The rigid NEW YORKER style is anachronistic, like Blondie or Nancy comics in the funny pages. Once, this kind of shit was new and exciting. Distant memories of the Algonquin Club in glamorous circles of the 1930s. Tophats and tails; bellhops calling for cigarettes in snappy hotels. Music by Artie Shaw.
It'd be like MCSWEENEY'S 60 years from now-- the same stale humor that was "hip" at the outset but already dated by 2004.
The rituals of a religion-- nobody knows why they're still performing them, they just do. THE NEW YORKER's fiction falls into this category. The only thing keeping it going are the hopeful MFA demi-puppets copying the stories like monks, with their own variations, because they think it's the way toward salvation. And so, as we're still afflicted with Nancy and Sluggo, so also are we stuck with the same sad outdated fiction in the NEW YORKER.
Enough converts are always found-- Canin, Danticat, Lahiri, Eugenides; inferior disciples-- to keep the ritualized charade going; a pretense of life, as meaningful and important as the activity in a seminary or a convent. The goal: preservation. Or, more accurately, embalming.
Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman is the most pathetic kind of acolyte-- a caretaker. She's keeping the candles burning in a church that lost the bulk of its congregation decades ago. Not a visionary; not a revolutionary; not a consolidator-- merely a caretaker; the night custodian in the halls of literature. It's still the tallest and most prestigious church in town, stuffy and gray, of a religion which no longer matters.
And so, in keeping with her role, Ms. Treisman gives us not a glimmer of anything exciting, different, or new, only the same dogma: the same apostles-- Updike, Ozick, Oates, Munro-- in their usual places. There's Johnny Updike in the same familiar niche in the interior wall where he always stands, stony and bland, like a long-ago ancestor, and all is well with the world.
The caretaker lights a candle under the Updike statue, and her face gleams idiotically. Outside moves the bustle of the world, but inside the church is cherished silence, which the caretaker worships. You might think her insane, but she's not at all, despite the irrelevance of the rituals she performs. She's found a place in the world.
The many candles to her Altar of the Dead blaze brilliantly within the dark and empty church-- or at least within her empty head. The caretaker lights a final candle to the Updike statue, the last and most important in a line of dead literary saints. The caretaker shuffles listlessly but happily down the side row of the dusty cathedral to go home, leaving the shrine for the night, to return in the morning. She steps outside and with rusted keys locks the heavy doors.