A.J. Liebling
November 3, 2011 8:13 PM   Subscribe

[A.J.] Liebling didn’t invent The New Yorker’s fascination with work, with letting its interview subjects explain what they did for a living. But he did it very well, and his pudgy hand sits comfortably on the shoulders of the next generation, writers like Roger Angell or John McPhee. They are all of them purveyors of non-essential information, and the enormous pleasure we take in them is in inverse proportion to any actual need we have to know.
posted by Trurl (10 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, you shoulda linked to Roger Angell, one of the greatest baseball writers of all time!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2011

Man the New Yorker is great.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:18 PM on November 3, 2011

He was also fascinated with food and boxing. I don't follow or enjoy boxing but his books on the subject are good reads.
posted by PJLandis at 8:18 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't follow or enjoy boxing but his books on the subject are good reads.

Sports Illustrated named The Sweet Science the best sports book of all time.

The Amazon preview of Between Meals - which can be read at the "pudgy" link - contains a moving forward by the great James Salter that I wish I could have linked to in the post.

It's also worth seeking out The Honest Rainmaker.
posted by Trurl at 8:29 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just Enough Liebling, which the author mentions, can be had for six bucks on Amazon and is a great starting point for the Liebling novice who doesn't want to shell out for the fancy LOA volumes (which are admittedly very nice.)
posted by Rangeboy at 8:47 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah the New Yorker is so CONSISTENT, that's what gets me. They have dud issues for sure, but I'm overall amazed at how great it's been for the last n years. (With exceptions). I got on a big John McPhee kick a while back after reading his stupendous article on coal trains. Calvin Trillin's artist profiles are always good. I guess listing all their good freelancers would take forever.

Their online app is a real pain in the ass though. Have you ever tried cut and pasting an article. F******* Y******! I think I had to take a screen snap shot and mail it just to send someone their article on the Aryan Nation prison gang.

I give a lot of credit to their editors. Amazing editors.

I'm also amazed that every month they have a word I've never heard. Though, sometimes their fancy verbiage seems suspect.
posted by jcruelty at 9:11 PM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some of those words do not mean precisely the same thing. Some of them are completely different.
posted by borges at 11:42 PM on November 3, 2011

Another Liebling recommendation for those who thought Noam Chomsky invented the idea of Manufacturing Consent: The Press, a collection of essays on the state of the American newspapers in the fifties and sixties.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:38 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reading Mr. Liebling is like eating a scrumptious meal, drinking fine wine, viewing a fine painting, and enjoying a beautiful woman all within the same moment in time. Afterwords, you hope that you will never forget that moment.
posted by incandissonance at 7:28 AM on November 4, 2011

"They are all of them purveyors of non-essential information, and the enormous pleasure we take in them is in inverse proportion to any actual need we have to know."

Any apparent actual need, I would amend this to say… One of the reasons I consider the New Yorker, in the persons of writers such as these (and any other writers in any other publications which encourage the same, although the New Yorker seems to have the most sustained consistency), to be an essential part of my ongoing education is the way in which these apparently inessential articles continue that which is supposed to be the central benefit of a liberal arts education: to help one to cultivate one's ability to look further, think more deeply, and make connections and analogies between what had seemed unrelated before.

The seductive appeal of reading something with no apparent immediate purpose in one's life, that sense of time out for pure play, for pure intellectual enjoyment, suggests the aptness of the term "recreation": one will often find, much later, perhaps years, that what one has read comes back in a manner helpful to one's creativity in one's own field. It gives one, however indirectly, new perspectives and thus new means by which to create - to re-create.

It may not be possible, often, to point to a particular idea or set of ideas which one encountered in someone's writing which led to a particular creative result of one's own, but that's not the point: it's the enriching of one's general cognitive skills, and thus their potential output, that is the lasting benefit. Even those things one reads which may have no other benefit than simply being enjoyable to read contribute, by re-stoking one's enthusiasm for ideas in general, by re-stoking one's curiosity. And beauty - beauty of expression in this case - has its own innate value in our lives as well, independent of any considerations of utility. The benefits are multi-layered.
posted by Philofacts at 10:30 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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