap to drink in the parenthetical, I never returned to the review because all that mattered in the end was between those parentheses.

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