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NOV. 28, 2016


THE TECH ISSUE NOVEMBER 28, 2016

9 GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN 31 THE TALK OF THE TOWN

Jelani Cobb on the states vs. Trump; a Staten Island celeb; Le Pen; advice from Italians; James Surowiecki on Trump’s infrastructure plan. ANNALS OF MEDICINE

Nicola Twilley

36

Bruce McCall

45

Giles Harvey

46

David Remnick

54

Cold Remedy How freezing trauma victims could help save them. SHOUTS & MURMURS

Emergency Canadian Residence Application PROFILES

Worst-Case Scenario The prophetic satire of “Black Mirror.” THE POLITICAL SCENE

It Happened Here Obama confronts the election’s outcome. A REPORTER AT LARGE

Daniel Zalewski

66

The Factory of Fakes Backup copies of the world’s greatest art. LIFE HACKS

Patricia Lockwood Joe Mande Alison Gopnik Alexandra Kleeman

42 50 70 76

“Quote Marks” “Follow the Money” “Screen Bee” “Cooked Data” FICTION

Robert Coover

80

“The Hanging of the Schoolmarm” THE CRITICS POP MUSIC

Taking shelter in Stevie Nicks.

Amanda Petrusich

82

Nathan Heller

87

Do robot lives matter?

91

Briefly Noted

A CRITIC AT LARGE BOOKS THE ART WORLD

Peter Schjeldahl

92

Hilton Als

94

Anthony Lane

96

A Francis Picabia retrospective at MOMA. THE THEATRE

The real and the surreal in black drama. THE CURRENT CINEMA

“Manchester by the Sea,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” POEMS

Anna Scotti Brian Russell

38 68

“Esposito & Son” “Old West Days” COVER

Barry Blitt DRAWINGS

“Counting”

Will McPhail, Michael Maslin, Christopher Weyant, Roz Chast, Paul Karasik, Charlie Hankin, Drew Dernavich, Robert Leighton, Joe Dator, Danny Shanahan, Alex Gregory SPOTS Harry Campbell


CONTRIBUTORS Jelani Cobb (Comment, p. 31) teaches in

the journalism program at Columbia. He has been writing for the magazine since 2013.

Giles Harvey (“Worst-Case Scenario,” p. 46), a senior editor at Harper’s, has been contributing to the magazine since 2013.

Nicola Twilley (“Cold Remedy,” p. 36), a

Joe Mande (“Follow the Money,” p. 50)

writer for newyorker.com, is the author of the blog Edible Geography and a co-host of the podcast Gastropod.

is a comedian and a writer.

Patricia Lockwood (“Quote Marks,”

p. 42) is the author of the poetry collection “Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.” Her memoir, “Priestdaddy,” will be published in the spring. Daniel Zalewski (“The Factory of Fakes,” p. 66) is the magazine’s features director.

Brian Russell (Poem, p. 68) is the man-

aging editor of Phantom Books. His first poetry collection, “The Year of What Now,” was published in 2013. Alison Gopnik (“Screen Bee,” p. 70) is a

professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Her most recent book is “The Gardener and the Carpenter.”

Amanda Petrusich (Pop Music, p. 82)

writes for newyorker.com and is the author of “Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.” Hilton Als (The Theatre, p. 94), The New

Yorker ’s theatre critic, is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Nathan Heller (A Critic at Large, p. 87) has contributed to The New Yorker since 2011 and became a staff writer in 2013. Alexandra Kleeman (“Cooked Data,” p. 76) is the author of “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine.” Her most recent book is “Intimations,” a collection of short stories.

SCREENING ROOM Our latest short film, “The Mulberry Bush,” explores pain, guilt, and how we respond to the threat of danger.

INTERACTIVE

Negotiate the loyalties of twelve demographics to save the Democratic Party or enhance the G.O.P. coalition.

SUBSCRIBERS: Get access to our magazine app for tablets and smartphones at the

App Store, Amazon.com, or Google Play. (Access varies by location and device.) 6

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

LEFT: DANIEL VECCHIONE

NEWYORKER.COM Everything in the magazine, and more.


THE MAIL TRUMP’S VOTERS

Larissa MacFarquhar’s report from West Virginia created one of the clearest portraits of Trump’s base that I’ve encountered to date (“Trumptown,” October 10th). MacFarquhar succeeds in lifting these voters out of mere caricature, and expresses with nuance the issues at stake for many of the Americans who voted for Trump. Not all Trump voters are bigots and racists; attempting to understand the complicated facts of other voters’ political motives will be important in order to facilitate public dialogue as people process the outcome of a deeply divisive election. This dialogue is one of the media’s central responsibilities. I found it ironic that Douglas McGrath’s “The Pences Visit Manhattan,” a parody of the Midwestern conservative, appeared in the same issue. Though I thought the piece was quite funny, I couldn’t help but feel that the laughs were cheaply won, affirming the belief of many Middle Americans that they are disdained by liberal urban élites—as if it were pathetic to enjoy a meal at Red Lobster with one’s family. Russell McIntosh Chapel Hill, N.C. MacFarquhar quotes a local history professor named Charles Keeney as saying that West Virginians are tired of outsiders making fun of their state, and that a vote for Trump was like “giving the middle finger to the rest of the country.” As someone from New Jersey, I have heard plenty of tiresome clichés about my state. But electing an overbearing bully didn’t work out for us, and now the whole country may find itself on the receiving end of Trump’s raised middle finger—West Virginians included. Joe Amon Princeton, N.J.

1 LEONARD COHEN’S FINALE

Thank you for David Remnick’s Profile of the great Leonard Cohen (“How the Light Gets In,” October 17th). Cohen

has been an inspiration to me since my childhood. A half century ago, my Aunt Esther, Cohen’s only sister, gave me some of his records. I rarely saw Cohen, but, when we did meet, he was intense and gracious, and provided me with words of guidance. His influence and work have made me a better writer, lover, and listener. Published just weeks before Cohen’s death, Remnick’s piece allowed me to visit with the artist at the end of his life, and to benefit from the selfacceptance and wisdom that he had achieved. A well-deserved finale to the greatest troubadour of our age. Jonathan Greenberg Sebastopol, Calif.

1 SHIRLEY JACKSON AND FEMINISM

I read Zoë Heller’s review of Ruth Franklin’s new Shirley Jackson biography with interest, as I often teach Jackson’s stories in my undergraduate English courses (“Haunted Houses,” October 17th). As a feminist literary scholar, however, I was surprised to see Heller write that “hunting for signs of nascent feminist sentiment in Jackson’s stories . . . tends to shut down, rather than open up, what is most interesting in them.” Feminist literary analysis, like other methods of reading works of literature, encourages multiple interpretations. Looking at Jackson’s works from this perspective allows for new ways of reading her œuvre, instead of foreclosing them. To suggest that “feminist readings” are limited to a single idea of searching for “metaphor[s] for patriarchal oppression” is an oversimplification of the feminist project. Ula Klein Assistant Professor of English, Texas A. & M. International University Laredo, Texas

• Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number via e-mail to themail@newyorker.com. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. We regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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NOVEMBER 23 Ð 29, 2016

GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN

Until recently, hip-hop was too young for nepotism: its stars found more success disavowing elders than looking toward them. But A$AP Ferg, who performs at Webster Hall on Nov. 25, gained indirectly from his late father’s experience working as a graphic artist in Hamilton Heights, designing logos and merchandise for record labels. Ferg’s lineage colors the best of his sophomore album, “Always Strive and Prosper,” throughout which he conjures scenes of his father, uncle, and grandmother with a stylish eye and a bold tone. PHOTOGRAPH BY IAN ALLEN


CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS

“Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol” As it does each holiday season, the Morgan Library & Museum opens the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’s classic, first published in 1843. This year, the mood is far from festive, as we land on page sixteen, at the end of the first chapter: Marley’s Ghost has just departed, and Scrooge looks out his window into a sky filled with phantoms and the “incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret.” (225 Madison Ave., at 36th St. 212-685-0008. Through Jan. 8.) Holiday Train Show The New York Botanical Garden converts more than two hundred and fifty acres into an immersive train show, where models race through miniature landmarks made from bark and leaves, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center. The annual display expands this year with a tribute to Coney Island. (2900 Southern Blvd., the Bronx. 718-8178700. Through Jan. 16.) “Memphis Does Hanukkah” In 1986, the Los Angeles sculptor Peter Shire— the only American associated with Italy’s irreverent Memphis Design Group—created a fuchsia, teal, peach, yellow, and blue menorah from painted steel, anodized aluminum, and chromium. (Imagine the Festival of Lights as celebrated by Pee-wee Herman.) The Jewish Museum exhibits the lamp alongside photo documentation of the Memphis Group and Judaica from its collection. (Fifth Ave. at 92nd St. 212-423-3200. Through Feb. 12.) Nutcrackers For many, George Balanchine’s “Nutcracker,” for New York City Ballet, is the only “Nutcracker.” One thing is for sure: the 1954 production, with its cozy party scene, giant tree, and high-flying Dewdrop choreography, is as satisfying as ever. (David H. Koch, Lincoln Center. 212-496-0600. Nov. 25-Dec. 31.) • Francis Patrelle’s “Yorkville Nut10

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

cracker,” performed by Dances Patrelle, re-imagines the story as a late-nineteenth-century New York fantasy. Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring, of New York City Ballet, make guest appearances. (Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, Park Ave. at 68th St. 212-772-4448. Dec. 8-11.) • Gelsey Kirkland Ballet’s “Nutcracker” presents Clara as a wide-eyed, sensitive young soul experiencing the first intimations of love. (29 Jay St., Brooklyn. 212-600-0047. Dec. 8-11 and Dec. 15-18.) • For the under-twelve set, a safe option is New York Theatre Ballet’s charming one-hour version, by Keith Michael, performed with a miniature Art Nouveau-style set. Short and sweet. (Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th St. 212-355-6160. Dec. 9-11.) • “The Hard Nut,” Mark Morris’s cheeky take on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” is now a quarter-century old. It’s broad and funny, but also touching, and the confetti-tossing snowflakes, with their silver tutus and meringue berets, are fabulous. (BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn. 718-636-4100. Dec. 10-11 and Dec. 14-18.) • For the “Hip Hop Nutcracker,” set in Washington Heights, the cast is multicultural, the familiar Tchaikovsky score is enhanced with beats by DJ Boo, and the dancing is filled with explosive moves you won’t find in Petipa. (NJPAC, Newark, N.J. 888-466-5722. Dec. 17.)

“Peter and the Wolf” “Works & Process” offers its yearly performance of Prokofiev’s musical tale about a headstrong boy who wanders into a meadow where a wolf lurks, even though he has been warned not to by his grandfather. The show—which doubles as an introduction to the instruments of the orchestra—is narrated by the avuncular Isaac Mizrahi and illustrated with witty choreography by John Heginbotham. (Guggenheim Museum, Fifth Ave. at 89th St. 212-423-3587. Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 9-11.) St. Thomas Church: “Messiah” The benchmark for the city’s annual performances of Handel’s “entertainment” on sacred themes has long been set by this Episcopal congregation’s Choir of Men and Boys, the finest Anglican choir in the country. This year, however, brings a new beginning, as Daniel Hyde, the noted British choirmaster who was hired to replace the late John Scott, takes his first New York crack at the beloved work. (Fifth Ave. at 53rd St. saintthomaschurch.org. Dec. 6 and Dec. 8 at 7:30.) “A Christmas Carol” Merchant’s House, a beautifully preserved nineteenth-century town house in the East Village (now a museum), is said to be haunted, so what better place to be visited by three ghosts? John Kevin

Jones, who adapted the tale with Rhonda Dodd, plays Charles Dickens in this one-man version, which begins with mulled wine in the downstairs kitchen before relocating to the candlelit Greek Revival parlor for storytelling. (Merchant’s House Museum, 29 E. 4th St. 800-838-3006. Dec. 7-24.)

“The First Noel” Lelund Durond Thompson and Jason Michael Webb wrote this holiday musical, which chronicles three generations of a Harlem family stung by tragedy and disoriented by gentrification. The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production, presented with the Apollo Theatre, is directed by Steve H. Broadnax III and features original music as well as pop and gospel incarnations of seasonal songs. (Apollo Theatre, 253 W. 125th St. 800-745-3000. Dec. 10-18.) New York Philharmonic: “Messiah” While no performance in Gotham can quite match the pastelled elegance of the St. Thomas Choir’s “Messiah,” the Philharmonic has for many years provided a superb rendition of its own, leavening the natural heft of its sound with a modicum of period-performance refinement. But the Phil, like St. Thomas, is also in transition—for the first time in his tenure, Alan Gilbert, the orchestra’s departing music director, will lead the performances. Gilbert is a master interpreter of modernist music; this might be the most interesting “Messiah” of the season. With the Concert Chorale of New York. (David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center. 212-875-5656. Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 17 at 7:30 and Dec. 16 at 2.) Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center The joyful spirituality and intellectual richness of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos have made them secular holiday favorites for generations. The Society provides dependably secure performances of them year in, year out; this season’s crew includes the harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss, the violinist Kristin Lee, the bassist Scott Pingel, and the hornist Stewart Rose. (Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. 212-875-5788. Dec. 16 and Dec. 20 at 7:30 and Dec. 18 at 5.) Miller Theatre: “Carnival of the Animals” Columbia University’s performance center embraces innovation, even when it comes to family concerts. Returning for its second year, this production, designed and directed by Lake Simons, sets Saint-Saëns’s disarming music and Ogden Nash’s clever verse in the context of Victorian toy theatre, with the help of a deft troupe of puppeteers. (Broadway at 116th St. 212-8547799. Dec. 17 at 2 and 5.)

ILLUSTRATION BY JOOHEE YOON

“Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes” This show may be eighty-four years old, but every year it offers up something new. These days, it features a lot of special effects, including a 3-D sleigh ride over Manhattan. Its most famous setpieces, though, are more low-tech: the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, in which the lanky Rockettes fall, one after another, in a line, like dominos; a miniature version of the Central Park skating rink, complete with ice dancers; and the humble Living Nativity, featuring camels, sheep, and a donkey. (Radio City Music Hall, Sixth Ave. at 50th St. rockettes.com/christmas. Through Jan. 2.)


1 MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES

the suggestion of a new normal, in art and in the national consciousness. Through Jan. 29.

Met Breuer “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” The subject of this exhilarating retrospective, who is sixty-one and based in Chicago, has depicted African-American life and experience since 1980, when he made “A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self.” Executed in the antique medium of egg tempera, the painting is in blacks and grays, save for the whites of the eyes, a shirt collar, and a gap-toothed grin. Small in size but jolting in impact, the portrait bears hints of ghastly blackface caricature but turns them around into astute ironies of a self-aware, unconquerable character—not an “identity,” a term that is as reductive in art as it is in politics, and which Marshall bursts beyond. Most of his imagery is celebratory, and often at mural scale. His keynote is a commitment to blackness both represented and literal, modelling flesh in pigments of acrylic carbon, ivory, and Mars Black. His subjects include lovers in intimate interiors or lyrical landscapes; artists at work on paint-by-numbers selfportraits; people relishing, or enduring, life in public housing and inhabiting utopian suburbs; and upper-middle-class matrons in living rooms filled with civil-rights-era memorabilia. The show is neither an act of political protest nor an appeal for progress in race relations. It’s a ratification of advances already made. It has a breakthrough feel:

Guggenheim Museum “Agnes Martin” The abstract painter died in 2004, at the age of ninety-two, and this new retrospective affirms that the greatness of her work has only amplified in the years since. That’s something of a surprise: no setting would seem less congenial to the strict angles of Martin’s paintings than the curves of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creamy seashell. You might think that the work’s repetitive formulas—grids and stripes, mostly gray or palely colored, often six feet square—would add aesthetic fatigue to the mild toll of a hike up the ramp. But these challenges to contemplation and stamina turn out to intensify a deep, and deepening, sense of the artist’s singular powers. The climb becomes a sort of secular pilgrimage, on which you may feel your perceptual ability to register minute differences of tone and texture steadily refined, and your heart ambushed by rushes of emotion. Each canvas, as selected and installed by the curators, Tiffany Bell and Tracey Bashkoff, evinces a particular character. The cumulative effect is that of intellectual and emotional repletion, concerning a woman who synthesized the essences of two world-changing movements—Abstract Expressionism and minimalism—and who, from a tortured life, beset by schizophrenia, managed to derive a philosophy, amounting almost to a gospel, of happiness. The

Yvonne Jacquette takes a long view on landscape, painting aerial scenes with a focus on her home bases of New York and Maine. An exhibition at the DC Moore gallery, through Dec. 17, spans thirty-five years and includes “Vertiginous World Financial Center III” (pictured), from 2007. 12

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Morgan Library & Museum “Word and Image: Martin Luther’s Reformation” On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther either did or did not nail a paper titled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” better known as the Ninety-Five Theses, to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. (The evidence is murky.) But, by whatever means, on that day the Augustinian monk made public a multipronged attack on the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s sale of indulgences—get-out-of-Purgatory-early guarantees—to raise funds for the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome. The revolutionary theology that Luther introduced held that only personal faith can obtain divine grace, rejecting any intercession between an individual and God. Thanks to the relatively recent technology of the printing press and to widespread discontent with Rome and with Pope Leo X, Luther’s ideas convulsed the Holy Roman Empire. This show marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the originating deed, and includes one of the six existing printed copies of the Ninety-Five Theses. The art quotient would be slight if not for Lucas Cranach the Elder, Luther’s close friend and tireless propagandist, who is represented by some forty paintings, drawings, and prints. Through Jan. 22. New Museum “Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest” This thirty-year, three-floor retrospective of the Swiss sybil of video installation is good and good for you: see it and undergo therapeutic rapture. Prepare to line up to watch Rist’s early, boisterous single-channel tapes, which play on monitors in single-viewer booths; from the first, with the herky-jerky song and dance of “I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much” (1986), they’re worth waiting for. Elsewhere, cushions encourage lingering in the artist’s more recent amniotic environments of immense projections, hanging scrims, and dangling L.E.D. lanterns. Music is integral to everything here. So is emotion, strong on bliss but laced with bittersweet aches. (“I don’t want to fall in love!” goes a Chris Isaac lyric she sings—a compunction too late—in the swimmy double projection “Sip My Ocean,” from 1996.) If Rist has a theme, it’s the communion to be found at the bottom of loneliness. Abolishing distinctions between the insides and outsides of subjects and objects, and between sensing and being, her art is a Gesamtkunstwerk for the whole human organism. Through Jan. 8. New York Public Library “A Curious Hand: The Prints of Henri-Charles Guérard” The French engraver was among the best printmakers in Impressionist-era Paris, and this satisfying exhibition reveals the imagery, by turns stern and playful, of a man at the center of the nineteenth-century art world. Copies of works by Rembrandt and Velázquez prefigure his own inventions; if some are strikingly avant-garde (an inky monoprint of his own left hand suggests forensic evidence), others depicting his pet bulldog and money are closer to capriccios. Like so many French artists of his day, Guérard had a taste for Japan; one exquisite street scene here, set near the Invalides, has an all-over snow effect that recalls Hiroshige’s wintry prints. Guérard was friends with Édouard Manet—whose best student, Eva Gonzalès, the printmaker would marry—and this

COURTESY THE ARTIST AND DC MOORE GALLERY, NY

ART

effect of Martin’s art is not an exercise in overarching style but a mode of moment-to-moment being. Through Jan. 11.


ART show includes both his multiples of Manet’s art and etchings they did together, including a dark, compelling translation of his great “Dead Toreador.” Through Feb. 26.

Queens Museum “Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art” Near the top of the list of inspired manifestos— Futurism, Dada, De Stijl—is Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s little-known “Maintenance Art.” As a first-time mother in 1969, she grew frustrated by the schism between her domestic life, with its boredoms and joys, and her identity as a New York artist. (She later said, “I learned that Jackson [Pollock], Marcel [Duchamp] and Mark [Rothko] didn’t change diapers.”) She channelled her feelings in four typewritten pages, pointing out a double standard; namely, that repetition and systems were considered rigorous in the context of the avant-garde, but dismissed as drudgery when it came to maintenance workers or housewives. One choice excerpt: “After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?” The manifesto is currently framed on a wall in this revelatory survey of Ukeles’s five-decade career. (Also on view are sculptures, drawings, photographs, installations, studies for unrealized projects, and a deluge of documentation.) For maximum impact, visit the show on a Saturday, when a mirror-covered New York City garbage truck is parked, during museum hours, between the east side of the building and the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The vehicle is also an art work, embellished by Ukeles in 1983, with the help of the New York City Department of Sanitation, where she has been the official (and unpaid) artist-in-residence since 1977. Through Feb. 19.

1 GALLERIES—UPTOWN

“Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity” Calendars, jewelry, coins, papyri, mosaics, and scientific instruments illuminate the mechanics of classical chronology and the sacred nature of the ancients’ days and hours. In both public affairs and private life, time was conceived as a rational cycle, governed by divine forces; marble calendars, studded with peg holes like cribbage boards, indicated whether a given day was auspicious or not. Days were divided into hours that lengthened toward summer and shrank in winter; sundials, such as a hefty marble sphere from Carthage, on loan from the Louvre, were scored with mathematically precise curves that accounted for the sun’s transit. Other sundials were as small as pocket watches, including the oddly shaped bronze example here, unearthed at Herculaneum. Through April 23. (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 15 E. 84th St. 212-992-7800.) “Urban Now: City Life in Congo” Photographs and videos by the Congolese artist Sammy Baloji, whose methodical gaze recalls such African greats as Santu Mofokeng and Zwelethu Mthethwa, plunge viewers into Kinshasa, the world’s largest Francophone city. (The project was made in collaboration with the Belgian anthropologist Filip De Boeck.) Portraits of property owners seated on patterned bedspreads share space with wide-angle shots of boulevards and modernist architecture, including the dilapidated Office Congolais des Postes, an International Style building, now home to more than three hundred residents. (It’s in a neighborhood with the hip name Sans Fil, or “wireless.”) A coda focusses on 14

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

a new satellite municipality, the Cité du Fleuve, in which half-complete luxury houses stand on reclaimed marsh land, beside rice fields nourished by the Congo River. Through July 14. (Open Society, 224 W. 57th St. 212-548-0600.)

1 GALLERIES—CHELSEA

Carol Bove Aside from a couple of impressive white loopthe-loops, this big show by the gifted Brooklynbased sculptor looks surprisingly old-school: it features freestanding hunks of painted and unpainted steel, salvaged from a New Jersey junk heap and conjoined in collisions. Large wedges of rusted metal are paired with smoother elements, which Bove has painted matte yellow, blue, or green; several works have massive black disks attached to the main elements like sculptural punctuation marks. (The walls in the main gallery have been painted gray, which lends these large works a lugubrious air.) The muscular objects, a few of which feel disconcertingly like warmed-over John Chamberlain, might leave some visitors pining for the artist’s more nimble and delicate concatenations of brass, gold, and peacock feathers. Through Dec. 17. (Zwirner, 525 and 533 W. 19th St. 212-727-2070.) Nan Goldin The American photographer has famously produced a public record of her life, but who knew she’s been keeping a private diary, too? It’s a thrill to see the small, colorful pages torn from Goldin’s notebooks in this exhibition—the first ever—of her drawings. As with her photographs, many are tender portraits rendered against smeary backgrounds, or raw depictions of her own isolation, made all the more poignant by the proud, quasi-juvenile crudeness of their symbolism. The acerbically titled “Weekend Plans, Berlin, September 2015” is the picture of angst: a turquoise hand slicing a chalkwhite wrist with a razor, as crimson blood fans out like tree roots at the bottom of page. Also on view are five new photographic works, big colorthemed grids documenting moody landscapes, interiors, and the artist’s friends. These mosaics reveal a formal cunning, where the diaries remind us of the guileless core of emotionalism and the startling candor of Goldin’s art. Through Dec. 23. (Marks, 523 W. 24th St. 212-243-0200.) Prabhavathi Meppayil Instagram-proof abstract white panels by the esteemed artist from Bangalore (in her first North American show) are a fine counterpart to Agnes Martin’s paintings at the Guggenheim. Filaments of copper and gold, embedded in squares covered with white gesso, gleam under the gallery’s lights—when they don’t disappear altogether. Elsewhere, thousands of tiny divots have been etched into surfaces using a jeweller’s tool. (Meppayil is the daughter of a goldsmith.) How one appreciates these spectral art works may be a matter of disposition: they might be considered impassively magisterial or quietly mystical. Through Dec. 23. (Pace, 537 W. 24th St. 212-421-3292.) Carrie Mae Weems The photographer’s powerful examination of black subjectivity continues in this two-part exhibition. In her new series “Scenes & Takes,” Weems appears as an inscrutable witness, surveying the opulent décor on the empty sets of such TV shows as “Empire” and “Scandal”—re-

flections on race, absence, and artifice. “All the Boys,” another project from 2016, appears similarly aloof, but its subject is urgent: the killing of black men and women by the police. Redacted incident reports are seen alongside hazy portraits of figures in hoodies, their faces partially obscured by red rectangles. In the wake of the recent Presidential election, during which our country’s insidious racism revealed itself once again, Weems offers art as a powerful act of resistance. Through Dec. 10. (Shainman, 513 W. 20th St. and 524 W. 24th St. 212-645-1701.)

1 GALLERIES—DOWNTOWN

Marta Riniker-Radich The young Swiss artist’s quietly disturbing New York début pairs delicate colored-pencil drawings—of cupcakes and Easter eggs, isolated in stark domestic settings—with objects that evoke the cult of survivalism. Skeins of metal and plastic wire are looped into makeshift whips or nooses and displayed in vitrines, like relics; plastic buckets hang from the ceiling, distilling water in the manner of a conspiracy theorist who lives off the grid; texts from militiamen, found on an online message board, extol the virtues of boots, uniforms, and optical tools that aren’t “fake Chinese.” Riniker-Radich spent several years of her childhood on a U.S. Army base in Panama, and that may inform her interest in American isolationists, whom she evokes with a surprising balance of empathy and dismay. Through Dec. 18. (Swiss In Situ, 102 Franklin St. 212-925-2035.)

1 GALLERIES—BROOKLYN

Rosemary Mayer Conceptualism complements abstraction in this delightful show of early work by the Queensborn artist, who died in 2014. In the eightpage-long “Proposed Street Work,” from 1969, Mayer imagines redirecting the mail sent to one city block to the opposite side of the street via a meticulous scheme involving change-ofaddress cards. Hand-dyed fabric sculptures look completely intuitive, but, in fact, they are carefully planned, as revealed in the artist’s delicate colored-pencil drawings. Influenced by the emerging women’s movement of the early seventies, Mayer was a kind of a rogue seamstress, crafting her enchanting postminimalist works from hoops, gathers, and swaths of rich color. “The Catherines,” from 1972-73, a billowy purplebrown cocoon, resembles a parachute frozen in action or a giant bud about to blossom. Through Dec. 11. (Southfirst, 60 N. 6th St., Williamsburg. 718-599-4884.) Martin Parr The peripatetic photographer has spent decades making sardonic pictures of the foibles of Western culture. Now he inaugurates his longtime New York gallery’s new space in Dumbo with the series “Real Food.” It expands the scope of his 1995 book, “British Food”—a flash-lit, forensic investigation of the maligned cuisine of his native England—with entries from Europe, Mexico, and the U.S. In one memorable image, the lurid red of an unidentifiable gelatinous substance attracts the attention of a wasp; elsewhere, a pair of rough, sugar-flecked hands spin an irradiated purple cotton candy. Through Dec. 31. (Borden, 91 Water St. 212-431-0166.)


MOVIES

Rare films by Charlie Chaplin, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Kent Mackenzie are among the many offerings newly available on the streaming site FilmStruck.

Site Lines

ILLUSTRATION BY EDA AKALTUN; SOURCE: PHOTOFEST

Criterion has a new online platform.

The Criterion Collection, the foremost source for art-house DVDs and Blu-rays, is no longer streaming on Hulu. Now it’s on FilmStruck (www. filmstruck.com), a joint venture with TCM which offers no films from that channel but a changing selection of movies from Criterion’s catalogue, along with streaming-only releases and films licensed from other distributors. One of Criterion’s new streaming offerings, Kenji Mizoguchi’s two-part, nearly four-hour “The 47 Ronin,” is my choice for the best film out of print on DVD. This complex, fierce, and majestic drama, from 1941-42, is based on a true story from the early eighteenth century. After the feudal lord Asano (Yoshizaburo Arashi) is wrongly sentenced by the shogun to commit hara-kiri, Asano’s chamberlain, Oishi (Chojuro Kawarasaki), organizes the lord’s newly leaderless samurai to take revenge, knowing that it will lead to their own death. There’s a thrilling audacity to this

drama of the supreme dignity of revolt against unjust authority. Mizoguchi made it during the Second World War, under a militaristic regime, and he masks its rebellious spirit with severe formality and respect for samurai tradition. The first part is stringently dialectical, as the men gradually resolve to fight and carefully plan their action. The second part is centered on the women of the Asano clan, whose great intimate sacrifices are borne as nobly as those of the warriors. FilmStruck is also streaming an American rarity, Kent Mackenzie’s “The Exiles,” from 1961, an independent docudrama developed from the real-life stories of Native Americans living in Los Angeles. The action follows a handful of characters in the course of one night, including Yvonne (Yvonne Williams), a pregnant woman who dreams of a better life for her child; Homer (Homer Nish), her neglectful partner; and Tommy (Tommy Reynolds), a slick dancer in love with the night life. The richly textured documentary-style cinematography (featuring some of the best nighttime images ever filmed) sketches tender and frank

portraits of the participants while tensely weaving them into the urban fabric, as in a scene of confrontations with the police. With voice-over interviews as counterpoint to the pain-streaked action, Mackenzie captures the characters’ nostalgia for Native American tradition as well as their inchoate, frustrated aspirations. Charlie Chaplin’s 1957 comedy “A King in New York,” the last movie in which he starred, is also a FilmStruck offering. He made this furiously derisive satire of American mores and politics after being exiled from the United States owing to McCarthyite inquisitions. He plays the deposed King Shahdov of the fictitious Estrovia, who arrives penniless in New York and is thrust into celebrity by a primordial reality-TV show. Chaplin mocks plastic surgery, rock and roll, and the mercantile coarsening of daily life, but he reserves his greatest fury for McCarthyism, with a plotline about Shahdov’s subpoena to testify as a suspected Communist before a government committee—which he savages by way of outrageous slapstick chaos. —Richard Brody THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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1 OPENING

Allied Robert Zemeckis directed this Second

World War drama, about a secret agent (Marion Cotillard) and a Resistance fighter (Brad Pitt) who fall in love during a mission in Morocco. Opening Nov. 23. (In wide release.) • Lion Reviewed in Now Playing. Opening Nov. 25. (In limited release.) • Miss Sloane Jessica Chastain stars in this drama, as a lobbyist who fights for gun-control measures. Directed by John Madden; co-starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and John Lithgow. Opening Nov. 25. (In limited re­ lease.) • Moana An animated comedy, about a Polynesian princess who teams up with a demigod to save her family. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; with the voices of Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. Opening Nov. 23. (In wide release.) • Rules Don’t Apply Reviewed in Now Playing. Opening Nov. 23. (In wide release.)

1 NOW PLAYING

Arrival The new Denis Villeneuve movie stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a noted linguist who is asked by the authorities to translate a previously unknown language—if, indeed, a language is what it is. Sounds of some kind, followed by graceful inky symbols written in midair, are being emitted by tentacled aliens, which have appeared in twelve locations around the planet, and Louise, based at a site in Montana, must determine whether these communications are cordial or malign. World peace and all that jazz is now at stake—should we befriend these giant squids or go to war and turn them into fritto misto? The story is Villeneuve’s most balanced work to date, tempering the pessimistic gloom that benumbed his film “Prisoners” (2013) with a pulse of excitement; the blush of awe and fear on Adams’s face is contagious, and the framing of the egglike spaceships, within and without, sucks you into the thrill of the ordeal. The movie is capacious in scale but strangely inward in mood, aided by the unshowy performances of Jeremy Renner, as Louise’s scientific colleague, and Forest Whitaker, as her military handler.—Anthony Lane (Reviewed in our issue of 11/14/16.) (In wide release.) Bells Are Ringing Dean Martin, at his musical-comedy peak, is both intuitive and modulated as a blocked playwright in this classy 1960 adaptation of the Betty Comden–Adolph Green–Jule Styne Broadway hit. Judy Holliday’s empathy and warmth put over the plot, about an answeringservice operator who can’t resist trying to improve the lives of her customers. The farcical complications are wispy and silly: they involve bookies who are using classical-music titles as a code and a couple of overzealous vice investigators. But the (mostly) fetching score includes “The Party’s Over” and “Just in Time”— Martin and Holliday’s duet on the latter is a mellow romantic classic. Vincente Minnelli makes use of the wide screen with graceful, fluid movement, and he helps Martin anchor his usual breeziness with just the right amount of anxiety. (Martin, like his playwright character, knew the fear of going solo after working with a partner.)—Michael Sragow (BAM Cinématek; Nov. 23.) 18

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

MOVIES Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Ang Lee’s new film is as much about the techniques he uses as it is about the story he tells. On Thanksgiving, 2004, Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), a young Texan hero of the Iraq War, is fêted along with his platoon at the Dallas Cowboys’ football game. At the stadium, Billy and a cheerleader named Faison (Makenzie Leigh) fall in love at first sight, making his impending redeployment to Iraq all the more wrenching. Meanwhile, Billy’s sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), who opposes the war, exhorts Billy to find a way out of the service. The tale is a flat and tame dilution of “American Sniper,” about the crime of squandering martial virtue in dubious battle. Though Lee’s brief battlefield flashbacks (starring Vin Diesel, as a philosophical sergeant) are affecting, the rest of the movie offers emotion by numbers. The plot’s mechanical quality is reinforced by the hightech 3-D cinematography, which, by means of an ultra-high frame rate, exceptional brightness, and unprecedented resolution, is meant to heighten the film’s reality but instead displays its artifice; the action seems staged inside a light box. Co-starring Chris Tucker, as the soldiers’ agent, and Steve Martin, as a fatuous tycoon.—Richard Brody (In wide release.) Daughters of the Dust Julie Dash’s boldly imaginative, ecstatically visionary drama, from 1991, is one of the best American independent films; she turns one family’s experience of the Great Migration into a vast mythopoetic adventure. The action is set in 1902, as four generations of the Peazant family, Gullah people living on Ibo Island, off the coast of South Carolina, prepare to move to the North, where the bourgeois and devoutly Christian Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) and her stylish and independent cousin Yellow Mary (Barbara-O) already live. From generation to generation, the islanders have maintained the traditions of their African-born ancestors, along with the tormenting memories of slavery. The matriarch, Nana (Cora Lee Day), herself a freed slave, resists leaving her home and losing her link with the dead; the movie is narrated by the Unborn Child (Kay-Lynn Warren), whose future life bridges tradition and modernity. Dash plots family relationships with a novelistic intensity and observes the cultural interweave of Christianity, Islam, African and Native American religions, mysticism, and politics with luminous lyricism and hypnotic pageantry. The intimate action shimmers with mysteries and myths; a visiting photographer (Tommy Hicks), interviewing a Muslim community leader (Umar Abdurrahman), uncovers the unbearable grief and tragic heroism that these tales mask.—R.B. (Film Forum.) Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson’s adaptation of this exotic entry in the Marvel canon lives up to its title, in mostly good ways. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a deft, brilliant, and ambitious New York neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. When medical science gives up on him, he seeks occult help, travelling to a compound in Nepal that’s run by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her associates, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong). There, Strange is trained in metaphysical martial arts, which he deploys in battle against Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a

renegade mystic who attacks the world’s three centers of supernatural power—New York, London, and Hong Kong. Derrickson realizes visions of paranormal cataclysm with vertiginous glee; sidewalks, buildings, whole cities rise up, turn sideways, and churningly intertwine with an Escher-like intricacy. Strange’s propulsion into transcendental realms plays like a comic-book caricature of Terrence Malick’s cosmological imagery, and the movie’s highstakes games with time reversal and out-ofbody combat have a lighthearted but grandly wondrous exhilaration that offers sufficient distraction from the cardboard plot. With Rachel McAdams, as a surgeon who repairs Strange’s heart, literally and metaphorically.—R.B. (In wide release.)

The Edge of Seventeen Only Hailee Steinfeld’s committed performance as Nadine, a troubled high-school junior in Oregon, and Woody Harrelson’s deft turn, as a teacher who helps her, make this thin and cliché-riddled comic drama worth watching. The impulsive, talkative, vulnerable, and socially awkward Nadine has one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), and a popular older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), who’s a scholar, an athlete, and an all-around standup guy, and Nadine is tormented when Krista and Darian become a couple. Nadine has a widowed mother (Kyra Sedgwick) who’s devoted but fragile; she has a crush on Nick (Alexander Calvert), a cool dude with an attitude; and she has a shy, sincere, and nerdy admirer named Erwin (Hayden Szeto), whom she friend-zones. As written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the characters don’t exist beyond their few foregrounded traits, and the action unspools mainly in clattery witticisms that take the place of substantial dialogue. If it weren’t for a few dirty words and a brief sexual encounter, the movie would be apt fare for elementary-school students.—R.B. (In wide release.) Elle A clever, nasty, and seductive piece of work from Paul Verhoeven, who, as the director of “RoboCop,” “Basic Instinct,” and “Showgirls,” has never been allergic to controversy. Isabelle Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc, who runs a company specializing in gruesome video games. Divorced and living alone in a suburb of Paris, she is raped by a masked intruder. Instead of reporting the crime to the police, she sets about the process of revenge, in a manner so tranquil and determined that she herself becomes almost frightening. Along the way, we learn of a terrible secret in her past, although, truth be told, Huppert is so coolly formidable in the role that no backstory is required. One of the film’s most disturbing traits is how often, and how cruelly, it touches on comedy. As for the whodunit, Verhoeven and his screenwriter, David Birke, seem unconcerned; the puzzle is solved long before the end, freeing them to concentrate on the mystery of Michèle herself. With Huppert in this kind of form, you can hardly blame them. With Christian Berkel, as the heroine’s lover, and Charles Berling, as her weary ex. In French.—A.L. (11/21/16) (In limited release.) Hacksaw Ridge A brutally effective war film, directed by Mel Gibson, about a man of peace. Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a conscientious


MOVIES objector who nonetheless was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Okinawa, in 1945. In the earlier and homelier parts of the movie, he is raised in Virginia by a long-suffering mother (Rachel Griffiths) and a father (Hugo Weaving) who, having survived the First World War and seen his friends die, is soaked in guilt and drink. To the distress of his parents, and with the anxious blessing of his fiancée (Teresa Palmer), Doss is drafted, only to find himself scorned for his beliefs under the rigorous regime of a drill sergeant (Vince Vaughn). The second half of the movie moves to the battlefield and assails the senses of the audience to a near-pathological degree; only Gibson, perhaps, would find no contradiction in spelling out the details of bodily pain and rupture whilst hymning the virtues of a pacifist. As the miracle of heroism unfolds, Garfield’s goofy grin is transformed into a rictus of anguished sacrifice. Many of the cast members—including the excellent Luke Bracey, as Doss’s toughest comrade—hail from Australia, where the film was shot.—A.L. (11/7/16) (In wide release.)

Hunter Gatherer Andre Royo’s twitchy, frenetic performance as Ashley, a middle-aged man newly released from prison, infuses Josh Locy’s antic drama with a troubling array of mixed emotions. Welcomed home with forced good cheer by his mother (Celestial), the energetic Ashley confronts a burden of pain and a struggle for redemption, a yearning for love and a lifetime of delusions. Ashley’s ex-girlfriend Linda (Ashley Wilkerson) wants nothing to do with him; he befriends a young man named Jeremy (George Sample III) but uses him mercilessly; he takes up with Jeremy’s aunt Nat (Kellee Stewart), a prostitute who loves him earnestly but to whom he can’t commit. Clever enough to find an honest way to make a quick buck, Ashley remains a cadger and a liar who plays every angle and invents some new ones. Meanwhile, the hard-working but unsophisticated Jeremy, who earns his living as a medical-experiment subject, falls victim to his employers’ brazen designs. Locy infuses the film with empathy and wit, and his grandly bittersweet imagination pulls the story toward tragedy, but he also plays loosely with stereotypes better left behind.—R.B. (In lim­ ited release.) Lion A small boy called Saroo (Sunny Pawar), born into a poor Indian family, falls asleep on a train and wakes up more than a thousand miles from his home. Eventually, after escaping various perils, he winds up in an orphanage; from there, he is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and goes to live with them in Tasmania. We jump twenty years, to Saroo as a young man (now played by Dev Patel), who has an American girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and an unappeasable wish to discover where he came from. Whether that desire has grown with time is unclear, but now, at last, it can be fulfilled, thanks to the miracle of Google Earth (for which the movie is an unabashed commercial). As is proved by documentary footage at the end, Garth Davis’s film is based on a true story; though wrenching, there is barely enough of it to fill the dramatic space, and the second half is a slow and muted affair after the Dickensian punch of the first. The undoubted star is Pawar, whose début com20

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

mands attention much as Sabu’s did, in “Elephant Boy,” some eighty years ago.—A.L. (In limited release.)

The Love Witch Anna Biller ingeniously tweaks some Hollywood conventions and clichés of the nineteensixties in this wild and bloody comedy about a young Wiccan named Elaine (Samantha Robinson), who uses her supernatural powers to attract the men of her choice, and, when they disappoint her, to kill them. The action parodies classic movie tropes—the drifter who returns to a small town, the flowing-haired professorial Adonis, the police officer whose investigation is compromised by divided loyalties, the burlesque bar where everyone meets and destinies play out. But the movie is less a matter of story than of style—it’s filled with ornate period costumes and furnishings (which were handmade by Biller) as well as sumptuous swaths of color and old-school optical effects. Biller’s feminist philosophy meshes with the freewheeling delight of her aestheticism. The film pulsates with furious creative energy, sparking excitement and amazement by way of its decorative twists, intellectual provocations, and astounding humor.—R.B. (In limited release.) Loving It has only been a few months since Jeff Nichols’s science-fiction drama, “Midnight Special,” was released, and this new film, based on a genuine legal saga, marks a surprising shift in both subject matter and pace. The story is simple enough: Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) marries Mildred (Ruth Negga), and they raise a family together. No problem there, except that he is white and she is black, and this is Virginia, in the late nineteen-fifties and early sixties. The couple has to go to Washington, D.C., for the wedding, and they are arrested shortly after their return. They sue, and their case drags on until 1967, when the Supreme Court rules in their favor and thus effectively outlaws all race-based restrictions on marriage. The Lovings crave no fame; Richard, especially, wants only a quiet life, and Nichols, who both writes and directs, honors their forbearance by telling the tale with a minimum of showiness and outrage. Some people will find that method too patient by half, yet it is dotted with Nichols’s trademark hints of suspense, and reinforced by the gathering strength and depth of the performances. Negga is not an actress from whom you can look away.—A.L. (11/7/16) (In limited release.) Metropolitan Whit Stillman’s effervescent, calmly profound first feature, from 1990, looks at a sliver of a sliver, the barely collegiate subset of what one character calls the urban haute bourgeoisie— rich Wasp preppies whose lives are centered on Park and Fifth Avenues. The tale is told from the perspective of a near-outsider, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), a red-haired, Ivy-styled intellectual who, after his parents’ divorce, lives on the West Side without a trust fund and must make an impression with his ideas. Swept accidentally into the Christmasseason wave of débutante balls, Tom becomes the habitual escort of Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina) but hasn’t got over a prep-school fling with Serena Slocum (Elizabeth Thompson), whose new Euro-trash boyfriend (Will


MOVIES Kempe) becomes a subject of controversy. Stillman films these rounds of romance and jealousy, old mind-sets and new friendships, as scintillating dialectical jousts in which verbal blows take the place of action and leave lasting emotional wounds. His sensitive cinematic balance of performance, image, and inflection suggests a sensibility inspired, worthily, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Co-starring Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols, as Tom’s best new rivals.—R.B. (Me­ trograph; Nov. 27.)

Moonlight Miami heat and light weigh heavily on the furious lives and moods realized by the director Barry Jenkins. The grand yet finespun drama depicts three eras in the life of a young black man: as a bullied schoolboy called Little (Alex Hibbert), who is neglected by his crackaddicted mother (Naomie Harris) and sheltered and mentored by a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (Janelle Monáe); as a teen-ager with his given name of Chiron (Ashton Sanders), whose friendship with a classmate named Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) veers toward romantic intimacy and leads to violence; and as a grown man nicknamed Black (Trevante Rhodes), who faces adult responsibilities with terse determination and reconnects with Kevin (André Holland). Adapting a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jenkins burrows deep into his characters’ pain-seared memories, creating ferociously restrained performances and confrontational yet tender images that seem wrenched from his very core. Even the title is no mere nature reference but an evocation of skin color; subtly alluding to wider societal conflicts, Jenkins looks closely at the hard intimacies of people whose very identities are forged under relentless pressure.—R.B. (In limited release.) Nocturnal Animals For fans of Tom Ford, this surely counts as a bonus: two films for the price of one. In the outer shell of the movie, Amy Adams plays Susan, a gallery owner in Los Angeles who’s struggling with a life so empty that it contains nothing more than contemporary art, wealth, friends, support staff, well-cut clothes, a beautiful house, and a handsome husband (Armie Hammer). She has our sympathy. One day, Susan receives the manuscript of a new novel from her ex-husband; she opens it, reads, and is at once plunged into the story that it tells— the tale of a family that is terrorized and torn apart during a road trip across Texas. (The novelist and his beleaguered hero are both played by a long-suffering Jake Gyllenhaal.) The film looks sumptuous and dense, but neither section, on its own, is especially compelling—the social lampoon, in L.A., feels thin and obvious, while the Texan scenes are more like a stylized dream of violence than the real thing. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, straining every sinew, plays the leading brute; as the pursuing detective, by contrast, Michael Shannon is a model of grim control.—A.L. (11/21/16) (In limited release.) Rules Don’t Apply Warren Beatty’s new film, set mainly in 1959, about Howard Hughes’s forceful eccentricity and his enduring impact on those in his sphere of influence, is a wildly scattershot comedy filled with bright moments that never cohere. Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), an ambitious

driver-cum-factotum for Hughes, is on aroundthe-clock call to chauffeur Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), the newest starlet in the magnate’s stable. The earnest youngsters quickly bond, but Frank is forbidden from socializing with Marla on pain of dismissal. Meanwhile, Hughes (Beatty), who’s trying to develop the jet engine, fulfill defense contracts, run a movie studio, and maintain his power while refusing to appear in public, takes more than a professional interest in Marla, a devout Baptist whose virginity is no secret. The through-line concerns Hughes’s effort to avoid being declared insane and stripped of his empire, an effort in which Marla is involved. Beatty packs the movie with labored period references and unsubtle allusions to Donald Trump. He delights in Hughes’s high-handed wisdom, his high-stakes gamesmanship, and his petty idiosyncrasies, while looking ruefully at his paranoid reclusiveness. Beatty’s portrayal of a dominant personality who shuns the spotlight is a self-portrait in reverse.—R.B. (In wide release.)

Tower This documentary, by Keith Maitland, reconstructs with forensic precision and dramatic immediacy the 1966 sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin that left eighteen people dead, an event that’s widely considered the first modern mass shooting. Maitland blends archival footage, original interviews with survivors and responders, and animated images of several sorts—including, strikingly, ones that return the interviewees to their age at the time of the attack. The animation, by Craig Staggs, has a sharp imaginative specificity, and the complex interweaving of styles turns the film into a horrifying true-crime thriller that’s enriched by a rare depth of inner experience. The effect is as much intellectual as emotional, folding the movie reflexively into its subject: the personal importance of public discussion. The dearth of archival interviews regarding this event corresponds to the interviewees’ retrospective view of the mid-sixties. Exhorted at the time to put the troubles behind them and discouraged from speaking about their experiences, many of the subjects approach Maitland’s interviews as long-overdue, albeit pain-filled, acts of personal liberation.—R.B. (MOMA; Nov. 26.) Uncle Kent 2 The fortysomething cartoonist Kent Osborne, who played himself as a lonely artist with a complicated sex life in Joe Swanberg’s melancholy 2011 drama, returns for the sequel. The first twelve minutes, directed by Swanberg, show Kent pitching an idea: he’ll play himself, but in the apocalypse. In the course of the following hour, directed by Todd Rohal, the apocalypse arrives, depicted with loopy and imaginative effects. Suffering from strange visions, Kent—who’s working on an animated series—heads to Comic-Con, in San Diego, where young women colleagues and fans throw themselves at him. Meanwhile, as his hallucinations get more disturbing and catastrophe looms, Kent’s bedroom frolics—amplified by his hands-on skill with computer graphics and online trickery—demolish the boundaries between illusion and reality, along with the underlying myth of the artist as sexual hero. Despite the thin story and Rohal’s merely efficient direction, the effort suggests bold new prospects in independent filmmaking.—R.B. (In limited release.) THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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1 OPENINGS AND PREVIEWS

THE THEATRE

The Babylon Line Richard Greenberg’s new play, set in 1967, follows a Greenwich Village writer (Josh Radnor) who connects with a student (Elizabeth Reaser) while teaching an adult-ed class in Levittown. (Mitzi E. Newhouse, 150 W. 65th St. 212-239-6200. In previews.) The Band’s Visit David Cromer directs a new musical by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses, based on a 2007 Israeli film about an Egyptian rock band that gets stranded in the Negev Desert. (Atlantic Theatre Company, 336 W. 20th St. 866-811-4111. In previews.) A Bronx Tale Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks co-direct a musical adaptation of Chazz Palminteri’s semiautobiographical one-man show, set in his native borough in the sixties and featuring a doo-wop score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. (Longacre, 220 W. 48th St. 212-239-6200. In previews.)

Honest Iago David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig face off in “Othello.” It’s an odd fact of “Othello” that Iago has more lines than the title character. But inconspicuousness—the ability to keep his own name out of the spotlight while cruelly manipulating events from the shadows—is Iago’s secret weapon. His villainy is rarely less than compelling, because it’s a kind of talent, and this fall is as good a time as any to contemplate its effectiveness. After all, here’s a man everyone calls “honest Iago,” even as he lies, preys on people’s weaknesses and fears, and sets off a sickening chain of events under a cloud of racial mistrust. New Yorkers now have the chance to see two major stars headline the tragedy, in Sam Gold’s production at New York Theatre Workshop (in previews, opening Dec. 12). The forty-year-old actor David Oyelowo, who plays Othello, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1999, where he made his mark playing the title role in the “Henry VI” trilogy. “David, from his years at R.S.C., is very muscular with Shakespeare,” Gold said during rehearsals. “He speaks that language.” Born in Oxford to Nigerian parents, Oyelowo is best known to American audiences as Mar22

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

tin Luther King, Jr., in Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film “Selma,” a potentially scenerychewing role that he grounded in self-knowing decency. Gold said that, as Othello, “David brings that moral compass into the room.” Daniel Craig, who plays Iago, has navigated iconicity of a different sort. At forty-eight, the Cheshire-born actor seems eager to move into the post-007 stage of his career. But his James Bond has always been more antihero than hero, someone who can use his considerable charisma to questionable ends— not too far from Iago. “Daniel, like in the play, is everybody’s best friend, but he brings a kind of rebellious spirit and an amazing amount of charm,” Gold said. “Iago tells the audience what he’s going to do, and there’s a sort of sadistic pleasure in watching it play out. It’s entertainment.” If you prefer Shakespeare set to a beat, there’s also “Othello: The Remix,” which just opened at the Westside Theatre. Its creators, the Q Brothers, who are responsible for “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” promise an “exuberant” eighty-minute hip-hop spin on the tragedy. Whatever the speed setting, the play still has something to tell us about all the ways that things can go madly, terribly wrong. —Michael Schulman

Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt plays an antisocial teen-ager who finds himself in a moral quandary after a classmate’s death, in a new musical by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson, directed by Michael Greif. (Music Box, 239 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200. In previews.) The Illusionists: Turn of the Century The magicians’ showcase returns, this time with performers including Thommy Ten and Amélie van Tass, of “America’s Got Talent,” and the theme of magic’s early-twentieth-century golden age. (Palace, Broadway at 47th St. 877-250-2929. Opens Nov. 25.) In Transit This new a-cappella musical, directed by Kathleen Marshall and written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth, traces the intertwining lives of New York commuters. (Circle in the Square, 235 W. 50th St. 212-239-6200. In previews.) Rancho Viejo In Dan LeFranc’s comedy, directed by Daniel Aukin, the residents of a Southwestern suburb gossip and fret over the separation of an unseen married couple. (Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. 212-279-4200. In previews.) Ride the Cyclone MCC Theatre presents a musical by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, in which a chamber choir involved in a tragic roller-coaster accident meets a magical fortune-teller. (Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher St. 212-352-3101. In previews.) The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart The National Theatre of Scotland stages this immersive musical fable at the home of “Sleep No More,” transforming its speakeasy space, the Heath, into a Scottish pub. (McKittrick Hotel, 530 W. 27th St. 866-811-4111. In previews.)

ILLUSTRATION BY LORENZO GRITTI

Shakespeare’s tragedy, at New York Theatre Workshop, stars two actors known for their iconic roles.

The Dead, 1904 Kate Burton stars in Paul Muldoon and Jean Hanff Korelitz’s adaptation of the Joyce tale; the Irish Rep’s production roams three floors of a historic town house and includes a holiday meal. (American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Ave., at 80th St. 212-727-2737. In previews.)


THE THEATRE Tiny Beautiful Things Nia Vardalos stars in a stage adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book, about her stint writing the advice column “Dear Sugar.” Thomas Kail directs. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555. In previews.) The Wolves An encore run of Sarah DeLappe’s play, directed by Lila Neugebauer and set at the practice sessions for a girls’ soccer team in the suburbs. (The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W. 42nd St. 646-223-3010. Previews begin Nov. 29.)

1 NOW PLAYING Abigail’s Party Mike Leigh’s 1977 comedy of bad manners is a perfect account of a social car crash in slow motion. Beverly and Laurence host a get-together for their neighbors (the titular party is actually a different one, whose music we can hear faintly throbbing through the walls), and things irreversibly degrade as the women get sloshed on staggering amounts of gin and tonic. This latest revival captures the play’s comic side, thanks to period-perfect art direction and solid performances—especially by Colleen Clinton, as a taciturn guest desperately trying to hold on to her dignity. But Leigh was not just having fun with drunken tomfoolery: he was brutally satirizing the cultural aspirations of the suburban lower-middle class. Lee Brock’s production sticks to the zany antics, when the show should balance it with a certain savagery. (TBG Theatre, 312 W. 36th St. 866-811-4111.) Dead Poets Society A period piece in more ways than one. Set in 1959, at an all-boys prep school called Welton, the play also dates to 1989, when the film version hit the multiplex, and when it still seemed sensible, to some, to tell a story about anti-conformity by focussing on a group of wealthy white heterosexual boys who aren’t sure they want to become doctors or lawyers. Those boys—six of them, in Tom Schulman’s adaptation of his original screenplay— are fired up about poetry by a teacher named John Keating, played by Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis is affable and warm, but Robin Williams—who, onscreen, gave Keating a coiled intensity—shadows his performance, inevitably. In John Doyle’s staging, a single set serves as dorm room, classroom, and, with the lights off, a cave; it works, but one wonders if there aren’t more urgent stories to tell. (Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St. 866-811-4111.)

was trying to dial his own cell number. The man on the phone sounds a lot like the man in the warehouse. Both are forty-two, have a grandmother named Dorothy, and feel a searching sense of loneliness. What is their relationship, exactly? They stay on the phone for hours, as the man in the warehouse unfurls a story he’s been working on, about a woman who faces off with a mouse in a park. This yarn within a yarn is the work of Daniel Kitson, the British comedian and raconteur, whose narrative brainteasers have acquired a devoted audience, and deservedly so. By turns lyrical, nebbishy, and needling (he’ll occasionally offer biscuits to spectators who look sleepy), Kitson casts a peculiar spell. (St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water St., Brooklyn. 718-254-8779. Through Nov. 27.)

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 “There’s a war going on out there somewhere” are the chilling first words of this rollicking Russophilic musical, which turns a seventy-page slice of “War and Peace” into an exuberant night on the town. After originating at Ars Nova and moving to a tent in the meatpacking district, Rachel Chavkin’s production preserves its immersive flavor on Broadway—a remarkable feat, involving a set of winding runways (by Mimi Lien), a twinkling constellation of chandeliers (the lighting is by Bradley King), and complimentary pierogi (from Russian Samovar). Like an English major on a joyful bender, the writercomposer Dave Malloy homes in on Tolstoy’s lovelorn aristocrats: schlubby Pierre (the singing star Josh Groban), refined Natasha (the angelic Denée Benton), and cocky Anatole (Lucas Steele, strutting like Zoolander). Molloy’s script can’t always keep it all on track—Tolstoy’s omniscient, rock-solid narra-

tion is missed—but the show’s eagerness to delight every last audience member is impossible to resist. (Imperial, 249 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200.)

Notes from the Field The facts are not new in Anna Deavere Smith’s latest solo show, but this master of empathetic documentary theatre weaves them into a portrait that feels surprisingly revelatory. Starting with the idea of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” she expands her focus (at the risk of sometimes losing it) to cover the 2015 Baltimore riots, the transmission of poverty and violence down generations, the civil-rights movement, and the education system’s breakdown. Smith interviewed scores of people and portrays a selection of them onstage, from a high-school principal to a Native American fisherman, from Representative John Lewis to the deli clerk who videotaped Freddie Gray being roughed up by police officers. Smith never points fingers, but her show, rousing and sad, funny and affecting, still indicts a society that does not just fail its weakest—it actively keeps them down. (Second Stage, 305 W. 43rd St. 212-246-4422.) Oh, Hello on Broadway “We are two legendary bachelors who live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) says. “Which is the coffee breath of neighborhoods,” George St. Geegland (John Mulaney) adds. The comedy team has brought its geezer double act, honed on “Kroll Show” and at the Cherry Lane, to Broadway, which the characters pronounce “Brudway.” (“We would rather kill Brud-way than see it with anyone else.”) Faizon and St. Geegland speak

The Front Page This outstanding revival of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 comedy has a surfeit of fantastic actors, who give the production everything they’ve got. Hildy Johnson (John Slattery) is a newspaperman who is trying to get out of the game, despite pressure from his boss, Walter Burns (Nathan Lane). Hildy is drawn back into journalism, against his better judgment, when a beleaguered worker named Earl Williams (John Magaro) escapes from prison on the eve of his execution. The director, Jack O’Brien, utilizes the best of what Broadway has to offer: a big stage, a solid budget, slick production values. The cast (including Sherie Rene Scott) is large, and it takes a director of O’Brien’s skill to keep all those hoops in the air without losing sight of the story, or of the internal lives of the characters. (Reviewed in our issue of 11/7/16.) (Broadhurst, 235 W. 44th St. 212-239-6200.) Mouse: The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought A man is working after-hours in a warehouse when he receives a call from another man, who says that he

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

23


THE THEATRE a language both broadly stereotypical and weirdly esoteric—the talk of old men who live in their own hilarious, slightly infuriating reality. They begin the show in front of a closed curtain, as if Statler and Waldorf had wandered onstage, then reveal a fanciful set that riffs on August Wilson and “The Pillowman” and features a tuna-sandwich surprise. Each night, special guests—Adam Horovitz, Aziz Ansari—join them; recently, Seth Meyers laughed his head off in the audience, but kept it together during his cameo. (Lyceum, 149 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200.)

Party People There’s nothing straightforward about this new show, from the company Universes, which explores the legacies of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords by way of fourteen characters and a performance within a performance, punctuated with roof-raising musical pastiche and often wrenching flashbacks. Given all these moving parts, it’s a wonder how immediate and visceral Liesl Tommy’s production can be, beginning as a full-throated celebration of the two insurrectionary organizations and then deepening into an up-to-the-minute confrontation between activists then and now. (It also offers a useful contrast to “Hamilton,” since it tells the stories of actual black and Latino revolutionaries, rather than putting black and Latino actors into white-revolutionary shoes.) There may be no better room right now in which to get riled up—and also to reflect on the heavy prices and terrible missteps of long struggles. (Public, 425 Lafayette St. 212-967-7555.) The Servant of Two Masters On our shores, most people are familiar with Carlo Goldoni’s comedy via the brilliant adaptation “One Man, Two Guvnors,” which ran on Broadway in 2012 and transposed the breathless plot from eighteenth-century Venice to nineteen-sixties Brighton. At Theatre for a New Audience, the director Christopher Bayes stays faithful to the original’s commedia dell’arte roots, with cast members in traditional costumes and masks and flights of improvisatory fancy (one performance featured jokes about Pokémon Go, “Oliver!,” and the Presidential election). In the Harlequin role of Truffaldino, the permanently hungry double-dipping servant, Steven Epp exerts himself mightily, but with little to show for it. Comedy happens when calm turns into chaos, but this production’s energy needle starts in the red, so there’s nowhere to go. The constant agitation and relentless yelling muddle the storytelling, as if Bayes and company didn’t trust Goldoni. More adds up to less. (Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn. 866-811-4111.) Terms of Endearment The story is famous for its balanced tracking of a mother-daughter relationship, but Dan Gordon’s stage adaptation tilts the scales in the older woman’s favor, as Molly Ringwald’s full-throttle Aurora pushes Hannah Dunne’s more tentative Emma into supporting-character status. Aurora gets all the zingers and all the action, the last with a pot-bellied former astronaut played with grizzled charm by Jeb Brown. The breakneck speed leaves the actors little time to develop a bond with each other, and the scenes don’t have much room to breathe. More problematic is that the pace undermines the final emotional payoff, which is the story’s calling card. But Ringwald has fun with Aurora’s biting one-liners and va-va-voom necklines (inspired more by Larry McMurtry’s original novel than by the 1983 movie), and there is something rather satisfying about the show’s unabashed embrace of soap-opera antics. (59E59, at 59 E. 59th St. 212-279-4200.) 24

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Vietgone This gleefully salacious quasi-musical could be seen as a fascinating companion piece to the novel “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. Each begins with the fall of Saigon and follows its Vietnamese protagonists to refugee limbo in America, and each feels like a decades-overdue corrective of American obliviousness to Vietnamese people in particular and a purge of American horseshit about Asian people in general. But only this play boasts an eye-popping comic-book aesthetic, a physics-defying five-way fistfight, and several foulmouthed rap ballads. The playwright Qui Nguyen based his delightfully gonzo script on the true story of his parents’ escape from Vietnam, and it’s hard to think of an instance where a writer has tackled his parents’ courtship more vividly, outrageously, and hilariously. The whole Manhattan Theatre Club production, from its outstanding ensemble to its resourceful director, May Adrales, is in perfect synch with Nguyen’s deranged yet heartfelt vision. (City Center Stage I, 131 W. 55th St. 212-581-1212.)

1 ALSO NOTABLE

The Cherry Orchard American Airlines Theatre. • Chris Gethard: Career Suicide Lynn Redgrave. • The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World Pershing Square Signature Center. (Reviewed in this issue.) • The Encounter Golden. • Falsettos Walter Kerr. • Finian’s Rainbow Irish Repertory. • Heisenberg Samuel J. Friedman. • Holiday Inn Studio 54. • Homos, or Everyone in America Bank Street Theatre. • Les Liaisons Dangereuses Booth. • A Life Playwrights Horizons. • Love, Love, Love Laura Pels. • “Master Harold” . . . and the Boys Pershing Square Signature Center. • Plenty Public. • The Roads to Home Cherry Lane. Through Nov. 27. • Sell / Buy / Date City Center Stage II. • Sweat Public. (Reviewed in this issue.) • Sweet Charity Pershing Square Signature Center. • This Day Forward Vineyard. • Tick, Tick . . . Boom! Acorn. • Women of a Certain Age Public.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

11 OPERA

ORCHESTRAS AND CHORUSES

Metropolitan Opera The company’s four-month-long test of the durability of Puccini’s evergreen romance, “La Bohème,” continues during an abbreviated Thanksgiving week at the house. The heavy hitters Piotr Beczala and Kristine Opolais lead a new cast that includes Brigitta Kele, Massimo Cavalletti, and Ryan Speedo Green; Marco Armiliato, the company’s reliable Italian-opera hand, conducts. Nov. 23 and Nov. 29 at 7:30 and Nov. 26 at 1. • With her alluring voice and explosive stage presence, the superstar soprano Anna Netrebko is an obvious choice for the heroine in Puccini’s steamy melodrama “Manon Lescaut,” but this season marks the first time she’s undertaken the role at the Met. Her co-stars in Richard Eyre’s film-noir-inspired production are Marcelo Álvarez and Christopher Maltman; Marco Armiliato. Nov. 25 at 8. • No traditionally minded operagoer was ever taken aback by Sonja Frisell’s time-honored production of “Aida,” with its soaring sets and picture-perfect evocations of ancient Egypt. The cast for the latest revival, not without promise, features Latonia Moore, Marco Berti, Ekaterina Gubanova, and Mark Delavan in the leading roles; Armiliato, the Met’s conductor of the week, is once again on the podium. Nov. 26 at 8. (Metropolitan Opera House. 212-362-6000.)

New York Philharmonic Iván Fischer has made the Budapest Festival Orchestra into a fine-tuned instrument, exquisitely responsive to its conductor’s creative impulse. But he also occasionally works with American orchestras, ensembles in which the balance of power between the players and the podium is more evenly weighted. One such group is the Philharmonic, which welcomes Fischer back to conduct its Thanksgiving-week concerts, a crowd-pleasing program that offers Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (with Nikolaj Znaider) and Dvořák’s ebullient Eighth Symphony. Nov. 23 at 7:30 and Nov. 25-26 at 8. • A Saturday-matinée concert features the Dvořák symphony, preceded by a chamber performance of Dvořák’s String Quartet in F Major, “American.” Nov. 26 at 2. (David Geffen Hall. 212-875-5656.)

Boston Early Music Festival: “Versailles: Portrait of a Royal Domain” Boston’s renowned period-performance series returns to the Morgan Library & Museum, where its singers and players will allow New York audiences to engage in some luxurious time travel— back to the reign of Louis XIV. They’ll perform two chamber operas from the era—Charpentier’s “Les Plaisirs de Versailles” and Lalande’s “Les Fontaines de Versailles”—in addition to selections from Lully’s “Atys.” Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs serve as musical directors; Gilbert Blin directs. Nov. 28-29 at 7:30. (Madison Ave. at 36th St. 212-685-0008.)

1 RECITALS

Bargemusic During Thanksgiving week, when most purveyors of quality chamber music take a breather, the barge’s musicians soldier on. The first concert brings together two old friends, the violinist Mark Peskanov (Bargemusic’s director) and the pianist Doris Stevenson, to perform sonatas for violin and piano by Mozart and Debussy as well as selections from the virtuoso fiddle repertoire by Kreisler and Sarasate. On the following evening, the inventive pianist David Kaplan presents an homage to the late, great Claude Frank, a pianist whose tastes will be reflected in works by Mozart, Schumann (“Kreisleriana”), Schoenberg, and Beethoven (the “Waldstein” Sonata), along with some short works by Frank himself. And on Sunday afternoon, the violist Kyle Armbrust teams up with a guest star of the keyboard—the French pianist Lise de la Salle—for a recital featuring works for their instruments, separately and together, by Bach (the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue), Kodály (an arrangement of the Bach work for solo viola), and Brahms (the Sonata No. 1 in F Minor for Viola and Piano). Nov. 25-26 at 8 and Nov. 27 at 4. (Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn. bargemusic.org.)


NIGHT LIFE

1 ROCK AND POP

Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it’s advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements.

GZA Compared to the Wu-Tang Clan’s marquee stars, Method Man and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, GZA has always been a fan-favorite craftsman who led from behind. On scene-stealing contributions to collaborative songs and on his breakout solo album, “Liquid Swords,” which quickly gained acclaim as the group’s best individual effort, Gary Grice rapped lucidly about astrophysics and philosophy, and broadened the Clan’s scope to include much of the theological iconography it’s remembered for today. Grice was one of the group’s founding three members, and has enjoyed a loyal following through new releases and performances. He helps the independent record label Babygrande celebrate its fifteenth anniversary with a solo performance, alongside Smoke DZA and Pete Rock. (Highline Ballroom, 431 W. 16th St. 212-414-5994. Nov. 28.) Hendrix in Harlem The Apollo Theatre hosts a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. In 1964, Hendrix won over the notoriously tough crowd at the venue’s Amateur Night, and followed his win with appearances alongside the Isley Brothers, Little Richard, King Curtis, and Wilson Pickett. In 1966, he travelled to England to start his own band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the band’s formation, the punk and ska band Fishbone will perform covers of songs from throughout Hendrix’s dense career, including early and classic numbers. (253 W. 125th St. 800-745-3000. Nov. 26.) Homeshake Peter Sagar, the central member of this Montreal band, came into his own as the tour guitarist for Mac Demarco, an outsized personality who couldn’t have been easy to support from the side. In 2014, Sagar quit playing in Demarco’s whimsical stage shows, and began releasing subdued, icy indie compositions as Homeshake. Two albums, “In the Shower” and “Midnight Snack,” showcase Sagar’s ear for yacht-soul songwriting and minimalist production while retaining some of the goofball humor and nineties-slacker slant that made Demarco a star in certain circles. A new record, “Fresh Air,” is due from Sagar in February; fans can preview a single, “Call Me Up,” which delights in a sheepish bedroom mood, trading in guitar for a muted synthetic horn. He’s added a second set to this appearance. (Baby’s All Right, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn. 718-599-5800. Nov. 26.) Mount Kimbie Since meeting as hallmates at London’s Southbank University, Dom Maker and Kai Campos have produced together as Mount Kimbie, making outstanding yet understated post-dubstep electronica. They’ve announced their first North American shows in more than three years, 26

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

stopping in Brooklyn before stints in L.A., Acapulco, and Miami. “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth,” Kimbie’s second album, released in 2013, brought their minimalist read on the raucous sweeps and drops of dubstep to a wider audience, and gave the guitar punk King Krule room to flex some hip-hop chops. This brief run of shows coincides with the release of new songs, a welcome update from the reclusive and supremely gifted duo. (National Sawdust, 80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn. nationalsawdust.org. Nov. 29.)

Thurston Moore and John Zorn The record-store chain Rough Trade turns forty this year, and has celebrated with several commemorative shows in the U.K. Geoff Travis first opened the shop in 1976, eventually turning it into a pioneering record label and venue that nursed talent from bands like the Smiths, the Raincoats, the Strokes, Anohni, and Warpaint. The first Stateside celebration presents a dual performance by Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth, and the saxophonist and composer John Zorn. The duo released a collaborative album, “@,” in 2013, featuring improvised music, recorded in real time, with no overdubs or edits. The result was a spastic, free-jazz romp worthy of both their catalogues—and of an imprint dedicated to independent, avant-garde music. (Rough Trade NYC, 64 N. 9th St., Brooklyn. roughtradenyc. com. Nov. 23.) Nicky Siano Every year, the city’s nocturnal dwellers note the peaceful lull that falls over night-life hotbeds during the holidays, when droves of would-be clubbers pack up their rave-wear and head back to the Midwest, or wherever they’re from, for family dinners. Nicky Siano scoffs the loudest with this all-night, twofloor Thanksgiving Eve disco, dubbed “Native New Yorker the Party.” His credentials check out: born in Brooklyn, Siano helped fertilize the blossoming dance community in nineteen-seventies Manhattan, opening the formative Gallery night club, in Chelsea, with his brother Joe, and soon becoming a resident d.j. at Studio 54. The self-annointed Master of Disco Soul helped launch the careers of Grace Jones and Frankie Knuckles; his occasional sets since his 2011 resurgence are ones to catch, whether you’re native or new. (Black Flamingo, 168 Borinquen Pl., Brooklyn. 718-3873337. Nov. 23.) Tobacco The psychedelic beat nerd behind the band Black Moth Super Rainbow closes out a solo residency at this Williamsburg venue and bowling alley. Born Thomas Fec, Tobacco founded the band in Pittsburgh in 2003, and quickly perfected its style of hallucinogenic trip-hop and electronica. Warped cassette tapes, vintage sound machines, and B-movies from VHS dollar bins litter the band’s analog symphonies, and there are excellent songs to be found in the slop. “I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too” is as dilated as its name, with dewy synths and crunchy drums jelling under lyrics that are surprisingly tender for their ro-

botic, talk-box tone. Catch Tobacco’s d.j. set after the Toronto band Odonis Odonis opens the evening. (Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Ave. 718963-3369. Nov. 29.)

Jonathan Toubin This 45 hoarder made soul music fun again with his Soul Clap & Dance Off parties, where fivehour sets of rare grooves and B-sides provided a fleshy alternative to the club scene’s industrial snarl. Instead of bucking the trends of American pop music for some underground alternative, Toubin has made his name by embracing pop’s connective tissue, tracing the rhythm and blues, soul, and rock and roll of the nineteen-fifties and sixties. He began taking sets seriously in 2005, and by 2007 decided to spin only seven-inch records at his parties. After a freak accident in 2011 nearly forced him to retire—a taxi crashed through his hotel and pinned him against a wall while he was sleeping—Toubin staged a full recovery, and returned to the booth just a year later. (Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. 212260-4700. Nov. 26.)

1 JAZZ AND STANDARDS

Hush Point Controlled dynamics, mindful counterpoint, and a tendency toward the ascetic aspects of cool jazz define this quartet, which pairs John McNeil’s brainy trumpet lines and Jeremy Udden’s ultra-lyrical alto-saxophone passages off a contained yet ever alert bass and drum team. (Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia St. 212-9899319. Nov. 25-26.) Joe Lovano–Chucho Valdes Quintet The saxophone great Lovano has interacted with Cuban musicians and supremely accomplished pianists before, but if anyone can test his rhythmic acuity and instrumental mettle, it’s Valdes. Stoked on by percussion and bass, the two dynamos will reanimate idiomatic Latin fare and malleable jazz standards. (Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. 212-581-3080. Nov. 23-27.) Jason Moran and Bandwagon Darting from one ambitious project to another, Moran, a pianist and composer, has an uncontainable lust for musical adventure. But he always reconvenes Bandwagon, his trusted trio— not that the explosive unit is anyone’s equivalent of comfort food. Interactive to its core, Bandwagon jostles to the beat of its own groove generator. (Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Ave. S., at 11th St. 212-255-4037. Nov. 23-27.) Ken Peplowski and Bruce Barth Duet mates who can match each other in lavish virtuosity and affecting lyricism, the clarinettist and saxophonist Peplowski and the pianist Barth also share a steadfast love of popular and jazz-oriented standards, on which they weave inspired fantasias of newly crafted melody. (Kitano, 66 Park Ave. 212-885-7119. Nov. 25.) John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey This sparklingly musical and effortlessly entertaining husband-and-wife team have often shone a witty and heart-rending light on the joys and vicissitudes of romance through well-chosen song. Their new show, “The Arc of a Love Affair,” will be on solidly familiar ground. (Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, Madison Ave. at 76th St. 212-744-1600. Nov. 22-Dec. 1.)


DANCE Dorrance Dance Michelle Dorrance, the MacArthur awardwinning tap choreographer, brings her tightly constructed, spirit-lifting 2013 show “The Blues Project” back to the Joyce. Driven by the raucous live music of Toshi Reagon and her band, BIGLovely, Dorrance’s crew of affable, expert hoofers—including the virtuosic co-choreographers Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia SumbryEdwards—entertain greatly while more subtly hinting at the racially mixed roots of tap and the pain within the joy. (175 Eighth Ave., at 19th St. 212-242-0800. Nov. 23 and Nov. 25-27.) Pilobolus The popular illusionists return to the Skirball Center for three weeks of surrealistic dance theatre. They’ll offer two programs of short sketchlike pieces, each with its own bag of tricks. In “On the Nature of Things,” three almost-nude dancers arrange themselves on a tiny pedestal, creating the impression of morphing sculpture. “All Is Not Lost” is the company’s live

version of a video it made for the rock group OK Go. In “Day Two,” a classic from 1981, the dancers—again semi-nude—reënact the creation of the world and its fauna. (566 LaGuardia Pl. 212-998-4941. Nov. 23, Nov. 25-27, and Nov. 29. Through Dec. 4.)

New York City Ballet / “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” People like to say they’re sick of “The Nutcracker,” but once the music starts, and little Marie catches a glimpse of that tree, who can resist it? Tchaikovsky loved children, and that love is audible in the score; an early critic called it a “symphony of childhood.” What makes it so good is that it doesn’t eschew darkness, or grandeur. George Balanchine, who created his now classic version in 1954, understood this, and made a ballet that has a bit of everything: cozy family dances, conflict, drama—enter Dewdrop with her urgent leaps—and sugarplums, too. (David H. Koch, Lincoln Center. 212-496-0600. Nov. 25-27. Through Dec. 31.)

Movement Research Fall Festival Organized by Carolyn Hall, Omagbitse Omagbemi, and Kayvon Pourazar, this season’s festival (titled “Unthreading the Filter”) is, as usual, a series of bare-bones investigations, most often improvisational, that are free and open to the public: a peek into the laboratory of downtown dance. Notable among the performances, which take place at various locations, including Abrons Arts Center and Danspace Project, is an installation of live “portraits,” designed by Okwui Okpokwasili, on Nov. 28, at Judson Memorial Church. (55 Washington Sq. S. 212-598-0551. Nov. 28-29. Through Dec. 3.) Lucinda Childs Dance Company Lucinda Childs has been constructing dances with a mathematical bent for more than fifty years. A two-week season at the Joyce begins with a career-spanning program, ranging from her first solo (“Pastime,” from 1963) through a few diagrammatic exercises in silence from the nineteen-seventies and “Concerto” (1993), an example of how she matched patterning with minimalist music. “Into View,” a short première set to indie-rock minimalism, promises to be a bit different. Paired dancers—doublings characteristic of Childs’s imagination—do something so uncharacteristic it’s nearly blasphemous: they touch. (175 Eighth Ave., at 19th St. 212-242-0800. Nov. 29. Through Dec. 11.)

ABOVE & BEYOND

Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square The seventeenth edition of this annual holiday fair begins with the lighting of the Upper West Side Holiday Tree, in Dante Park, and features music, processional groups, jugglers, stilt walkers, and other seasonal attractions. Performers include Sharon Jones and Justin Guarini, from Broadway’s “In Transit”; Steven Bernstein’s Universal Melody Brass; and the Loston Harris Trio. Several neighborhood restaurants, including Atlantic Grill, Magnolia Bakery, and the Smith, will offer snacks. Younger revellers can meet PBS characters 28

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

and take a tour of the WNET studios, make winter cards for the elderly, or watch a special screening of “Elf,” presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. (Broadway between Columbus Circle and 69th St. winterseve.nyc. Nov. 28 at 5:30.)

1 READINGS AND TALKS

Book Culture The ever-shrinking record for solving a Rubik’s Cube recently shaved some milliseconds. The Sub1 Reloaded robot solved the puzzle in under 0.637 seconds, ten times as fast as the fastest human— the trial was staged in Munich, by a company that uses similar technology in self-driving cars. Even today, the Rubik’s Cube continues to test the wits of man and machine, as the journalist Ian Scheffler describes in his book, “Cracking the Cube.” He recounts the history and culture of the brainteasing toy, from its invention in Hungary, in the nineteen-seventies, through its development as one of the best-selling children’s toys of all time and a burgeoning worldwide sporting phenomenon. (536 W. 112th St. 212-865-1588. Nov. 26 at noon.) New York Public Libary Tom Wolfe’s seminal book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” turned on a generation to the transcendent possibilities of LSD experimentation—or, at

least, to the joy of reading about it. Wolfe’s novel presented a fictionalized firsthand account of Ken Kesey’s travels with his band of Merry Pranksters, at once stamping the counterculture into public consciousness and putting forth a new narrative form, somewhere between shoe-leather reporting and literary fiction. This year, the art-book publisher Taschen released an abridged version of Wolfe’s book with rare primary materials, including manuscript pages, jailhouse journals, and underground zines from the period. The author reflects on his work with Paul Holdengräber, the director of New York Public Library’s public programming. (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 476 Fifth Ave. nypl.org. Nov. 29 at 7.)

BookCourt Bennington Review, a literary magazine originally for authors from the Vermont college, took shape as a national journal in 1978. Its editors published esteemed writers, such as John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Annie Dillard, as well as a young David Remnick, who interviewed John Ashbery. The journal was relaunched this year, under the helm of the poet Michael Dumanis, keen on furthering its distinguished legacy; the inaugural issue featured the Pulitzer Prize winners Rae Armantrout and Tracy K. Smith. Issue 2 launches this week, with readings from novelists and poets including Cynthia Cruz, Alex Dimitrov, and Craig Morgan Teicher. (163 Court St., Brooklyn. 718-875-3677. Nov. 29 at 7.)

ILLUSTRATION BY PABLO AMARGO

Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation For a behind-the-scenes look at the biggest Thanksgiving celebration in the country, visit Macy’s Giant Balloon Inflation on the afternoon before Thanksgiving, when seventeen iconic parade staples and all-new additions will bob to life. Arrive early to beat the crowds: most balloons have taken shape by five, and they’re inflated and ready to march by nine, held to the concrete by hundreds of feet of netting. It’s the best pre-party for the ninetieth annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, on Nov. 24, which will draw more than eight thousand participants, with performances by Miranda Lambert and Sting, as well as from Broadway’s “The Color Purple,” “On Your Feet!,” and “School of Rock.” (American Museum of Natural History, 79th St. at Columbus Ave. Nov. 23 at 3.)


F§D & DRINK

TABLES FOR TWO

Gramercy Farmer & the Fish

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOAQUIN TRUJILLO FOR THE NEW YORKER; ILLUSTRATION BY JOOST SWARTE

245 Park Ave. South (646-998-5991) What does the proliferation of farmto-table restaurants say about city folks’ perverse predilection for eating how most of us don’t live? Judging from the number of Blue Hill devotees, it seems that, as much as New Yorkers are creatures of cosmopolitan convenience, we might also, on occasion, wish to play country mouse, romanticizing a relationship to food we did not grow ourselves by cultivating a quiet, pastoral fantasy on the surrounding slabs of concrete. Gramercy Farmer & the Fish is one of the latest articulations of the theme, and a counterpart to Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, which the chef Michael Kaphan opened, five years ago, in Westchester, along with his partner and fishmonger, Edward Taylor. The pair manage a five-acre terraced farm in the Hudson Valley, where most of the restaurants’ produce is harvested, insuring that patrons, as stated on the menu, “eat what the ground serves up rather than what is frozen and flown across the sea.” The locovore methodology certainly has its advantages. Frisée salad comes with farm-fresh fingerling potatoes that don’t require much more than salt to temper their earthy sweetness. The “farmers sushi,” which initially resembles the Japanese

variety—with generous slices of bigeye tuna—arrives not on rice but on rectangles of pressed carrot and turnip accented with the tiniest pinch of vinegar. The vegetables cut the fishiness and make you wonder why all sushi isn’t offered with this healthier, lighter option. For those attached to their carbs, there is the “chowdah potpie.” The crusted perfection is filled with Long Island littlenecks, thickened with fennel, celery, and onions into something redolent of your Yankee grandmother’s harvest dinner. Memories of Kaphan’s own grandmother, a Jewish matriarch of Eastern European heritage whom the chef fondly refers to as Bubby, are manifest in the Ashkenazistyle chopped liver, sautéed in chicken fat and mixed with herbs and hard-boiled egg white; it’s luxuriant enough to be the main event, instead of its traditional billing as a side dish. Not everything lands as one might wish. The bone-in sole, which came recommended by the waitstaff on two occasions, was so sparingly seasoned that one patron told a companion of her plan to dress the fish with lemon, peppers, and perhaps tomato once she got back home. Some minutes passed, and the aspiring chef had a change of heart, procured some hot sauce, and polished off the sole. Whatever the fish’s deficiencies, she explained, eating it was still better than trying to cook in her shoe-box-size kitchen. (Entrées $21-$42.) —Jiayang Fan

1 BAR TAB

BlackTail 22 Battery Pl., second floor (212-785-0153) The staircase that leads to this bar is utterly beguiling—evocative photographs of present-day Cuba line the walls, globe chandeliers cast a golden light. Visitors are welcomed with complimentary Daiquiris, perfectly sour and so smoothly blended that they taste nearly of cream. One expects nothing less from a new perch dreamed up by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, co-owners of the perennially awarded Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. Their new project turns the tired trope of the speakeasy on its head by asking what the Prohibition era was like for Americans abroad—BlackTail takes its inspiration from the grand hotel lounges of nineteen-twenties Havana. (It’s named for the planes that once flew between the States and Cuba.) The staff members wear citrus-hued guayaberas and white fedoras; each seat at the bar is dedicated to an American celebrity who spent time in the island nation. (Find Ernest Hemingway in the center and Al Capone to his left.) But the effect is less tropical escape than Epcot attraction. On a recent Thursday night, an El Presidente (rum, mezcal, ancho chili, pomegranate) and a Celery Sour (gin, pineapple, celery, Greek yogurt) were terrific to drink, yet neither could distract from the plastic ivy hanging from the ceiling, or from the room’s acoustics, which make guests sound as though they’re hollering into an empty swimming pool. “It feels like a bad steakhouse,” a patron remarked, examining a crowd composed largely of well-coiffed white men in fine suits, thumbing through their iPhones. Tucked into each novel-length menu is a postcard, which the bar offers to send anywhere in the world, on the house. It’s a small consolation, in the end, but at least it guarantees transport.—Wei Tchou THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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THE TALK OF THE TOWN COMMENT STATES VS. TRUMP

he wake of the Presidential election has stirred an

nationally. We won’t allow a federal government that attacks immigrants to do so in our state.

ment—among the liberals and the progressives who supported Hillary Clinton. Her loss, scarcely predicted in the polls, and therefore all the more shocking to the people who voted for her (and who outnumber her opponent’s supporters by more than a million and counting), has become a case study in political trauma. Donald Trump’s victory inspired another, less noted reaction that may prove more politically significant than the current wave of demoralization: defiance. On the day after the election, Kevin de León, the pro-tempore president of the California Senate, and Anthony Rendon, the speaker of the California Assembly, released a joint statement whose opening sentence—“Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land”—perfectly summarized the disorientation that millions of Americans were experiencing. More important, the statement pointed out that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny were at odds with California’s values of inclusiveness and tolerance, and, the authors vowed, “we will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.” Three days later, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, after initially flirting with the idea that Trump could be a “bonus” for the state, posted a statement on Facebook, arguing that New Yorkers “have fundamentally different philosophies than what Donald Trump laid out in his campaign.” Cuomo was tacitly accusing the President-elect—who is a New Yorker—of a kind of betrayal. He continued:

That line of thought carried down the chain of command. Both Eric Garcetti and Bill de Blasio, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York, vowed to protect vulnerable populations in their cities. (Sanctuary cities across the nation, including Chicago, Seattle, and Denver, did the same, even though Trump threatened to defund them.) Charlie Beck, the chief of the L.A.P.D., added, “We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.” These announcements cannot be dismissed as simply the whiny objections of the coastal élites. Thirty-nine million people live in California—twelve per cent of the population of the United States. The state is home to the economic and cultural axes of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Last year, its economy became the sixth largest in the world, a spot formerly held by France. Clinton beat Trump by twenty-eight points in California, and by twenty-one points in New York. Now the two states have triggered an uncommon development in a year that has offered us a great number of them: liberals invoking states’ rights. We have become accustomed to governors denouncing overreach by the federal government. Last year, more than thirty governors released statements opposing President Barack Obama’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, even though federal authority clearly allowed him to do so. In 2012, Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act based their challenge, at the Supreme Court, on the ground that it violated states’ rights. Later that year, shortly after Obama was reëlected, more than a hundred thousand Texans signed a petition requesting that the White House respond to their demand for secession. (This presented a paradox in that the petitioners were recognizing federal

ILLUSTRATIONS BY TOM BACHTELL

T array of reactions—grief, denial, outrage, bewilder-

Whether you are gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people in the state of New York. It’s the very core of what we believe and who we are. But it’s not just what we say, we passed laws that reflect it, and we will continue to do so, no matter what happens

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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authority in an attempt to claim that the federal government did not have authority over them.) It would seem ironic that two of the largest and most consistently Democratic states have now presented states’-rights arguments in their cause, were it not for history. States’ rights have a complicated genealogy, which ties the birth of the Confederacy to Southern resistance to civil rights. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan invoked the phrase in Philadelphia, Mississippi—where three civil-rights workers had been murdered, in 1964—he was offering a kind of absolution, if not for racial violence then for the principle that had been used to justify it. Today, the phrase is often shorthand for opposition to “big government,” a term that carries racial implications of its own. Yet the argument for states’ rights began in the early years of the republic, in an effort to confront exactly the type of threat to non-citizens that the incoming Administration poses. In 1798, the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts increased the residency requirement from five years to fourteen before immigrants could vote, and authorized the executive branch to summarily deport immigrants who were deemed dangerous or who had come from hostile nations. In response, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, whose Democratic-Republican Party was favored by immigrants, FOLLOWUP VISIT MR. “T”

cott LoBaido, the most famous

S person in Staten Island, walked into

Da Noi restaurant last week, victorious. Taking a corner table, the artist known for his gigantic paintings of the American flag talked almost non-stop to the same visitor who had sat with him two months ago, in the same place but in a previous world. Back then, a giant Donald Trump-promoting “T,” which LoBaido had erected on a friend’s lawn, had been torched, and LoBaido rebuilt it bigger, and Trump spoke to him on the phone, and news organizations all over the world picked up the story. Now he was more paint-spattered, wired, and gesticulatory than ever. “Since the election, I haven’t stopped going for a second,” he said. “On Election Night, I was watching the results with about a hundred Staten Island Republicans, including State Senator Andrew Lanza and U.S. Congressman Daniel Donovan, at a catering hall on Hylan Boulevard. At twelve-thirty, the hall had 32

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

wrote the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, which held that individual states had the right to nullify unconstitutional laws within their borders. They further stipulated that states had the right to “interpose” themselves against the authority of the federal government. George Washington was among those who saw the resolutions as a cure that was worse than the illness of federal overreach. But the notion of states’ rights survived. Trump’s hostility toward immigration has taken various iterations, but the common theme is to rid the country of foreign residents deemed dangerous and to prohibit the entry of people from hostile nations. It would appear that, two hundred and eighteen years later, the principles of the Alien and Sedition Acts have sprung, with surprising vigor, from their resting place in history. The political leaders in New York and California have not yet proposed nullifying federal authority on immigration—they are only resisting it, in the service of the higher principle of democracy and inclusion. That alone can’t forestall the damage that a Trump Administration might do on the issue of immigration. But, for the millions of Americans, immigrants and non-immigrants alike, who also woke up last week feeling like strangers in a foreign land, it is as good a starting place as any. —Jelani Cobb

to close, and everybody asked me where we should go, and I led them to the Grant City Tavern, a blue-collar place off South Railroad Avenue. Just before Fox called the election, I stepped outside. I wanted to be quiet and have a moment to myself. Suddenly, I hear all this cheering and screaming, the place goes fuckin’ berserk, glasses breaking, banging on the bar. And I just stood there, savoring it. Norwegian TV had been following me around, but I didn’t want to be with reporters just then. This was a moment in history. This was not about me.” A waiter, young and deferential, appeared. LoBaido said, “My usual, please. You don’t know my usual? O.K., you’re new. My usual is a Martini with Tito’s vodka and a lemon twist. Shake it like Shakira shakes her ass. Tito’s vodka is made in America, in Austin, Texas! I try to only buy American.” He consulted his phone and fiddled with a not-yet-lit Marlboro Light. “TV reporters have showed up from all over— Japan, Sweden, France, Germany, London,” he said. “The Norwegians even followed me into my polling place, P.S. 48, my alma mater where I went to elementary school. All over the world they had heard about my giant ‘T.’ But you know what? On the morning after the election, I took it down. Its purpose was

served. I never gloat. Gloating is wrong. Right now, the ‘T’ is in my studio, and I don’t know what I’ll do with it. Maybe auction it off. Maybe it’ll be in the Smithsonian museum someday.” The Martini arrived, frosted with condensation. “Salud!” he said, tipping the glass to his lips. The gesture showed some numbers written on the back of his hand. “These are specs for picture frames I gotta buy,” he explained. “I’m having an art exhibition and charity fund-raiser at a gallery on Bay Street this Saturday, and I’m reframing some of my paintings. The big official-type hoity-toity art fundraiser on Staten Island doesn’t let me participate in it, because I’m ‘too political,’ so this year I’m having my own show. I even rented searchlights for the opening, something I’ve always wanted to do. Let everybody see it, like, ‘Fuck me? Oh, no—fuck you! ’ I’ve been out there by myself all my life. Hillary had every fuckin’ celebrity, and who did Trump have? Fuckin’ Scott Baio and me. I can’t believe all these kids out there today protesting in the cities where everybody agrees with them already. Try protesting all alone in a place where nobody agrees with you. That’s been me.” The sun was going down. By the door, the restaurant’s maître d’ was folding an American flag, and LoBaido


cocked an eye at him. “Careful how you fold that thing, my friend! Don’t let it touch the ground! You crazy fuckin’ Albanian,” he said. “Now, Scott, be nice,” the maître d’ said, smiling. “I love Albanians—you’re just like us Italians,” LoBaido said. “I’ll tell you one thing, though,” he continued, turning back to his listener. “President Obama has been beautiful. He has been more than gracious to Trump, and you gotta love him for it. He says to give the guy a chance, for Christ’s sake, and he’s right. I don’t agree with Obama’s policies, but he’s a good man. This is gonna be a great inauguration. Right now, I’m working on being part of it. I want to stand at a big easel next to the great tenor Daniel Rodriguez and do a speed painting of the American flag while he sings ‘America the Beautiful.’ People watching will go nuts. I hope it’ll happen—I’ve got some calls out. And I’ve also come up with some designs for the Wall, when Trump builds that. It will be aerodynamic, graffiti-proof, and aesthetically pleasing, with big, tall gates. We’ll welcome everybody who comes through and we’ll shake their hands and give them American-flag leis. It will be beautiful, like Trump promised.” —Ian Frazier

1 FRENCH POSTCARD A BAD WIND

the moment, the mode in “A tFrance is to compare the Amer-

ican election with the situation at home,” Frédéric Lefebvre said, on the phone the other day from Portland, Oregon. Lefebvre, who served as the secretary for trade and tourism under Nicolas Sarkozy, is now a member of the Assemblée Nationale, representing the approximately two hundred and ten thousand French citizens living in Canada and the United States. “To quote Verlaine, there’s a ‘bad wind’ blowing across the entire world,” he continued. “For me, the lesson is that Marine Le Pen can be elected in France.” Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, the far-right party that her

Holocaust-denier father helped start, in 1972, is one of the most obvious international beneficiaries of a Donald Trump Presidency. “A new world is emerging, global equilibriums are being redefined by the fact of Trump’s election,” she proclaimed at a press conference the day after the election. She mentioned “political élites,” “free people,” and “condescension,” employing the vocabulary of the Brexit and MAGA franchise. Florian Philippot, her closest adviser, had tweeted, “Their world is crumbling, ours is being built.” The mutually admiring troika of the Brexit instigator Nigel Farage, Le Pen, and Trump now constitute a global movement against globalism. France’s next Presidential election will culminate in May. Until recently, the conventional wisdom had been that, after a first round of voting, Le Pen would face Alain Juppé, the amiable mayor of Bordeaux and a former Prime Minister, in a runoff. Juppé was favored to win the center-right primary, the first round of which was held on Sunday, a week after the one-year anniversary of the Paris attacks. “I’m not Hillary Clinton,” he told reporters, somewhat pleadingly. “And who is Trump in France? Let’s be serious.” The French political classes are drawing two conclusions from Trump’s win: (1) you can’t trust polls, and (2) the repudiation of Hillary Clinton—like Juppé, a somewhat uninspiring but respectable candidate—could strengthen the former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also seeking the center-right nomination. (A third candidate, François Fillon, another former Prime Minister, has been surging in recent weeks.) Never famous for his delicacy, Sarkozy seems emboldened. Asked at a campaign meeting what to do about school menus for students who don’t eat pork, he suggested giving them “a double portion of fries.” On the left, the current French President, François Hollande, who not long ago confessed that the American Republican candidate made him “want to retch,” said that Trump’s victory “opened a period of uncertainty in Europe.” He could easily have been talking about his own political future. Though Hollande has yet to declare his candidacy, he is presumably running for reëlection, with an approval rating as low as four per cent. Would the country’s ambitious

Prime Minister, Manuel Valls—declaiming “the need for borders” the day after the American election, talking about the decline of the working class as he toured factories the next—finally stage a coup? Would Emmanuel Macron, a thirtyeight-year-old defector from Hollande’s cabinet, running as an independent, siphon off a considerable number of votes from whoever ends up representing the left? Or could the instability introduced by Trump actually profit Hollande, who

Marine Le Pen could press his institutional advantage as a sitting President? France is different from the U.K. and the U.S. in that it lacks a powerful tabloid press; elections, almost quaintly, continue to be contested on differences of ideology rather than fact. And Trump may have lost his shine—or his novelty—by the time France’s election takes place. If a Trumpified Sarkozy wins the center-right nomination and progresses to the second round of voting, left-wing voters—who have traditionally rallied behind right-wing candidates in order to block the Front National— may shun him, even at the expense of handing the election to Le Pen. According to the untrustable polls, there is almost no chance that Hollande will squeak through the first round of voting, but were he to do so, France might very well have its own first Madame la Présidente. Frédéric Lefebvre had been convinced all along that Trump could win. He spends two weeks of most months in Paris and two weeks travelling among his constituency, in an area that is forty times the size of France. “A year ago, I was in San Francisco for the weekend,” he said. “I went to Point Reyes to see the whales and then to eat oysters at Marshall, and THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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I met many, many Americans during this moment of pleasure. I remember I met a young woman—she was thirty-five years old, had two daughters, and was working all day doing valet parking at a restaurant. It was just after Trump said some horrible things about women, and she told me, ‘I will vote for Trump, because I want to change this system.’” Lefebvre had given a speech in Portland. Afterward, he said, a woman approached and told him that she was moving back to France. Another told him that her son, a college student in New York, was withdrawing to return to Vancouver. Lefebvre composed a letter and, the next day, sent it to his constituents, with the subject line “A new President of the United States.” He wrote, “From Portland in Oregon, where large protests have taken place, I was able to feel your worry.” —Lauren Collins

1 WHEN IN ROME THE WOMEN

ast week, Francesca Comencini—

L the director of fourteen films, a

mother of three children, and a political organizer—woke up in her apartment in Rome to the news that Donald J. Trump would be the next President of the United States. “We all felt this American loss as

a personal loss, as women,” Comencini said the day after the election. “But this is wrong! We must not allow this feeling to grow inside us. It’s in the strength of women that this kind of leader can find resistance.” Comencini was speaking from experience. In 2011, with her sister, Cristina, she masterminded a massive feminist manifestazione protesting the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a series of impassioned demonstrations that stretched through cities and villages all across Italy. Comencini pointed out that Trump and Berlusconi have a lot in common. They both amassed fortunes in real estate through questionable business practices. They share a taste for marble, extreme tans, and strongmen: Trump is impressed by Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein; Berlusconi was chummy with Muammar Qaddafi. Both have a murky grasp on the concept of consent. (“We don’t have enough soldiers to stop rape, because our women are so beautiful!” Berlusconi said in 2009, commenting on new statistics concerning sexual violence. Trump defended himself against one of the many women who have accused him of sexual assault by sneering, “She would not be my first choice.”) Much as Trump complained that he “wasn’t impressed” with the view of Hillary Clinton from behind, Berlusconi once dismissed Angela Merkel as “unfuckable.” Comencini hopes that Berlusconi and Trump may end up having something else in common: a downfall catalyzed by women. Berlusconi resigned nine months

“Where do you see yourself in ten Mississippis?”

after her group, Se Non Ora, Quando (If Not Now, When), held its demonstrations, which attracted more than a million people. “We want a country in which it’s possible for women to live in dignity!” Susanna Camusso, the first female leader of Italy’s largest labor union, shouted in the Piazza del Popolo, where hundreds of thousands of protesters held a “group scream.” “The rally was friendly, cool—like a rock concert,” Cristina, a novelist and director, said. Like Trump, Berlusconi was a skilled manipulator of the media, with a keen sense of what messages resonate with his countrymen. The Comencinis strove to battle him with imagery as much as with ideology. They enlisted the Italian actress Angela Finocchiaro to make a video appeal to the nation’s men, asking them to “tell the world you don’t want to live in a bad fifties movie.” They framed sexism and misogyny as not just wrong but lame. “We were attractive and modern,” Francesca said. The sisters have a suggestion for their American counterparts as they prepare for the Million Women’s March on Washington, the day after Trump’s inauguration. “Do not make something against him, but communicate the idea that women are the nation,” Cristina said. “This is strength—it’s there, it’s something that he has to face.” She pointed out that even though Italians had plenty of other grievances besides Berlusconi’s misogyny, the women’s demonstration, five years ago, marked a shift in the tone of the national discourse: the Prime Minister’s power seemed less insurmountable. “This was, in a symbolic way, the end of Berlusconi,” Francesca said. “Italian women said enough is enough.” She sighed. “We had Berlusconi for a very long time. You start to think many kinds of things are normal, and they’re not.” Berlusconi held power for nearly two decades. American women are just at the beginning of their time with the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief. “The advice is not to feel that you have lost,” Francesca counselled. “I wrote to my daughter in Florence this morning, and I told her, you have to walk every day—even with this sexist man as President of the United States—you have to walk like a winner. And one day it will be true.” —Ariel Levy


THE FINANCIAL PAGE TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PROMISES

CHRISTOPH NIEMANN

the king of debt. I love debt,” Donald Trump said “ I am in the heat of the campaign. He was, for once, telling

the truth: Trump’s business career was built on borrowing piles of money that he then spent with careless abandon. When he opened the Taj Mahal, in Atlantic City, in 1990, it was the biggest and most expensive casino ever built; he called it “the eighth wonder of the world.” It also had a debt load of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. Now Trump plans to bring that ethos to Washington, borrowing trillions to finance a huge tax cut and an ambitious infrastructurespending bill. Trump’s addiction to debt has often been disastrous for his companies—the Taj filed for bankruptcy within eighteen months—but national debt is different, and this could be the rare instance where his instincts might not wreak havoc. Right now, the U.S. economy could use some borrowing and spending. It’s still growing more slowly than before the Great Recession, and millions of people have dropped out of the workforce; one in six prime-age men doesn’t have a job. Some economists think that the situation is contingent; Paul Krugman calls it a liquidity trap. Others think that it’s fundamental; Larry Summers has spoken of a new era of secular stagnation. But there’s no mystery about the basic problem. “We don’t have enough demand in the economy,” Dean Baker, a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told me. “Spend money, and we can cure the problem.” Since the private sector isn’t doing that, the classic Keynesian answer is for the government to pick up the slack, borrowing freely in order to boost demand and create jobs. And at the moment, with interest rates still near historic lows, the U.S., unlike Trump’s companies, can borrow quite a lot before risking any trouble. To be sure, Trump himself doesn’t seem to fully understand this: in addition to calling for tax cuts and more spending, he has also inveighed against the national debt. Still, he’s an accidental Keynesian. His tax plan, which calls for five trillion dollars in tax cuts, would be a colossal giveaway to the rich, but it would also boost demand. “The tax cuts are horribly targeted,” Baker says. “But I think they would be a positive for the economy. The real bang for the buck, though, would be from more infrastructure spending.” That’s something that Trump has called for since his campaign began, and to which he gave prominent place in his victory speech, promising to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” in order to “put millions of our people to work.”

This lands Trump, oddly, not just on the same page as economists like Summers, who has called for two and a half trillion dollars in infrastructure spending, but on the same page as Democrats, who have been trying for years to get more spending in an area where the U.S. is an inveterate cheapskate. (Voters, too, love the idea of a big infrastructure program.) As Aaron Klein, a transportation expert at the Brookings Institution, told me, “We have been living off the investments of the past, without doing enough to keep them up, and we’ve failed to build out the systems of the future.” There’s no dearth of good things to invest in. If Trump’s grandiosity requires glitzy,Taj-like projects—a gilded W.P.A.— he could modernize the electrical grid, a colossal and longoverdue project. But simply repairing roads and bridges would make a huge difference, too, and there are cost-effective ways of leveraging infrastructure that’s already in decent shape. As Klein points out, although our national airport network is good and many cities have good public transit, you often can’t use public transit to get to the airport. Likewise, our ports and freightrail network are excellent, but in most of the country there’s no direct connection between them. Done right, a big infrastructure spree would boost demand and make travel more efficient. But Trump might easily do it wrong. A couple of weeks before the election, his early pledge to spend more than half a trillion dollars gave way to a formal plan with a very different approach—a system of tax credits to encourage private investors to put up all the money for infrastructure. This is a bad plan. It would lead to underinvestment in most of the things that Trump said he wants to do, like repairing roads, upgrading schools, and improving air-traffic control, which can’t be monetized as easily as, say, building a new highway in a rich community. And it’s a recipe for inefficiency and corruption, with public assets being given away too cheaply to private owners. “There’s nothing wrong with public-private partnerships,” Klein says. “But when you read that proposal it doesn’t make sense. And a lot of the subsidy just gets lost to middlemen.” If Trump is serious about rebuilding, then, he should go with his original idea and do it on the government’s dime. A traditional infrastructure bill could win the support of congressional Democrats (if they’re willing to do a deal with the Devil), and, while deficit hawks in the G.O.P. will push back, Republicans have a way of being obsessed with debt and deficits only when Democrats are in office. (Both Reagan and George W. Bush enacted huge spending increases as well as big tax cuts.) Liberal economists have been saying for years that in order to boost the economy the U.S. should borrow more. The bitter irony is that it may have taken the election of a reactionary to find out if they were right. —James Surowiecki THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Annals of Medicine

COLD REMEDY A radical new procedure aims to save gunshot victims by freezing them. BY NICOLA TWILLEY

randon Littlejohn was shot just

B after 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, 2011. The day had started out cold and rainy, but by evening the temperature hinted at the summer to come. Littlejohn was playing basketball on a court at a corner of Harlem Square Park, in West Baltimore, when his girlfriend drove by to pick him up. He jogged over to her car, said he’d be back in a minute, and returned to the basketball court to tell his friends that he was leaving. “She heard the gunshots,” Littlejohn’s aunt Roxanne Cunningham told me. “She looked, and he was falling.” One

of Littlejohn’s friends helped his girlfriend get him into the car, and she drove him to the hospital. He had been shot multiple times in the chest and lower body, but he was still alive when he reached the emergency room, ten minutes away. “He told her to tell his family that he was sorry,” Cunningham said. The hospital was the University of Maryland’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center (universally known as Shock Trauma), the oldest and probably the leading trauma unit in the country. Baltimore has one of the nation’s highest rates of gun violence, and Shock Trauma admits at least two or three

Many trauma patients die of blood loss before treatable injuries can be fixed. 36

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

shooting victims each week—often, like Brandon Littlejohn, young black men. Frequently, it sees that many cases in a single night. As it happens, Cunningham—a stylish, soft-voiced fifty-sevenyear-old, born and brought up in West Baltimore—works at Shock Trauma, managing paperwork for the operating rooms. She was not on duty that night, however, so she didn’t have to watch as surgeons and nurses struggled to save her nephew’s life. The Trauma Resuscitation Unit, or T.R.U., consists of twelve bays divided by curtains and arranged in a horseshoe configuration around three banks of workstations. Electrocardiographs, infusion pumps, and ventilators hum and beep incessantly, punctuated every few minutes by a ringing phone, followed by a nurse’s voice repeating the cryptic snippets of information relayed by emergency services—GSW face, arrest in the field, blood levels at thirty-nine—as colleagues take notes and ready the next bay. That April evening, as Littlejohn was rolled into an open bay, a cluster of nurses, an anesthesiologist, a resident, and the attending surgeon descended on him and began performing dozens of complicated procedures at once. They worked with the efficiency and furious intensity of people who have tried to save many, many lives in exactly the same way. As the anesthesiologist took her position at the head of the bed to insert a breathing tube into Littlejohn’s windpipe, a nurse cut off what remained of his blood-soaked clothes, another attached electrocardiogram sensors to his chest, and others performed chest compressions, took samples, passed the X-ray machine over his abdomen, and attached an I.V. line to his arm to begin delivering blood. And then Brandon Littlejohn’s heart stopped. Statistically speaking, Littlejohn’s chances of survival were now less than one in twenty. For most people who sustain traumatic injuries, whether from bullets or car crashes, death occurs within the hour. The primary cause is exsanguination cardiac arrest, the technical term for losing so much blood that too little is left for the heart to continue to circulate. Even as nurses pumped fresh blood into Littlejohn, it flowed straight back out of his bullet wounds, pooling in his abdominal cavity and soaking the bed on which he lay. PHOTOGRAPH BY MAURICIO ALEJO


“There’s not a whole lot you can do at this point,” Deborah Stein, the attending surgeon that night, told me. “All you can try to do is get their heart restarted, but while they’re still actively bleeding . . .” She trailed off, gesturing to indicate the hopelessness of the situation. “They basically never make it.” Nonetheless, as soon as Stein lost Littlejohn’s pulse she used a scalpel to make a long, smile-shaped incision below his left nipple, then wedged a stainless-steel rack-and-pinion into the slit, cranking its lever to spread his ribs apart and expose his heart. By clamping the aorta in such a way as to cut off circulation to the lower body, she forced what little blood remained in Littlejohn’s body up to his brain, then cradled his heart between both hands to massage it. Around her, a tight knot of nurses and residents in pink scrubs continued to work, putting in stitches, administering drugs, hanging fresh blood, suctioning out Littlejohn’s chest cavity. So much was being done to Littlejohn’s body with each fateful minute that the passage of time seemed to slow. “I got him back once or twice, but he kept arresting,” Stein said. Each time Littlejohn flatlined, Stein stopped operating on his bullet wounds in order to palpate his heart again, and each time she revived him his battered body became even weaker. “Everything was out of whack— his electrolytes, his pH, his platelets,” she said. “You’re trying to do two things at once, but you can’t. I just needed more time to fix what was bleeding.” The third or fourth time his heart stopped beating—Stein lost count—it couldn’t be re-started. Just after midnight, Stein pronounced Brandon Littlejohn dead. He was twenty years old. Losing a patient is always painful, but losing one like Littlejohn is also exasperating. Even though everyone at Shock Trauma knew that the odds were against him, they also knew that every injury he’d sustained was fixable. He hadn’t been shot in the head or in a vital organ. The holes in his body could have been sewn up—they just couldn’t be sewn up in less than the five or six minutes it takes for the brain to die from lack of oxygen. “It is the most frustrating thing, and it happens all the time,” Tom Scalea, Shock Trauma’s physicianin-chief, told me. “Some kid comes in

with cardiac arrest from a fixable injury—an easily fixable injury—and you open them up in the T.R.U. and they kind of come back, and then they die. And then you get to go tell their mom that they are not coming home, when all we needed was a few more minutes.”

he R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma

T Center is named in memory of the

pioneering surgeon who founded it, in the nineteen-sixties, and who is generally considered the father of trauma medicine. Today, Cowley is remembered for developing the concept of “the golden hour”: the idea that the sooner critically injured patients are treated the better their chances of survival. To get patients to properly equipped hospitals as quickly as possible, he developed the country’s first statewide E.M.S. system, including helicopter ambulances. Earlier this year, the center announced that it was conducting a trial of a procedure that may revolutionize trauma care by buying patients and their doctors even more time. Known as E.P.R., for “emergency preservation and resuscitation,” it is the result of nearly thirty years of work. The procedure has long been proved successful in animal experiments, but overcoming the institutional, logistical, and ethical obstacles to performing it on a human being has taken more than a decade. The director of the E.P.R. trial is Sam Tisherman, a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland, who works at Shock Trauma. He is fiftyseven, bespectacled, mild-mannered, and quick to blush, and he has an understated sense of humor. He trained as a trauma surgeon more than twenty years ago, but the memory of his first experience of running out of time while trying to resuscitate someone remains indelible. The patient was a twentythree-year-old man. “We almost saved him,” Tisherman said. “We actually got him in the operating room, and then we just couldn’t keep his heart going.” He had been stabbed in an argument over bowling shoes. Tisherman had previously launched the trial in April, 2014, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he was based until recently, but Pittsburgh has relatively few gunshot victims and

no one met the criteria for enrollment. Now that Tisherman has moved to Shock Trauma, it seems certain that the first person to undergo E.P.R. will be in Baltimore, sometime in the coming months. When this patient loses his pulse, the attending surgeon will, as usual, crack his chest open and clamp the descending aorta. But then, instead of trying to coax the heart back into activity, the surgeon will start pumping the body full of ice-cold saline at a rate of at least a gallon a minute. Within twenty minutes (depending on the size of the patient, the number of wounds, and the amount of blood lost), the patient’s brain temperature, measured using a probe in the ear or nose, will sink to somewhere in the low fifties Fahrenheit. At this point, the patient, his circulatory system filled with icy salt water, will have no blood, no pulse, and no brain activity. He will remain in this state of suspended animation for up to an hour, while surgeons locate the bullet holes or stab wounds and sew them up. Then, after as much as sixty minutes without a heartbeat or a breath, the patient will be resuscitated. A cardiac surgeon will attach a heart-lung bypass machine and start pumping the patient full of blood again, cold, at first, but gradually warming, one degree at a time, over the course of a couple of hours. As soon as the heartbeat returns, perhaps jump-started with the help of a gentle electric shock, and as long as the lungs seem capable of functioning, at least with the help of a ventilator, the patient will be taken off bypass. Even if everything works perfectly, it will take between three and five days to determine whether the patient’s brain has been damaged, and, if so, to what extent. There will be more surgeries, followed by months of rehabilitation. Nonetheless, it is possible that the next Brandon Littlejohn won’t die; that he will, instead, be able to walk out of Shock Trauma unaided and capable of playing basketball for many years to come.

ddressing a skeptical audience

A at a conference last year, Tisher-

man, awkward in a suit and tie, began his presentation by acknowledging that the idea of cooling a trauma patient is typically regarded as “blasphemy.” Hypothermia is one part of what physicians THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

37


call “the triad of death.” (The others are falling pH in blood plasma and the failure of blood to coagulate; all three are triggered by severe blood loss, and all three exacerbate one another, resulting in a downward spiral that makes resuscitation increasingly difficult.) “That’s the dogma on the trauma ward,” Tisherman said, to nods of agreement. “Patients who get cold do badly, so we should do everything we can to keep them warm.” In healthy humans, the body occupies a narrow temperature band between 97 degrees and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Fifty degrees, the target temperature during E.P.R., is classified as profound hypothermia: the stage at which major organs fail and clinical death occurs. Even with rapid, advanced hospital care, the mortality rate from profound hypothermia is close to forty per cent. From this perspective, freezing gunshot victims seems like lunacy. Scalea told me, “I think it’s a fair statement that, back when we first started talking about it, many or most people thought it was nuts.” Yet medicine has also long recognized that, in some circumstances, cold can protect as well as destroy. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates recommended packing bleeding patients in snow and ice. Napoleon’s surgeon general, Dominique Jean Larrey, observed that, the farther wounded soldiers lay from a campfire during the Army’s wintry retreat from Russia, the less likely they were to die. Cold buys time by slowing things down. Removing energy, in the form of heat, decreases the rate at which chemical reactions—in this case, metabolism—take place. Accidents provide many examples of people miraculously saved by cold: an Austrian toddler revived after half an hour at the bottom of a frozen fishpond; a seventyyear-old man in Muskegon, Michigan, who spent forty minutes underwater and made a complete recovery; a twentynine-year-old woman who fell into an Arctic stream while skiing, and was pulled out after eighty minutes, limp and ashen, only for her heart to start beating again more than an hour later. In each case, the crucial factor was speed. The victims were essentially flash-frozen, bypassing the lethal damage that the body suffers during a slower descent into hypothermia. 38

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ESPOSITO & SON

When the men arrived, finally, to haul the big table away, I ran my hand down the battered length of it, as if along the flank of some exhausted workhorse, overcome by a sudden rush of absurd remorse. I’d never loved it, being as it was first too shabby, then too grand for the way we lived (or should have lived, at least). Six chairs, green velvet pressed flat, two more with sculpted rests broad enough for a king’s muscled forearm (growing dusty in the basement, season upon season). Two carved leaves should unexpected guests drop by, and these still gleamed with polish though the tabletop itself was bleached and scarred: ruthless curator of memory. When the younger man went to fetch a blanket I bent and laid my cheek flat against the cool mahogany. The father shifted restlessly from foot to foot, eager to be done with it, to be home, perhaps, king at his own table, gesturing for his wife to slice the meat, to pass the buttered peas. —Anna Scotti Starting in the late nineteen-forties, doctors and researchers began experimenting with the effects that rapid cooling had on living creatures. In Toronto, the Canadian surgeon Wilfred Bigelow systematically chilled anesthetized dogs while measuring their oxygen intake. He discovered that the animals required about six per cent less oxygen to survive for every degree Celsius that their body temperature dropped, and calculated that, at 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), a dog could survive for up to fifteen minutes on just the residual oxygen diffused in its blood and its membranes. Bigelow’s early experiments— cooling dogs, stopping their hearts, and then reviving them in a bath of warm water a quarter of an hour later—had mixed results, but the handful of successes inspired two University of Minnesota surgeons to wrap a fiveyear-old girl in refrigerated blankets in order to perform the world’s first openheart surgery, in 1952. Today, deep hypothermia is routinely induced during scheduled cardiac surgery, with specially trained perfusionists using a heart-lung bypass machine to gradually cool patients’ blood until body temperature falls as low as 64 degrees Fahrenheit. With

the brain’s metabolism, and thus its oxygen needs, reduced by more than three-quarters, doctors can suspend circulation for as long as forty-five minutes without harm in order to operate on a patient’s heart. owever, it is one thing to cool

H an anesthetized patient before a

carefully planned, thoroughly controlled cardiac arrest and quite another to attempt to freeze and revive one who has technically just died. In the nineteenfifties, while R Adams Cowley was pioneering emergency care, Peter Safar, an anesthesiologist working independently on the other side of Baltimore, was founding the field of resuscitation science. He later became Sam Tisherman’s mentor: Tisherman’s current work at Shock Trauma is, in many ways, the culmination of both Safar’s and Cowley’s work. Safar’s innovations included the familiar CPR technique of combining mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions, as well as the life-size doll, known as Resusci Anne, that is used to teach it. But CPR still couldn’t save someone who was bleeding to death, and there was a limit to how quickly even the fastest ambulance


“Triple-A batteries, double-A batteries, aardvarks, ants …”

• service could deliver a hemorrhaging patient to the nearest trauma unit. The beginnings of a solution started to form in Safar’s mind during the mideighties, when he read a new study of combat casualties in the Vietnam War. The author, a U.S. Army surgeon named Colonel Ronald Bellamy, concluded that, in order to make an appreciable difference to trauma survival rates, “we need to be able to slow the casualty’s biological clock.” With funding from the military, Safar and Bellamy embarked on an entirely new area of research: to extend the window of opportunity for treating exsanguination cardiac arrest. They called the yet to be invented treatment “suspended animation for delayed resuscitation.” By then, Safar had moved to the University of Pittsburgh, which is where Tisherman became his protégé. Inspired by Bigelow’s experiments, Safar began to explore therapeutic hypothermia as a way of protecting patients’ brains over longer periods of time. In between his first and his second year of medical school, Tisherman worked with Safar, studying the phenomenon of seemingly miraculous resuscitation following coldwater drowning. In the late eighties, after his graduation and his residency train40

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

• ing, he returned to Safar’s lab to work on suspended animation. His goal was to see whether hypothermia might offer a way “to preserve and protect” a pulseless patient for two hours, which was Safar and Bellamy’s estimate of the time required to evacuate a wounded soldier from the battlefield and to conduct basic wound repair. Tisherman spent a decade inserting catheters into the femoral arteries of dozens of large, custom-bred hunting dogs, bleeding them out in less than five minutes. Then he would test a series of variables to learn how best to freeze and rewarm them. “I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” Tisherman told me. A former vegetarian, he finds animal trials distressing. In 1990, Tisherman and his colleagues published their first results. The findings were groundbreaking: dogs that had effectively died from blood loss and then been rapidly cooled to 59 degrees could be brought back to life an hour later with no brain damage. The cold reduced metabolic activity so precipitously that the oxygen that remained in the animal’s tissues from its final few breaths was sufficient to prevent brain death. During the next several years, by refining their technique and reducing their target temperature, the Pittsburgh group gradually

managed to extend the interval between death and resuscitation to three hours. As evidence mounted that suspended animation might actually work, other researchers joined the field. In 1996, Hasan Alam and Peter Rhee, researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, used pigs to expand on Tisherman’s successes. “We got to the stage where we could convert a hundred-per-cent-lethal injury to about a ninety-, ninety-fiveper-cent survival rate, neurologically intact,” Alam told me. To study the procedure’s impact on the pigs’ brains, Alam and Rhee created a memory test for them. Working nights and weekends in the basement of the U.S.U. medical center, they conducted experiments on a series of pigs, each of which was shown food-filled boxes in various colors and trained to recognize which one could be unlatched. Then the pigs were killed, chilled, and resuscitated. Post-resurrection, Alam and Rhee released the pigs into a maze of steel cages to see whether they were able to find the boxes and remember which ones they could open. The researchers videoed each experiment, and the footage makes for unnerving viewing. In clip after clip, you see a pig, open-chested and bloodspattered, its heart beating increasingly erratically before stopping, its flesh drained white. Footage of the same pig a few weeks later shows it eerily pink and whole, clattering across the concrete-floor maze and snuffling with pleasure as it flips open a blue plastic box full of food. By 2002, Tisherman and Safar were convinced that they had assembled enough evidence to test suspended animation in humans. But it took another twelve years to put together the protocols, approvals, and funding necessary for a clinical trial, and, in 2003, Peter Safar died, at the age of seventy-nine. Although each year seemed to bring fresh evidence of the power of cold temperatures to preserve and protect, suspended animation in humans remained a promising but unproved idea.

n April 12, 2015, a twenty-five-

O year-old black man named Fred-

die Gray arrived at Shock Trauma in a coma. His spinal cord had been severed while he was in the custody of six police officers, and he died a week


Life Hacks

QUOTE MARKS hen I was a child, I felt my

W own limits as the limits of my

notebook. I could not seem to keep one, not properly. I chafed against my diaries’ flimsy locks, their too small dimensions. I wanted a notebook that functioned not as a body but as a mind, a notebook that collected, interposed, collaged; a machine whose components could move, whose cogs, chutes, and levers were air. It was the sort of problem the future promised to solve. By the time I got my first smartphone, two decades later, a dozen note-taking apps had arrived, all promising to help us remember to pick up the milk, but in a techno way. As I assessed my choices, I discovered that I had certain requirements. I had to be able to draw badly in a note-taking app; I had to be able to incorporate audio recordings of myself saying “Fnaffle” at 3 A.M. so that I could spend the next day trying to figure out its significance; I needed to be able, in the middle of a meditation about nineteenth-century German aphorists, to insert a jpeg image of a large gelid octopus going down on a man with a twelve-pack which I found God knows where in my Internet travels. I settled on OneNote, which seemed the closest to my ideal. I keep a notes file for each book I write, both poetry and prose. The ones for poetry are appropriately short, and contain floating fragments, like “Rasputin’s penis on display in the museum—a wet supernatural yam . . .” The one for a novel is mostly scans of hurried longhand notes, which still seem the most natural way to prepare for a novel. The longest file by far, spinning out and never ending, is one called “DO THIS, 42

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

DO THAT,” which I have been adding to for years, and which I imagine I’ll turn into a book someday. It’s a collection of the strange quotations that artists—not just writers but painters, singers, actors, even athletes— sometimes let slip about their creative processes. Most of them are more suggestive than instructive, like something a yoga teacher might tell her students as they slipped into downward dog (I assume—I have never been to a yoga class, because I

know I would fart immediately). Once you begin looking, such quotations are everywhere. I scan, take screenshots, and paste them into the file, loosely organized into categories. Jimi Hendrix: “I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice.” Diana Vreeland: “About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.” Joe Brainard: “I remember a backdrop of a brick wall I painted for a play. I painted each red brick in by hand. Afterwards it occurred to me that I could have just painted the whole thing red and put in the white lines.” At the end of each section of the

file is an ever-expanding essay. The more of these quotes I add, the more my notebook looks not just like my mind but like the world’s. The desire to rip out pages is gone, because the pages are infinite. The wish to obliterate mistakes is gone, because all facts are at my fingertips. Georgia O’Keeffe: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” Eudora Welty: “Once you’re into a story everything seems to apply—what you overhear on a city bus is exactly what your character would say on the page you’re writing.” Now I am at the coffee shop, in a metal chair, bent over a table. Next to me is a woman and her barrel-chested dog, who thumps the coarse plume of his tail and continuously worries a mysterious black curve. “It’s a piece of antler,” the woman explains. “He carries it with him everywhere. He thinks it means something.” I type that into my notes and return to my book, Clarice Lispector’s “The Hour of the Star.” My pointer finger makes loops on the wooden table as I read—a tic I’ve had for as long as I can remember— tracing out the words as I go. I am looking for something; I feel I am about to find it: “Just as well that what I’m about to write is already somehow written within me. What I have to do is copy myself out with the delicacy of a white butterfly.” I stop; the finger stills. Down it goes into the notebook—below a picture of a heavily pregnant Garfield that I must have added last night when I was on the verge of sleep. A roundabout way of remembering to get the milk, but the only one that has ever worked for me. 

TODD ST. JOHN

By Patricia Lockwood


later. Gray’s death—like those of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other African-Americans who were killed by police in recent years—provoked an outcry against racism and brutality in law enforcement. There were demonstrations across the country, and in Baltimore the protests lasted two weeks. Six months later, on a breezy blue Friday morning, Tisherman, wearing pink scrubs, sat quietly behind a folding table in the atrium at Mondawmin Mall. On the day of Gray’s funeral, the mall, in West Baltimore, had been a flash point of confrontation among police clad in riot gear, protesters, and looters, but now the scene was placid. Shoppers strolled, people from a drugtreatment program were distributing needles, and the Black Mental Health Alliance offered free lip balm and brochures detailing its services. Tisherman and Leslie Sult, a clinical-research nurse, were handing out laser-printed leaflets about E.P.R., as part of a community consultation required before the trial could proceed. Among the difficulties facing the trial has been an ethical concern: enrollment is not voluntary. Prospective patients, being clinically dead, will be incapable of giving consent, and the speed of treatment—the decision to begin E.P.R. has to be made within a matter of seconds—precludes identifying, let alone contacting, the next of kin. (The F.D.A. requires informed consent for all human medical trials, but it does grant exceptions for emergency research.) In Baltimore, the issue of waived consent has disquieting social implications. Of the more than nine hundred people who were shot in the city last year— three hundred of whom died—more than ninety per cent were male, more than ninety per cent were black, and most were under the age of thirty. In the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of West Baltimore, thirty per cent of households live below the federal poverty line. As these neighborhoods lie just north of Shock Trauma, it is a virtual certainty that the first person to be selected for E.P.R. will be black, low-income, and male. Because of the consent issue, an institutional review board at the University of Maryland required Tisherman to devise a way for people to elect not to

be enrolled in advance. He designed a red rubber bracelet, in the style of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong wristbands, that says “NO TO EPR-CAT.” (E.P.R.-CAT is the trial’s full name; “CAT” stands for “cardiac arrest from trauma.”) Anyone wanting to opt out could request one and wear it at all times. Another stipulation made by the board was the community-consultation process. Over a three-month period, Tisherman and Sult visited various public spaces, distributing flyers, answering questions, and conducting surveys. There were interviews on local TV and radio stations, and ads in the city’s newspapers. At Mondawmin, Tisherman and Sult encountered a range of responses. A short woman wearing a head scarf and a denim vest approached the table with a question: “This all about CAT scans?” When Tisherman explained that it was an experimental new procedure for patients who bleed so much that their heart stops, she said, “I don’t think I have that.” Tisherman smiled and said, “Well, you never know,” before describing the trial. Several people asked for directions to the restrooms; others told Tisherman they supported anything that would help save lives. A few talked about the treatment family members had received at Shock Trauma in the past. A woman whose son had died of a gunshot wound nine years ago said, “I will never forget how long they worked to try to save him.” Only two people voiced objections: both were young black men, and both left before Tisherman could speak to them. The first pointed at Tisherman, smiled, and said, “Y’all heard me say no.” The second man, listening while Tisherman explained E.P.R. to two women, announced, “We’re guinea pigs—your body language says it!” Tisherman winced. The man’s point was essentially unanswerable. AfricanAmericans have indeed been used as guinea pigs, the unwitting victims of full-body radiation or unnecessary surgeries conducted in the name of research. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which lifesaving treatment was withheld from black men for forty years so that scientists could study the disease, is merely the most infamous example. As a result, mistrust of the medical establishment has long been

widespread among African-Americans. In 1982, Clive Callender, a surgeon at Howard University, published a study showing that many African-Americans feared that surgeons might actually withhold advanced resuscitation measures from black patients in order to harvest their organs for sick white people. Lawrence Brown, a public-health professor at Morgan State University, a historically black college in northern Baltimore, considers the E.P.R. trial’s consultation process and opt-out mechanism to be insuffi cient—to the extent that it renders the entire trial harmful. He pointed out that the participation rate of minorities in clinical trials is already disconcertingly low; even if E.P.R. proved to be a success, it could further undermine efforts to recruit people of color. “If you save thirty lives a year and you keep thousands of people from participating in the advancement of science, do we really count that as a win?” he asked. Brown and others have also repeatedly demonstrated that the medical care that African-Americans receive is routinely inferior to that received by whites, in ways that extend beyond issues of access and affordability. One welldocumented example is the fact that African-Americans are still, on average, prescribed less medication for pain— an echo of an old slaveholder claim that black people had less sensitive nerve endings than whites and could thus better withstand beatings. Furthermore, research into gunshot injuries, from which blacks are more than twice as likely to die as whites, is chronically underfunded. There is no national funding body for trauma research, no trauma ribbon or month. John Holcomb, a trauma surgeon in Houston, told me that this should be a source of national shame. “There’s more funding in relation to the impact of disease for middle-ear infections than there is for injury,” he said. “Pretty amazing when you consider that trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of forty-seven.” Tisherman is all too aware that the medical establishment reflects society’s THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

43


systemic injustices. Nonetheless, he feels as though the procedure’s potential— giving a second chance to patients who would otherwise almost certainly die— makes the ethical quandaries surrounding a waived-consent trial acceptable. Others strongly disagree. Harriet A. Washington, a medical ethicist and the author of “Medical Apartheid,” a prize-winning history of experimentation on African-Americans, told me, “Often, when people give a rationale for this kind of research they talk about the fact that these people are urgently ill, need immediate intervention, and that better solutions are needed.” Such arguments, she said, conflate research and care, and clinicians and patients are prone to overestimate the efficacy of prospective treatments, a phenomenon known as “the therapeutic illusion.” “This is research, so, by definition, you can’t yet know that the advantages outweigh the risk,” Washington said. E.P.R. could potentially allow a patient who would otherwise have died to survive with debilitating brain damage. In Washington’s view, the E.P.R. trial, by operating without informed consent, “robbed an already marginalized group of the ability to say yes or no to a study that might harm them.” A couple of months after the visit to Mondawmin Mall, I talked to Leslie Sult about the consultation process. She noted that Shock Trauma had an excellent reputation in West Baltimore, and deep connections with the communities there, but she also acknowledged that hundreds of conversations had brought home to her “just how delicate the situation is.” She said, “The community in general has an over-all mistrust of medicine, and they’re just very protective.” ecades of research have estab-

D lished that suspended animation

works in carefully planned animal experiments. But, with review-board approval secured and the trial finally under way, Tisherman is facing a fresh challenge: translating a laboratory procedure into the messy reality of the trauma unit. In December, 2015, I attended an E.P.R. training session in Shock Trauma’s simulation lab. The 44

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

plan had been to do a complete runthrough of the procedure, but there were so many questions about unforeseen complications that the rehearsal kept grinding to a halt. One nurse wanted to know how the team would be paged, by whom, and when; the protocol requires specially trained medics to materialize from various hospital departments within minutes, as the potential candidate flatlines. Another pointed to a risk that the entire unit might flood, given that the patient would leak not only every last drop of blood but also a potentially limitless amount of salt water. After several minutes of discussion, the team decided that they would direct the bulk of the flow into a garbage can using plastic sheeting and vacuum the rest into a biohazard cannister. “That was not necessarily a welloiled machine,” Tisherman said to me afterward. “But it was the beginnings of one.” He demonstrates boundless reserves of patience in the face of the endless delays that the trial has encountered, and his resolve seems to influence those around him. Still, Tisherman estimates that it will be at least another two years before the results from the first patients can be made public. (It is Shock Trauma’s policy not to comment while the trial is under way.) He expects to learn an enormous amount from the very first patient, and has even considered the possibility that he may have to revise the protocol midway—which would, in turn, mean going back to the F.D.A. and the hospital review boards for approval. The trial, he pointed out, may be the culmination of three decades of work, but it is actually just the beginning. If the technique proves successful, Tisherman hopes that it will also save patients who bleed out from other kinds of injury, such as blunt trauma from car accidents. Eventually, he expects, refinements to the procedure will enable first responders to use it outside the hospital. In the United States, between thirty and forty thousand people a year bleed to death from fixable injuries. Ultimately, if the technique does evolve as Tisherman envisages, it

will simply become the next step for treatment after CPR has failed, used to buy time and prevent brain death in almost any situation where a person’s heart has stopped and can’t be re-started quickly. It could save people dying from heart attacks or drug overdoses, or even kids who drown in back-yard pools. “This is almost like open-heart surgery was back in the sixties,” John Holcomb, the trauma surgeon in Houston, said. “It was only done in one or two places, it was extremely complex, it was considered very experimental. And now it’s routine.” ome years before Brandon Lit-

S tlejohn died at Shock Trauma, his

aunt Roxanne Cunningham requested a job transfer. She had been working in the hospital’s admitting area and could no longer bear to see gunshot victims rushed past on gurneys and surgeons telling family members that they had lost a loved one. “I just used to sit there and cry,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do that job no more.” Earlier this year, Cunningham lost another nephew, Anthony Drumgoole, in a shooting. An Instagram photo shows Lil’ Tony, as he was known, grinning in his college-football uniform: he was shot in the head just before 9 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in February, a fifteen-minute walk from Mondawmin Mall and just a dozen blocks northwest of the park in which his cousin was shot five years earlier. “I don’t know why,” Cunningham said. “Nobody knows.” With two of her seven nephews dead, Cunningham nonetheless considers her family blessed. “So many families have lost maybe three, four children to gun violence,” she said. Brandon Littlejohn’s homicide was one of nine shootings and stabbings reported in Baltimore that April weekend in 2011. Last year was the deadliest in the city’s history; this year, gun crimes look set to match those levels, despite an increase in illegal-weapons seizures and a city-sponsored Safe Streets program, which was implemented following Freddie Gray’s death. “I wish they had E.P.R. when Brandon was shot,” Cunningham said. “I wish he could have had that second chance.” 


SHOUTS & MURMURS

EMERGENCY CANADIAN RESIDENCE APPLICATION BY BRUCE MCCALL

with you: hockey equipment, a flannel cap with earflaps, a box of Tim Hortons doughnuts, and a caribou. NOTICE: You have passed the knowledge quiz, but your application for emergency Canadian residence is hereby rejected. You are clearly making Canadian jokes.

second chance

elcome to Canada!/Bienvenue au Canada! * *If you are a terrorist, please disregard this message.

W

(d) Gold-leaf supplies are inadequate. (e) He does not understand basic rules of curling. (f ) He can not spell “R.C.M.P.”

I,_______________, wish to leave the United States for the following reason(s): Stop/Arrêtez! You may use an alias only if you are not a terrorist or a rabid Canadian-baiter.

settlers’ effects: prohibition list

Unlike some countries, Canada, thanks to the 1949 Rat Portage Humane Treatment Conference, gives guilty parties an opportunity to redeem themselves. If you are guilty, or if you only feel guilty, please continue.

Please note that U.S. citizens granted emergency Canadian residence are prohibited from bringing: Signs, sandwich boards, or ban-

Circle the errors in the following sentences: (a) Trump is a monstrous asshole, eh?

__President Trump will ban Chinese takeout. __My dog is named Loser. __I wish to volunteer to help build a border wall to keep Americans out of Canada. Other: ______________________ (No curse words, please! )

WALTER GREEN

true or false

Canada would never elect Trump to lead the nation, because: (a) No leader required. (b) No official residence would be swanky/vulgar enough. (c) Very few girls who are eights, nines, and tens.

(b) Trump, the hoser, speaks real bad ners ridiculing Céline Dion; medical meat loaf; anti-environmental aerosol French. (c) Trump crosses streets against hair spray; non-metric liquids; Princes Harry and William YouTube “joke” the light. videos. Hands up! This is an F.B.I. sting! knowledge quiz

Circle the incorrect item(s) in the following statements: If you should apply for emergency residence in the Netherlands, you would bring with you: hockey equipment, a flannel cap with earflaps, a box of Tim Hortons doughnuts, and a moose. If you should apply for emergency residence in Paraguay, you would bring

Ha ha ha! Just kidding. Hands down! You see, your Canuck friends have only been up to some tomfoolery to cheer up Americans like yourself, who are applying for emergency residence. We know you must be cheesed off at us just now! So go ahead and deduct fifty per cent of the fee for this application to ease your bruised feelings.* *There is no fee for this application. We just want everybody to like us.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Profiles

WORST-CASE SCENARIO The prophetic satire of Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror.” BY GILES HARVEY

listings for imaginary TV shows, TVGoHome (the name was inspired by a piece of xenophobic graffiti) gave Brooker a format in which to hone his gift for brutal extrapolation. The Web site was designed to resemble the Radio Times, the popular TV guide published until recently by the BBC. The listings took the reader to an alternate reality, in which the latent prurience and sadism of the nation’s favorite shows were laid bare: 1:45 — Boom Goes Lovergirl Hilarious hidden-camera action as insular nerds spend weeks being led up the garden path by sophisticated androids posing as attractive women, secretly wired to explode as soon as the word “love” is spoken. 3:30 — Strapped to Your Dad Troublesome teenagers strapped arm, leg and hip to their fathers in order to feel his erection rousing against them as he is shown wild pornography over their shoulder. 12:50am — Fun Goose or War Edge-of-the-seat gameshow in which two ageing bachelors are flown over an African warzone and commanded to draw a cartoon goose on the back of a shovel with a lump of coal. The creator of the most amusing sketch is slowly fellated by a prostitute with a mouthful of honey, while the loser parachutes into the middle of the raging battle below armed with only a dustbin lid, a clockwork pistol, and a webcam glued to his forehead.

The TV show’s techno-dystopian “what if ”s have proved remarkably prescient. n 1999, at the age of twenty-eight,

I Charlie Brooker, the British sati-

rist who is now a television auteur, was at a low ebb. He’d spent most of his twenties freelancing for PC Zone, a little-read gaming magazine, where he was able to indulge his obscene and misanthropic sense of humor. Among other items, he contributed a regular comic strip about video-game culture, “Cybertwats,” and a back-page column, “Sick Notes,” in which he would solicit hate mail from subscribers and respond in kind. But Brooker, a gaming addict who’d left Westminster University without a degree, was feeling directionless. At parties, it was an ordeal to explain how he earned a

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living. “They’d look at you like you’d said, ‘I do coloring in,’ ” he once told a reporter. “ ‘I’ve got these coloring-in books, and I color things in.’ ” He wanted to write for television, but was hampered by self-doubt. Marooned on his sofa “like a woozy sea lion,” he spent weeks at a time scowling at the reality shows, talent competitions, and celebrity vehicles that were beginning to dominate Britain’s programming. Once, after a breakup, he turned his set on its side so he could watch while lying down. As a means of imposing order on his desultory existence, Brooker started a Web site, which he vowed to update every two weeks. Comprised of lurid

Britain has always been fond of its cranks and cynics, and soon TVGoHome was drawing more than a hundred thousand readers a month. Seventeen years later, it is hard not to see the Web site, which Brooker retired in 2002, as the prototype for “Black Mirror,” his acclaimed and eerily clairvoyant series about the unintended consequences of technological innovation. Like TVGoHome, “Black Mirror” is powered by an engine of speculative dread. As an anthology show, it is made up of standalone episodes, each featuring its own fictional world and cast of characters. Some episodes use existing technologies as the basis for their nightmare scenarios. What if an Anonymousstyle group of hacktivists began blackmailing members of the public with unsavory snippets of their Internet browsing history? What if a popular cartoon character, controlled by an actor at the helm of a live-motioncapture system, successfully ran for ILLUSTRATION BY MALIKA FAVRE


Parliament on an anti-establishment platform? Others entertain unsettling day-after-tomorrow hypotheses. What if people had a microchip embedded in their necks that recorded their lives and allowed them to replay memories at will? What if there was a software program that enabled a bereaved person to communicate with a lost loved one by creating an avatar using the deceased’s digital footprint? The show, which first aired in Britain, on Channel 4, in 2011, became an international hit, with licensing rights sold in more than ninety territories. In 2014, Netflix acquired exclusive U.S. streaming rights for the first two seasons. Last year, Brooker and his longtime collaborator Annabel Jones signed a contract with Netflix to make twelve new episodes. (The deal was reportedly worth forty million dollars.) “Black Mirror” answers to a mood of global unease about the breakneck pace of technological development; Brooker’s audience already knows what it is like to witness the

sudden arrival of the future—or, as he put it in his weekly column for the Guardian, to recognize how “nutsdeep into the future we already are.” Last month, on the day the third season was released, a cyberattack crashed several popular Web sites, including Spotify, Reddit, and Netflix. On Twitter, Stephen King described “Black Mirror” as “terrifying, funny, intelligent. It’s like The Twilight Zone, only rated R.” Zadie Smith considers it one of the best things to appear on British TV in decades. “It’s the ultimate commentary on shit television by virtue of being head and shoulders above everything else,” she wrote in an e-mail. “It reminds me of TVGoHome in that it’s formed out of a sort of exquisite rage, but it’s also so terrifically and fully imagined—the speculative fiction element is sublime.” In May, I met with Brooker, who is now forty-five, on location at Harpsden Court, a rambling country house in South Oxfordshire, which “Black

Mirror” had commandeered to film an episode of its third season. “I suppose that in TVGoHome there’s a dry, deadpan presentation of a horrendous idea,” he said. “And then they’ve often come true. Someone sent me a link to a new show the other day. It was something like ‘Joanna Lumley Swimming with Dogs.’ And they were like, ‘This is straight out of TVGoHome.’” Brooker was sitting hunched over a MacBook, his graying quiff, crafty eyes, and sullen mouth caught in the screen’s pale glare. In person, he radiates a negative exuberance, though he is milder, more tentative than his work might lead you to expect. A scrum of crew members were preparing for a scene to be shot in an upstairs bedroom. The room had a maximum occupancy of fifteen, so Brooker and Jones, his fellow showrunner, were monitoring the day’s progress through a live video linkup in an oak-panelled hall downstairs. “I assume the whole floor collapses if there are sixteen people,” Brooker said. “But it doesn’t specify their weight or size on the door, which is worrying.” “When we were rehearsing yesterday, Charlie was literally doing a head count,” Jones said. Their relationship seemed to be founded on affectionate reciprocal mockery. “He was terrified the floor was going to fall through.” “I’m terrified of most things, to be fair,” Brooker said. he techno-dystopian “what

T if ”s that Brooker poses in “Black Mirror” are far-fetched, but his me-

“He was once funny ha-ha, but now he’s just funny terrifying.”

ticulous attention to detail gives the show a remarkable plausibility. “I’ve never been interested in the school of sci-fi that’s about, you know, aliens with croissant-shaped foreheads flying about through Sector Alpha-6,” Brooker said. “I can’t get a foothold on that.” Instead, he grounds his high-concept stories in the humanly mundane. Like “The Twilight Zone,” another anthology series that distilled the ambient paranoia of its age, “Black Mirror” ranges effortlessly across genres, cannibalizing everything from police procedurals and kitchen-sink dramas to eighties music videos and feminine-hygiene commercials; it


is manifestly the work of someone who has clocked up many hours of screen time. But the show returns again and again to the domestic: horror, Brooker understands, begins at home. In “The Entire History of You,” the episode about the microchip, or “grain,” that records people’s memories, a group of well-off thirty-somethings sit around a dinner table making small talk. When one member of the party reveals that she is “going grainless,” an awkward silence descends. “Is that a political thing?” another character asks. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t do it,” a third says. It isn’t so much the shock of the new as the shock of recognition that makes the moment so disconcerting. We have all been involved in conversations about smartphone holdouts, and anyone who has resisted joining Facebook or Twitter has felt the subtle coercion of consensus. Each episode of “Black Mirror” establishes the background of normality against which a decisive tweak will stand out all the more starkly. In “The National Anthem,” the show’s début episode, set in a fictional Britain, Princess Susannah, a popular member of the Royal Family, is abducted. Her release hinges on a single demand: the Prime Minister must have unsimulated sex with a pig on live television. “The idea had been knocking around for a while,” Brooker said. “Originally, it was a beloved celebrity that’s blackmailed into fucking a pig on live TV. Society wouldn’t quite be the same. How would you deal with censorship after that?” A few years later, he was watching the counterterrorism drama “24,” one of his favorite shows, when a new possibility occurred to him. “I thought, God, you could do it like that,” he said, his voice recalling the hushed awe of artistic revelation. “The way to do it would be to play it straight.” In 2010, Brooker and Jones took the premise, along with several other story lines, to Shane Allen, then the head of comedy at Channel 4, and proposed a new series. Allen had commissioned “Dead Set” (2008), Brooker’s first foray into television drama, in which the inhabitants of the “Big Brother” house are the last to learn

of a zombie apocalypse ravaging the outside world. (The master joke is that nobody is alive to watch.) The five-part series enjoyed critical and commercial success, but Allen was dubious about “Black Mirror,” and especially about “The National Anthem.” “It’s one of those things where your knee-jerk response is ‘I’m not sure you can do that,’ ” Allen told me recently at BBC headquarters, in central London, where he is now in charge of comedy. “My boss at the time wasn’t too impressed with it.” The possibility of using another animal was briefly considered. “A chicken?” Allen said when I pressed him for details. “Or a horse? It was a mad conversation.” Commercial viability was another concern. British TV budgets are negligible compared with those in the U.S., and many U.K. shows rely on deficit funding from distributors, who typically sell programs to international markets in bulk. Anthology shows are costly to make and often struggle to build an audience. Nevertheless, Brooker was given a tentative go-ahead and produced the first fifteen pages of a script for “The National Anthem” in a few days. “It was crisp, it was brilliant,” Allen recalled. In lesser hands, he suggested, the premise would have turned farcical; Brooker’s genius was to take “a ridiculous idea and make it feel very rooted and real.” “The National Anthem” falls into the category of “Black Mirror” episodes that could conceivably occur today with the technology at our disposal: social media and the television news are all that is needed to bring about its wretched consummation. They are also the means by which Brooker persuades us to suspend our disbelief at the idea that the British government would give in to a kidnapper’s demand, let alone the demand that is made of Michael Callow, the Prime Minister. Throughout the episode, the screen pulsates with news crawls and graphics, polling results, tweets. We briefly see a video of the kidnapped Princess on YouTube; it has received 19,345,973 views and, in a sardonic touch, more likes (8,471) than dislikes (8,004). We also see Callow’s wife, Jane, THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Life Hacks

FOLLOW THE MONEY n the fall of 2009, when I was

I just starting to make a living as a

standup, I had lunch with a fellowcomedian who recommended that I join Twitter. “Why would I write jokes on my phone for free,” I asked, “when VH1 pays me upwards of a hundred dollars a week to tell jokes about Lindsay Lohan’s vagina?” My friend argued that it would be good for self-promotion. I countered that it would be an addictive waste of time, that it might exacerbate my worst tendencies, and that it would keep me away from doing real comedy, onstage. He pointed out that, if I didn’t join, someone else could claim the handle @JoeMande and start writing jokes under my name. I took out my phone and joined Twitter before we got the check. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s C.E.O., likes to say that Twitter is “the future of communications.” If that’s true, then communication is now a form of competition. The moment you write a tweet, you start receiving real-time statistics—faves and retweets. Like it or not, this affects your sense of self-worth. The simplest way to tell who’s winning the Twitter game is by counting followers. The biggest celebrity accounts—Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga— seem to have millions of followers. But in 2012 I learned that only a portion of those are real humans; some are “bots,” artificially created to boost an account’s popularity. Immediately, I knew that I had found my calling. First, I would buy a million followers. When that stunt was done, I would see how far I could push it. Three million followers? Thirty million? My goal was to have the world’s highest count of followers, all of them fake. It would be an elaborate meta-joke, a piece of performance art demonstrating that social media is stupid and fame is meaningless. When I explained my 50

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

plan to my girlfriend, she reminded me that I used to be “too cool for Twitter.” I told her that I still was— and this would prove it! On Fiverr.com, a sort of online ninety-nine-cent store, I found a bot vender. I sent five dollars to a PayPal account, and that afternoon my follower count ballooned, from seventy thousand to more than a hundred thousand. But these bots were shoddy: the user names were random strings of numbers, and the bio sections were empty. It didn’t

take long for Twitter’s bot-detection system to find and destroy them. Next, I contacted a black-market bot dealer from Moldova. These bots were beautiful artisanal creations. They had avatars with real faces, taken from unsuspecting Twitter accounts, and full bio sections, copied from other accounts. Every few days, I would send my dealer twenty dollars, and a few hours later fifty thousand bots would start following me. Within a couple of weeks, I was up to nine hundred thousand followers. I must have added too many too fast, though, because the bot-prevention system caught on. Every night, Twitter would kill thousands of my bots. I wrote angry e-mails to the Moldovan,

but he/she/they couldn’t fix it. The slaughter became all I could think about. I was Kurtz, and Twitter was my jungle. I kept buying bots to replenish the bots I was losing. My girlfriend made me promise to donate a dollar to charity for every dollar I spent on bots. If her intention was to slow me down, it didn’t work. At some point, the Moldovan stopped returning my e-mails. As this private online meltdown was occurring, I was still doing standup in the real world. One night, after a show in San Francisco, I met up with a friend, and some friends of friends, at an Italian restaurant. Over a bottle of wine, I related the whole saga of my bots, ending with an inspired monologue about Twitter’s corporate hypocrisy: how dare it allow Lady Gaga to keep her fake followers while engaging in attempted bot genocide against mine? (I was pretty drunk.) At the end of my rant, the guy sitting next to me, a quiet man with a neat beard, said, “That’s very interesting. You should come in sometime and talk about it.” “Come in where?” I said. Everyone started laughing. “That’s Jack Dorsey, you idiot,” my friend said. “He runs Twitter.” Eventually, I found some venders who got me over the million-follower mark, and Twitter let me stay there. Now my Twitter bio reads, “i bought a million followers for like $400 none of this shit matters antarctica is melting.” I still spend a lot of time on Twitter, though, mostly retweeting vapid celebrities like Randy Quaid and Pitbull. Eventually, Twitter will go away. Some new platform will take its place, and I’m sure I’ll find a way to waste time and money on it while promoting my own career. Anyway, I’ll be at the Fox Cabaret, in Vancouver, on December 3rd. Come see me if you’re in the area. I’ll probably tweet about it. 

TODD ST. JOHN

By Joe Mande


scrolling through her Twitter feed, her face taut with the rising pressure of tears: WAKE UP SHEEPLE THIS IS FALSE FLAG OPERATION – GET SYMPATHY FOR PM THEN BOMB YEMEN #PMpig, #kidnap, #trottergate, #bilderberg OINK OINK CALLOW :–D #PMpig, #kidnap He better not think about his wife during it cos it’ll put him off! #pigfuckercallow #PMpig

Like most episodes of “Black Mirror,” “The National Anthem” is a forty-five-minute panic attack. But it wouldn’t be as harrowing, or as poignant, if we didn’t care about the effect of the unfolding crisis on the Callows’ marriage. Hearth and home are also at the center of “Playtest,” the episode that was being filmed at Harpsden Court, which Brooker characterized as a “horror romp” in the vein of “Evil Dead 2.” In the episode, Cooper, a young American backpacker, played by Wyatt Russell, is stranded in London, the last stop on a round-theworld trip, after his credit card is hacked. To earn money for a plane ticket back to the U.S., he responds to an online ad posted by a videogame company to test a new “interactive augmented reality system” that uses a neural implant called a “mushroom” to generate audiovisual hallucinations based on the user’s deepest fears. Brooker spends the opening minutes establishing his protagonist’s troubled family history. Cooper’s father has recently died after a descent into Alzheimer’s, and his relationship with his mother is strained. Early one morning, he gathers his bags and tiptoes down the stairs of his childhood home so as not to wake her. It is typical of Brooker’s grimly ironic narrative sensibility that Cooper’s escapism should bring him to a technologically enhanced haunted house, a dark parody of home. At Harpsden Court, someone called out, “Quiet, please! The time is nigh!” Brooker and Jones put on their headphones and huddled around the video monitors, which stood in front of an open fireplace. In the scene, Russell is slouched against a four-poster bed, pleading with two

members of the videogame company to turn off the augmented-reality system. Earlier, Brooker had suggested that Russell play the scene with even greater abandon than he had in previous takes; he wanted to insure that his frenzy was commensurate with the ghastly situation in which he found himself. As Russell took another stab at it—“Stop!” he howled repeatedly, his voice at full stretch, while two impassive musclemen lugged him away—Brooker flexed his eyebrows and winced. This seemed to signal approval. rooker grew up a Quaker in

B the small Oxfordshire village of

Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, a short drive from Harpsden Court. His father was a social worker. His mother worked at a gift shop; her parents were actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Brooker speaks of certain shows from his childhood as though he were yet to recover from them. A 1982 episode of “Q.E.D.,” the BBC’s popular science program, explored what would happen if a one-megaton nuclear bomb exploded over St. Paul’s Cathedral, in central London. In the episode, the viewer sees a map of the city, a large portion of it shaded red, while a matter-offact narrator tells us, “Everywhere inside this seven-mile radius—for example, at the shops in Holland Park Avenue—the effect on directly exposed flesh is the same: it behaves like the meat in the butcher’s window.”The film cuts to time-lapse footage of fat oozing off a strung-up pig carcass. “I still sort of expect to die in a nuclear holocaust,” Brooker told me over lunch, which we ate on the ground floor of a double-decker dining trailer for the cast and crew a few fields over from Harpsden Court. “I think that’s where the pessimism comes from,” he continued. “I remember a history teacher who taught us a whole lesson and then at the end said, ‘It doesn’t matter anyway, ’cause we’ll all blow ourselves up.’ I was like, ‘Oh right, thanks. Does that mean I don’t have to do the exam?’ ”

Brooker’s video-game habit was inaugurated one afternoon in the late seventies during a trip to the local swimming pool, where he encountered his first arcade machine. “The notion that you could control what was on the screen was just magical,” he told me. Even when he didn’t have enough money, he would move the joystick as he watched a game’s demo and persuade himself that he was playing. “I don’t think that feeling ever really went away,” he said. “I have to buy every new games console that comes out.” In 1999, Brooker was introduced to one of his heroes, Chris Morris, the creator of the spoof current-affairs programs “The Day Today” and “Brass Eye,” which many consider a highwater mark of British television comedy. Morris, an admirer of TVGoHome, was especially taken with the recurring character Nathan Barley, “an upper-middle-class London media prickhole” whose day-to-day activities—networking, d.j.ing at pubs, getting overpriced haircuts—form the basis of a fly-on-the-wall documentary series. Morris proposed to Brooker that they turn Barley and the vacuous new-media scene he exemplified into a sitcom. “Nathan Barley,” which Brooker described as feeling “a bit like sci-fi at the time,” now appears to have been the R. & D. department for “Black Mirror.” Gadgets abound; Barley’s cell phone, the Wasp T-12, which can also function as a camera, a projector, and a set of “MP3 decks,” predates the first iPhone by a couple of years. “It’s got apps, only they’re physical,” Brooker said. “We hadn’t thought these things were going to be on the screen.” Working on the series, he recalled, he and Morris would have “conversations that lasted for ages about the typeface on a poster in the background.” As showrunner on “Black Mirror,” Brooker is similarly scrupulous. The believability of each episode depends on maintaining the complex internal logic of its dystopic world, so he watches for the kinds of inconsistencies that can be unwittingly introduced THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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during filming and editing. In “Playtest,” an employee of the video-game company assures Cooper that the spectres he sees during the trial are merely holograms and can’t harm him, a claim that comes to seem increasingly suspect. During a fight scene between him and a woman who may or may not be a hallucination, a bottle of wine is knocked to the floor. Brooker, Jones, and Dan Trachtenberg, the episode’s director, pondering the levels of reality to which different props and characters belonged, discussed at length whether the bottle would shatter. (They eventually ruled that it would.) In “San Junipero,” another new episode that involves simulated reality, two characters are caught in a downpour. As filming got under way, Brooker began to doubt whether it would rain at all in this particular world. He spent a week and a half debating the point with the director before conceding that he was “just being a prick about it.” Brooker was determined to make the devices and screens and interfaces used in “Black Mirror” seem authentic. “In Hollywood, if the hero receives an e-mail there’ll be a giant animation of a fucking envelope spinning around,” he said. “We try to avoid those kinds of histrionic computers.” In “Be Right Back,” the episode about the software for the bereaved, the female protagonist, whose husband has recently died in a car accident, receives an e-mail from an online bookseller with the subject line “Martha, people in your position bought the following.” When she opens it, the message shows an array of griefcounselling books, each accompanied by customer reviews. We glimpse the screen, and Martha’s irritated response to it, for only a second. (In the future world of the episode, deleting an e-mail simply requires making a fist in the air and opening your hand again, as though crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it away.) But the vignette stands for an accumulation of such intrusive moments—the death of solitude by a thousand digital cuts. At the root of the show’s creepy prescience lies Brooker’s entrepreneurial grasp of what people desire, or 52

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

might be made to desire. He frequently receives tweets and e-mails about realworld developments that echo details from the show. Samsung recently patented a “smart” contact lens that projects images directly into the user’s eye; the characters in “The Entire History of You” use a similar item, a kind of phenomenological DVR, to record and replay their lives in real time. “The National Anthem” first aired in late 2011. Last year, an unauthorized biography of British Prime Minister David Cameron quoted an anonymous member of Parliament who claimed to have witnessed Cameron during his student days at Oxford placing “a private part of his anatomy” inside the mouth of a dead pig during a hazing ritual for an exclusive social club. Twitter did what Twitter does with such material, but the BBC and other traditional news organizations initially resisted covering the story. The situation plays out in an almost identical manner in “The National Anthem.” Even the Twitter hashtags that appear in the episode—“#PMpig,” “#trottergate”—showed up on the actual Web. “Who’d have thought the pigfucking episode would be the most accurate one?” Brooker said. “I didn’t know anything about that, by the way. I’d never heard the rumor. So when that story broke I was quite weirded out and genuinely worried for a short period that maybe reality is a simulation designed to confuse.” He exhaled. “I hope it doesn’t happen again.” or all its imaginative range,

Brooker’s work regularly returns F to a particular character type: the

wayward, disaffected young man who has more rage than he knows what to do with. Nathan Barley spends much of his time trying to win the approval of a jaundiced hack named Dan Ashcroft, who has won minor celebrity for his articles deriding “the idiots” who make up his milieu, those “self-regarding consumer slaves” who “babble into handheld twit machines.” One TVGoHome listing describes an episode of a documentary series called “Britain’s Angriest Failures,”

devoted to a man who “explains how everything on television is produced by a cabal of guffawing nepotists hell-bent on filling the schedules with simple-minded rubbish, while lying in front of his television smoking cannabis on a grimy towelling robe.” In 2000, Brooker began working on the satirical news program “The 11 O’Clock Show” and writing his TV column for the Guardian. A few years later, the column grew into a weekly review program, “Screenwipe,” in which Brooker, ensconced in the living room of his South London flat, wryly taxonomized TV conventions (“TV presenters are basically imaginary friends, and they come in four main types ”) and delivered baroquely vituperative monologues straight into the camera. It is not always easy to distinguish between the crotchety couch pundit and Brooker himself. Shane Allen, a producer on “The 11 O’Clock Show,” told me about a New Year’s Eve party in the early aughts at which Brooker, having spent most of the night sitting quietly by himself, rose from his chair, put on the song “I Hate People,” by the hardcore punk group the Anti-Nowhere League (chorus: “I hate people / I hate the human race / I hate people / I hate your ugly face”), proceeded to “wave his arse at everybody in the room, singing the song word for word, and then just sat down as though nothing had happened.” In 2008, Brooker received a spoof news article from one of his admirers about Kerry Katona, a member of the British pop group Atomic Kitten. Katona, who had a history of drug addiction, had recently appeared on the daytime talk show “This Morning” to promote a new reality series. She was clearly intoxicated, and her speech veered in and out of intelligibility. The article described Katona as a “mentally hilarious ex-girl band jizz puppet” and a “pram-faced shitmuncher.” Brooker was mortified. “I couldn’t work out which was worse,” he wrote in the Guardian. “The fact that they’d written this in the first place or the assumption that I, specifically, would find it funny.” In 2010, Brooker retired the column


and married Konnie Huq, a former host of the classic BBC children’s variety program “Blue Peter.” They now have two young children. “It’s like getting new software installed in your head,” Brooker said of being a father, though he rejected the idea that it had mellowed him. “If anything, I’ve got to get crosser. There are people who are going to be around after I’m dead who I give a shit about.” “Black Mirror” is as scabrous as anything Brooker has done, but it is also clearly the work of a person who has thought through the risks and limitations of default-mode misanthropy. In “The Waldo Moment,” the episode about a blue cartoon bear who successfully stands for Parliament, the disaffected public can’t get enough of Waldo’s ribald anti-politics. Critics were unconvinced when it aired in 2013, and Brooker told me he agreed that the ending, which skips forward to a Waldo-dominated global police state, is too abrupt. Now it seems prophetic. On the night of November 8th, as a Trump Presidency began to look increasingly likely, the show’s Twitter account posted: “This isn’t an episode. This isn’t marketing. This is reality.” “Black Mirror” is full of the cynical types that populate Brooker’s earlier work, but they are presented with a new subtlety and skepticism. In the climactic scene of “The Waldo Moment,” Jamie Salter, the depressive comedian who voices Waldo, tries to make amends with his young Labour opponent, whose career he has wrecked during the campaign. She is unreceptive. “I was at least attempting to represent—well, I don’t know, not just bollocks to everything,” she says. “If you were preaching revolution, well, that would be something. But you’re not, because that would require courage. And a mind-set. And what have you got? Who are you? What are you for?” Salter, unable to meet her gaze, has no answer. I asked Brooker the same thing— what he felt he was “for”—when we met at the Gore Hotel, an upscale establishment on a street of pollarded trees in Kensington, just around the corner from the Royal Albert Hall.

He paused over his meal. “Now, there’s a profoundly disturbing question,” he said. Brooker first achieved recognition by, as he put it, “standing outside the tent pissing in.” But he is no revolutionary; his world view is essentially cautious, humanistic. “I think most people are inherently good,” he said. “When they throw themselves behind some ugly cause, it’s usually out of fear or because they’re not availed of all the facts. The show generally reflects that. It’s usually just people with a weakness who end up fucking up. We don’t have many mustachetwirling villains. But I am a worrier and I do think things are going to go horribly wrong by accident.” Saul Bellow once described human beings as “the not-yet-stabilized animal.” The majority of people, he wrote, “will never attain equilibrium and . . . are by nature captious, fretful, irritable, uncomfortable, looking for relief from their travail and angry that it does not come.” Brooker possesses the same intuitive understanding of humans as works in progress. Bellow’s characters look for relief in ideology or religion; Brooker’s, afflicted by grief, boredom, loneliness, and desire, are drawn to the promise of stability held out by technological optimization. Like all such promises, this one proves to be illusory, and their wishfulness comes at a cost. The bill arrived, and Brooker insisted on paying. The PIN pad blipped obediently as he entered his number, then let out a low, querulous screech. “Oh, it’s not that, is it,” he said. “Hold on.” He tried a different combination, with the same result. “I could’ve sworn that’s what it was.” Our waitress smiled politely. “Shall I try this one more time?” he asked. “Or does that then lock me out of my card?” Brooker paid in cash. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, he said, as we got up to leave. It seemed an answer to my question. Brooker is for a world in which, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, generous allowances continue to be made for human error.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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THE POLITICAL SCENE

IT HAPPENED HERE A President confronts an election that changes everything—and imperils his legacy. BY DAVID REMNICK

he morning after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Barack Obama summoned staff members to the Oval Office. Some were fairly junior and had never been in the room before. They were sombre, hollowed out, some fighting tears, humiliated by the defeat, fearful of autocracy’s moving vans pulling up to the door. Although Obama and his people admit that the election results caught them completely by surprise—“We had no plan for this,” one told me—the President sought to be reassuring. “This is not the apocalypse,” Obama said. History does not move in straight lines; sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it goes backward. A couple of days later, when I asked the President about that consolation, he offered this: “I don’t believe in apocalyptic—until the apocalypse comes. I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world.” Obama’s insistence on hope felt more willed than audacious. It spoke to the civic duty he felt to prevent despair not only among the young people in the West Wing but also among countless Americans across the country. At the White House, as elsewhere, dread and dejection were compounded by shock. Administration officials recalled the collective sense of confidence about the election that had persisted for many months, the sense of balloons and confetti waiting to be released. Last January, on the eve of his final State of the Union address, Obama submitted to a breezy walk-andtalk interview in the White House with the “Today” show. Wry and self-possessed, he told Matt Lauer that no matter what happened in the election he was sure that “the overwhelming majority” of Americans would never submit to Donald Trump’s appeals to their fears, that they would see through his “simplistic solutions and scapegoating.” “So when you stand and deliver that State of the Union address,” Lauer said,

T

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“in no part of your mind and brain can you imagine Donald Trump standing up one day and delivering the State of the Union address?” Obama chuckled. “Well,” he said, “I can imagine it in a ‘Saturday Night’ skit.” Obama’s mockery of Trump began as early as the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, largely as the result of Trump’s support of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that Obama was born in Africa and so impugns the legitimacy of his office. Into the final stretch of this year’s campaign, moments of serene assurance were plentiful. A few weeks before the election, Obama went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and performed a routine in which he read one insulting tweet directed at him after another. Finally, he read one off his phone from the Republican candidate: “President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States! @realDonaldTrump.” A short, cool pause, then Obama delivered the zinger: “Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a President.” And then, like a rapper dropping the mike, Obama held out his phone and let it fall to the floor. For tens of millions of Americans, Trump was unthinkable as President. It came to be conceded that he had “tuned into something”: the frequencies of white rural life, the disaffection of people who felt overwhelmed by the forces of globalization, who felt unheard and condescended to by the coastal establishment. Yet Trump himself, by liberal consensus, was a huckster mogul of the socialmedia age, selling magic potions laced with poison. How could he possibly win? Still, his triumph, or the idea of it, was not beyond prediction. The fissures and frustrations in the American electorate were nothing new, and some commentators were notably alert to them. Before and after the election, a passage from Richard Rorty’s 1998 book, “Achieving

Our Country,” circulated on social media. Rorty, a left-leaning philosopher, who died in 2007, predicted that the neglected working class would not tolerate its marginalization for long. “Something will crack,” he wrote: The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. . . . All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

A man of inherited fortune and a stint at the Wharton School was an unlikely champion of the rural South and the Rust Belt—this was no Huey Long— but Trump was shrewd enough to perform his fellow-feeling in blunt terms. “I love the poorly educated!” he told the crowd after winning the Nevada caucus. “We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people!” When I joined Obama on a campaign trip to North Carolina just four days before the election, Hillary Clinton was hanging on to a lead in nearly every poll. Surely, the professionals said, her “firewall” would hold and provide a comfortable victory. David Plouffe, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that Clinton was a “one hundred per cent” lock and advised nervous Democrats to stop “wetting the bed.” In battleground states, particularly where it was crucial to get out the African-American vote, Obama was giving one blistering campaign speech after another. “I’m having fun,” he told me. But, thanks in part to James Comey, the F.B.I. director, and his letter to Congress announcing that he would investigate Clinton’s e-mails again, the race tightened


“We’re going to have to redesign the social compact,” Obama said. “And I know how to build a bridge to that new social compact.” PHOTOGRAPH BY PARI DUKOVIC

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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¥ considerably in its final week. When Obama wandered down the aisle of Air Force One, I asked him, “Do you feel confident about Tuesday?” “Nope,” he said. But then, in Obamian fashion, he delved into a methodical discussion of polling models and, finally, landed on a more tempered and upbeat version of “nope.” He was “cautiously optimistic.” There were reasons to be so. His Presidency, after all, had seemed poised for a satisfying close. As recently as early 2015, the Obama Administration had been in a funk. He had underestimated ISIS; Putin had annexed Crimea; Syria was a catastrophe. His relations with the Republicans in Congress, especially since the crushing 2014 midterms, were at an impasse. Then, in a single week in June, 2015: the Supreme Court ended years of legal assaults on Obamacare; the Court ruled in favor of marriage equality; and, at a funeral following the murder of nine congregants at a black church in Charleston, Obama gave a speech that captivated much of the country. Rather than focus on the race war that the killer had hoped to incite, he spoke of the “reservoir of goodness” in the living and the dead and ended by singing “Amazing Grace.” A sense of energy and accomplishment filtered back into the Administra56

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

¥ tion. Long before Election Day, books were being published about its legacy: an economy steered clear of a beckoning Depression, the rescue of the automobile industry, Wall Street reform, the banning of torture, the passage of Obamacare, marriage equality, and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the end of the war in Iraq, heavy investment in renewable-energy technologies, the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal, the opening of Cuba, the Paris agreement on climate change, two terms long on dignity and short on scandal. Obama’s approval ratings reached a new high. Clinton’s election as the first female President would complete the narrative, and Obama, his aides suggested, would be free to sit in the healing sun of Oahu and contemplate nothing more rigorous than the unrushed composition of a high-priced memoir. Air Force One landed at Fort Bragg and the motorcade headed to a gym packed with supporters at Fayetteville State University. In shirtsleeves and with crisp, practiced enthusiasm, Obama delivered his campaign stump speech. His appeal for Clinton was rooted in the preservation of his own legacy. “All the progress that we’ve made these last eight years,”

he said, “goes out the window if we don’t win this election!” He revived some of his early tropes, cautioning the crowd not to be “bamboozled” by the G.O.P.— an echo from Malcolm X—and recited the litany of Trump’s acts of disrespect toward blacks, women, Muslims, the disabled, Gold Star parents. I was standing to the side of the stage. Nearby, a stout older man appeared in the aisle, dressed in a worn, beribboned military uniform and holding a Trump sign. People spotted him quickly and the jeering began. Then came the chant “Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!” Obama picked up the curdled vibe and located its source. “Hold up!” he said. “Hold up!” The crowd would not quiet down. He repeated the phrase—“Hold up!”— sixteen more times, and still nothing. It took a long, disturbing while before he could recapture the crowd’s attention and get people to lay off the old man. What followed was a lecture in political civility. “I’m serious, listen up,” he said. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. . . . You don’t have to worry about him. This is what I mean about folks not being focussed. First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military, and we’ve got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly, and we’ve got to respect our elders. . . . Now, I want you to pay attention. Because if we don’t, if we lose focus, we could have problems.” That night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Trump informed his supporters that in Fayetteville Obama had been abusive to the protester: “He spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.” Either Trump was retailing an account he’d found online in the alt-right media or he was knowingly lying. In other words, Trump was Trump. s the plane headed to Charlotte,

A I sat with Roy Cooper, the attorney

general of North Carolina and its Democratic candidate for governor, and David Simas, Obama’s political director. Cooper, who had worked in the tobacco fields as a kid, now seemed as disconnected from the Trump voter in rural North Carolina as any pointy-headed quote machine in


the CNN greenroom. “I’m as perplexed as the next person,” he said. Simas was more analytical. He was the numbers guy, who knew every twitch of voter movement in every county, or hoped he did. He was nowhere near as sanguine as Plouffe, and, as he went through the early-vote tallies in Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, he was concerned about the somewhat modest African-American turnout, though emboldened by a “tsunami” of support from Hispanics. Meanwhile, he said, “the socalled hidden Trump vote” was not showing up in any outsized way. I asked Simas why he seemed more confident than Obama. He smiled and said it was a matter of roles: “I haven’t been the President of the United States for two terms and now looking to confirm my legacy.” Yet Simas, too, knew that there was potential trouble ahead. “Within ten days of the Republican Convention, Trump consolidated the Republican base faster than Romney did in 2012,” he said. “The base of the Republican Party is also different from what we thought. For movement conservatives, the assumption is that Democratic or Republican voters are ideological on issues. The Trump candidacy shows otherwise. They rally around the team and the antipathy to Secretary Clinton.” What frustrated Obama and his staff was the knowledge that, in large measure, they were reaching their own people but no further. They spoke to the networks and the major cable outlets, the major papers and the mainstream Web sites, and, in an attempt to find people “where they are,” forums such as Bill Maher’s and Samantha Bee’s late-night cable shows, and Marc Maron’s podcast. But they would never reach the collective readerships of Breitbart News, the Drudge Report, WND, Newsmax, InfoWars, and lesser-knowns like Western Journalism—not to mention the closed loop of peer-topeer right-wing rumor-mongering. “Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy,” Simas said. “The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago—about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women—his Republican

opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change.” That day, as they travelled, Obama and Simas talked almost obsessively about an article in BuzzFeed that described how the Macedonian town of Veles had experienced a “digital gold rush” when a small group of young people there published more than a hundred pro-Trump Web sites, with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers. The sites had names like TrumpVision365.com and WorldPoliticus.com, and most of the posts were wildly sensationalist, recycled from American alt-right sites. If you read such sites, you learned that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump and that Clinton had actually encouraged Trump to run, because he “can’t be bought.” The new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true,” Obama told me later. “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.” That marked a decisive change from previous political eras, he maintained. “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix

for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.” That night in Charlotte, Obama was even more energetic at the microphone. There was not one visible Trump supporter to divert him or the crowd. He unspooled the usual litany of Trump’s violations of fact and human dignity. The race was personal to him, it seemed, and not merely because Trump threatened his legacy. “Every day, this is a candidate who has said things that just four years ago, just eight years ago, twelve, we would have considered completely disqualifying,” he told the audience. “I mean, imagine if in 2008 I had said any of the things that this man said. Imagine if I had behaved in the way this man behaved. Imagine what Republicans would have said! Imagine what the press would have said!” On the way out of the pavilion, Obama signed a few books, posed for some pictures, and seemed distinctly pleased with the way things were going. “I’m like Mick Jagger,” he said. “I’m old, I’m gray, but people still turn out.” n the car, riding back to the Char-

I lotte airport, Obama slumped in his

seat and read a few e-mails on his phone. Then he brought up a video of the White House Halloween party. “Check this out,” he said, holding the phone up to me. On the screen was a toddler with slicked-back hair and a Superman costume. The child’s superpowers extended to an unusual political knowledge: he called Obama “POTUS,” which seemed curiously precocious, until I learned that he was the twoyear-old son of Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary. As we rode toward the airport, Obama talked about Trump. “We’ve seen this coming,” he said. “Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years. What surprised me was the degree to which those tactics and rhetoric completely jumped the rails. There were no governing principles, there was no one to say, ‘No, this is going too far, this isn’t what we

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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stand for.’ But we’ve seen it for eight years, even with reasonable people like John Boehner, who, when push came to shove, wouldn’t push back against these currents.” I asked about Trump’s capacity to eliminate serially a long string of Republican contenders. “Donald Trump beating fifteen people said less about his skills and more about the lack of skills of the people he beat,” Obama said. “But, obviously, he tapped into something. He’s able to distill the anger and resentment and the sense of aggrievement. And he is skillful at challenging the conventions in a way that makes people feel something and that gives them some satisfaction.” Obama noted that many of Trump’s supporters had voted for him—in Iowa, in Michigan and Wisconsin, in Florida and North Carolina. Part of the reason, he said, was that he had the good fortune to appear on the scene before the collapse of the old media order. In the late nineties, when he was a state senator representing Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, he started making trips to the southern counties of Illinois with a white political operative named Dan Shomon. As a legislator, Obama had never before been south of Springfield. Michelle Obama was at home, pregnant, and Obama figured that this was his last chance before the baby arrived. As he headed south, he came to realize that he was now in a place that was closer in character and outlook to Tennessee and Arkansas than to Chicago. He met with people on factory floors and at the local Maid-Rite. In Du Quoin, he learned about the problems posed by an all-white branch of the Chicago gang called the Gangster Disciples; in Old Shawneetown, he learned about farm life from people like Steve and Kappy Scates, who are friends to this day. “What those trips proved is that he appealed to rural white people,” Shomon once told me. “They would vote for him, they liked him.” In 2004, Obama won a seat in the U.S. Senate, defeating in the primary a sitting state comptroller and white Party regular named Dan Hynes, who had had the support of nearly every county chairman in the state. “People didn’t see me coming,” 58

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Obama said as we drove through the night. “In southern Illinois, in those counties I won, I was at V.F.W.s and fish fries hearing people’s stories and talking to folks, so that they knew me. They weren’t getting me through Fox or Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart or RedState. “In ’08, they saw me coming, but I was a guy named Barack Hussein Obama coming up against the Clinton machine, so no way! So they weren’t focussed on me, and I established a connection. Then came the stuff: Ayers and Reverend Wright and all the rest. What I’m suggesting is that the lens through which people understand politics and politicians is extraordinarily powerful. And Trump understands the new ecosystem, in which facts and truth don’t matter. You attract attention, rouse emotions, and then move on. You can surf those emotions. I’ve said it before, but if I watched Fox I wouldn’t vote for me!” Obama will go down in history as the first African-American President, and he derives immense pride from that, but he never fails to insist on the complexity of his story. “I’m half ScotchIrish, man!” he said. “When folks like Jim Webb write about Scotch-Irish stock in West Virginia and Kansas and so on, those are my people! They don’t know it, always, but they are.” Now, on the eve of the election, nothing was in the bag. “What’s powerful is that ideas can change on a dime,” Obama said as we pulled up to Air Force One. “Public attitudes can be shaped and shift so radically. Two years ago, Hillary Clinton’s popularity was at sixty-five per cent, and people were contrasting her popularity with mine. There was all this talk about how she was going to need to find ways to distance herself from me. Now, suddenly, she has problems with public opinion. Part of it is, I’m less the focus. But it all happens so fast. This is a puzzle I’m going to be thinking about a lot. I have complete confidence in the American people—that if I can have a conversation with them they’ll choose what’s right. At an emotional level, they want to do the right thing if they have the information.” And yet in an age of filter bubbles and social-media silos, he knew, the “information” that reached people

was increasingly shaped by what they wanted to be true. And that was no longer in his hands or anyone else’s. bama’s final appearance, on the

O eve of Election Day, was at an out-

door rally next to Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, alongside Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and the Clintons. But it was preceded by visits to Florida, Michigan, and New Hampshire, where he travelled with Maggie Hassan, that state’s Democratic candidate for the Senate. As Obama later recounted to me, he found himself reminiscing with her about the tense magic of a campaign’s conclusion: “I love the stillness and the mystery of the day or two before elections, because in a lot of ways everything goes radio-silent. Nobody at that point is really listening to an argument. The infrastructure is set. And now it’s this weird alchemy that’s taking place in the country, and you just have to kind of wait and see how it works. But there’s always this mystery to it, this possibility.” “Which, in some ways, is powerful and affirming of the humanity of democracy, right?” he said to me. “It’s not mechanical. It’s not a formula. It’s not set. It’s not fixed. There is always the possibility of surprise. And in that sense it’s a little bit like sports. It doesn’t matter what the odds are. Weird stuff happens. And that makes it scary if you’re rooting for one team or the other, but that’s the drama of it.” On Election Night, Obama was upstairs in the White House residence. Tens of millions of people turned on televisions and started checking their phones and laptops long before the polls on the East Coast closed, but Obama did not. “I generally don’t start paying attention to returns until, like, ten o’clock,” he said, “because, first of all, I got a lot of people who do that for me, and, second of all, there’s really nothing there, so it’s all a bunch of speculation or anxiety that’s playing itself out, and people are attaching themselves to various numbers.” Obama said he had thought that the race was going to be very close. The negatives for both candidates were remarkably high, and there was so much volatility that whichever candidate was in the news most lost ground. “And for reasons that you’re well aware of ”—Obama-ese for Comey’s letter and the acid drip, by way of Russia, of WikiLeaks—“Hillary had been in the news a lot for a week


going into the election. And that was going to create, given the dynamics of this race, some challenges.” At around 7:30 P.M., Obama heard from David Simas that there were some “surprising numbers” coming from rural counties in Florida. Trump was ahead by a much bigger margin than the models had anticipated—“and, in fact, a larger margin than Romney had beaten me in these areas, or McCain had beaten me in these areas.” Even by ten o’clock, Obama said, “I’m still not watching television, which is just a general rule that I’ve maintained for the last eight years, not watching political television.” Not watching, in the Obama household, he said, “is part of how you stay focussed on the task, as opposed to worrying about the noise.” Michelle Obama removed herself even further from the tumult. “The First Lady, by about 10 P.M., goes to sleep,” Obama said. “She decided she didn’t need the stress.” By then, it was clear that the models were wrong and that Clinton was going to lose North Carolina and Florida—and that the difficulties she was having in the South were showing up in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Obama is hardly as cool and bloodless as advertised, but he will not perform, or even recount, his emotions on command. When I kept prodding him for a reaction beyond sheer fact and discernment, he stayed in that calm zone he likes to inhabit, the analyst of even his own gut. His story was ending in calamity, and yet he watched it from the outside in. “Look, how am I reacting to it?” he said. “I had told people ahead of Election Day that I had an experience like this. This is part of politics. And that was in New Hampshire”—where he lost to Clinton, in the 2008 Democratic primary. “We had come out of Iowa on this rocket ship and the last poll internally that we had taken in New Hampshire three days later showed us up ten. And I still remember Axelrod and Plouffe and Gibbs knocking on the door, as I’m getting ready to go downstairs, and they’ve got this kind of sheepish look on their faces. And I said, ‘What’s going on, gentlemen?’ And they said, ‘Well, I think this may not work out the way we expected.’ ” He went on, “There is deep disappointment. In New Hampshire, when I lost, it

was only the second election in what proved to be an interminable primary season. And people forget that was actually the night I gave the ‘Yes, we can’ speech. It was in the face of defeat, not victory, that we talked about ‘Yes, we can.’ And I remember flying down to Boston. We had a fund-raiser and I had to speak to a bunch of supporters down there the next day. And Axelrod was surprised. He was, like, ‘You don’t seem that upset.’ And I said, ‘You know, I think this is right. I think this is how it should be. I haven’t earned this yet.’ You don’t go from being a first-term senator, no matter how popular, winning one caucus, and suddenly you’re anointed. The American people are showing some wisdom here in saying, ‘You know what, we got to take this thing out for a spin, we’ve got to get a better sense of how this thing navigates the curves, because that’s what a President is going to need.’ ” I found this curious—the comparison between Obama’s temporary setback in New Hampshire and Donald Trump’s ascension to the Presidency. But he seemed to catch up with the disjunction. “In this situation, the consequences are much higher,” he said. “It’s terminal. It’s the end of the road on the election. You can’t recover from the election. And obviously my feelings about the country and where these election results might lead the country are more serious. And in some ways it’s also more frustrating, because it wasn’t my campaign, so it’s

a little bit like a parent watching a kid in a sporting match, and you don’t feel like you have as much control over it.” y longest recent conversation

M with Obama came the day after he

first met with President-elect Donald Trump, in the Oval Office. I arrived at the West Wing waiting area at around nine-thirty. There was a copy of USA Today on the table. The headline was “RISE IN RACIST ACTS FOLLOWS ELECTION.” It was accompanied by a photograph of a softball-field dugout in Wellsville, New York, spray-painted with a swastika and the words “Make America White Again.” The paper reported other such acts in Maple Grove, Minnesota, at the University of Vermont Hillel Organization, and at Texas State University, in San Marcos, where police were trying to determine who had distributed flyers reading “Now that our man Trump is elected and Republicans own both the Senate and the House—time to organize tar & feather VIGILANTE SQUADS and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage.” Below that story was an account of Obama’s encounter with Trump. Obama had steeled himself for the meeting, determined to act with high courtesy and without condescension. His task was to impress upon Trump the gravity of the office. He seemed to take pains not to offend the always-offendable Trump, lest


he lose what influence he might still have on the political future of the country and the new Administration. Obama was also trying to engage the world in a willing suspension of disbelief, attempting to calm markets and minds, to reassure foreign leaders and, perhaps most of all, millions of Americans that Trump’s election did not necessarily spell the end of democracy, or the rise of an era of chaos and racial enmity, or the suspension of the Constitution. This is not the apocalypse. And yet even in the West Wing few could put up the same front. That much was clear when, the morning after the election, Obama and Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, had met with groups of staffers. (The two acted “almost like grief counsellors,” one source said.) Obama told his staff not to lose their spirit, to keep their eyes on “the long game.” Soon after the election had been called for Trump, Obama told them, Ben Rhodes had e-mailed to say that sometimes history zigzags. Obama seized on that. “A lot of you are young and this is your first rodeo,” Obama told the staffers in the Oval Office, a source recalled. “For some of you, all you’ve ever known is win-

ning. But the older people here, we have known loss. And this stings. This hurts.” It’s easy to be hopeful when things are going well, he went on, but when you need to be hopeful is when things are at their worst. That line reminded one senior aide of Obama’s last speech to the U.N. General Assembly, a defense of the liberal order that was willfully optimistic at a moment when illiberal currents were coursing all over the world. Now, in his own home, Obama sought to buck his people up and get them into a professional frame of mind. He praised the Bush Administration, which he had criticized so sharply throughout the 2008 campaign, for the generosity and efficiency with which its people had assisted in the transition, and he told his people to do the same, to be “gracious hosts” of the most well-known address in the United States. He asked them to make sure that even their body language radiated a sense of pride and coöperation. But there was little that could soften the blow, either inside the White House or in the great world beyond. Trump’s victory did not merely endanger Obama’s legacy of progressive legislation or inter-

national agreements. It unnerved countless women, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and L.G.B.T. people, as well as professionals in national security, the press, and many other institutions. (And this was before Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, as his senior counsellor.) The outcome of the election was also a blow to those who anticipated major advances for the Democratic Party: it wrested over-all control of just one additional state legislature, and remains a minority in both houses of Congress, having gained only a handful of new seats in the House of Representatives, and only two in the Senate. Democrats saw a net loss of two governorships, leaving fewer than a third of the states with Democratic governors. The party of F.D.R. and Robert Kennedy was at its weakest point in decades and had been cast as heedless of the concerns of white working people. Nor was there any secret why Vladimir Putin and the Russian political élite were so tickled by Trump’s ascent. Yes, Trump represents, to them, a “useful idiot,” a weak, discombobulated, history-less leader who will likely be content to leave Russia to its own devices, from Ukraine to the Baltic states. But Putin may also think of himself as the chief ideologist of the illiberal world, a counter to what he sees as the hypocritical and blundering West. He has always shown support for nativist leaders such as Marine Le Pen, in France; now he had a potential ally in the White House. Suddenly, Germany, led by Angela Merkel, was the lonely bulwark of Europe and Atlanticism. And even she faced a strong nativist challenge, for the sin of admitting thousands of Syrian refugees into the country. The White House was, as one staffer told me, “like a funeral home.” You could see it all around: aides walking through the lobby, hunched, hushed, vacant-eyed. In a retrospective mood, staffers said that, as Obama told me, Clinton would have been an “excellent” President, but they also voiced some dismay with her campaign: dismay that she had seemed to stump so listlessly, if at all, in the Rust Belt; dismay that the Clinton family’s undeniable taste for money could not be erased by good works; dismay that she was such a middling retail politician. There was inevitable talk about Joe Biden, who might have done better precisely


where Clinton came up short: in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio. And there was the fury at James Comey, who had clearly stalled Clinton’s late momentum, and at the evidence that Russia had altered the course of an American election through a cyber-espionage mission that was conducted in conjunction with Julian Assange and warmly received by the Republican candidate. Three days after Trump’s victory, Obama was scheduled to go to Arlington National Cemetery and deliver the annual Veterans Day address to thousands of vets and their families. The President’s limousine, the Beast, and a long line of black vans and security vehicles were lined up and waiting on the south drive of the White House. It was hard not to see it, considering the mood of the previous few days, and the destination, as a kind of cortège. The official line at the White House was that the hour-and-a-half meeting with Trump went well and that Trump was solicitous. Later, when I asked Obama how things had really gone, he smiled thinly and said, “I think I can’t characterize it without . . .” Then he stopped himself and said that he would tell me, “at some point over a beer—off the record.” I wasn’t counting on that beer anytime soon. But after the sitdown with Trump, Obama told staff members that he had talked Trump through the rudiments of forming a cabinet and policies, including the Iran nuclear deal, counterterrorism policy, health care—and that the President-elect’s grasp of such matters was, as the debates had made plain, modest at best. Trump, despite his habitual bluster, seemed awed by what he was being told and about to encounter. Denis McDonough strolled by with some friends and family. The day before, the person Trump sent to debrief him about how to staff and run a White House was his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. They had taken a walk on the South Lawn. I asked McDonough how it was going, and he gave me a death-skull grin. “Everything’s great!” he said. He clenched his teeth and grinned harder in self-mockery. McDonough is the picture of rectitude: the ramrod posture, the trimmed white hair, the ashen mien of a bishop who has missed two meals in a row. “I guess if you keep repeating it, it’s like a mantra, and it will be O.K. ‘Everything

will be O.K., everything will be O.K.’ ” Although Obama and his aides had long been alarmed by Trump’s disturbing rhetoric and loose grasp of policy, they decided that the best path forward was to assume the mask of decorum. It was a matter of amour-propre, but— again—also of tactics.To have any chance to influence Trump, they had to avoid any trace of the contempt that had once been so pronounced. Perhaps the more acute personal sadness for White House staffers was the vision of Obama and Trump sitting side by side in the Oval Office. A President who fought with dignity to rescue the country from economic catastrophe and to press for progressive change—from marriage equality to the alleviation of climate change—was putting on a mask of generous equanimity for a visitor whom he had every good reason to despise, an ethically challenged real-estate brander who had launched his political career by promoting “birtherism,” and then ran a sexist and bigoted campaign to galvanize his base. In the Oval Office, the President was quick to comfort the young members of his staff, but he was, an aide told me, even more concerned about the wounding effect the election would have on the categories of Americans who had been routinely insulted and humiliated by the President-elect. At a social occasion earlier this year, someone asked Michelle Obama how it was possible for her husband to maintain his equipoise amid so much hatred. “You have no idea how bad it is,” she said. His practiced calm is beyond reckoning. Those closest to Obama at the White House say that he copes by quietly, sarcastically deflating the attacks—like letting the air out of a balloon slowly, one said, the better not to make too much noise. He never loses his capacity to be the scholar of his own predicament, a gently quizzical ethnographer of his own country, of its best and worst qualities. In private, Michelle Obama gives clearer voice to the frustrations, and, not least, to a concern about the racism that is apparent to them both. In public––in one of the most memorable speeches of the campaign—she spoke out ferociously against Trump’s misogyny. There is no denying the depths of

Obama’s humbling. He fully grasps the nature of the bigotry and the nihilism that Trump has espoused in the name of working-class empowerment. Obama’s way is to keep cool while insisting on, and embodying, a faith in institutions. “Look, by dint of biography, by dint of experience, the basic optimism that I articulate and present publicly as President is real,” he told me. “It’s what I teach my daughters. It is how I interact with my friends and with strangers. I genuinely do not assume the worst, because I’ve seen the best so often. So it is a mistake that I think people have sometimes made to think that I’m just constantly biting my tongue and there’s this sort of roiling anger underneath the calm Hawaiian exterior. I’m not that good of an actor. I was born to a white mother, raised by a white mom and grandparents who loved me deeply. I’ve had extraordinarily close relationships with friends that have lasted decades. I was elected twice by the majority of the American people. Every day, I interact with people of good will everywhere.” Obama is a patriot and an optimist of a particular kind. He hoped to be the liberal Reagan, a progressive of consequence, but there are crucial differences. For one thing, Obama does not believe in the simplistic form of American exceptionalism which insists that Americans are more talented and virtuous than everyone else, that they are blessed by a patriotic God with a special mission. America is a country that was established on the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers and improved upon not merely by legislation but also by social movements: this, to Obama, is the real nature of its exceptionalism. Last year, at the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, he stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, and defined American exceptionalism as embodied by its heroes, its freedom fighters: Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, John Lewis, the “gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York”; its Tuskegee Airmen and Navajo code-talkers, its 9/11 volunteers and G.I.s, and its immigrants—Holocaust survivors, Lost Boys of Sudan, and the “hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande.” Now Obama had begun the transfer THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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of power to Donald Trump. The President insisted to the press that they’d had “an excellent conversation.” bama got in his car and the mo-

O torcade pulled out of the White

House gates and sped south through the streets of D.C., over the Potomac and into the green grounds of Arlington. I was packed into a van filled with officials from the Pentagon. They were gossiping softly about the election and its aftermath, but, once we were through the gates, passing thousands of tombstones, listening to the thud of ceremonial cannon fire, they went quiet. After a while, someone remarked that Obama was about to leave for a weeklong foreign trip, beginning with Greece. “Birthplace of democracy,” someone else said. “Hard to take after this week.” After speaking at the Memorial Amphitheatre, Obama returned to the White House for lunch and a few meetings. I saw him in the Oval Office afterward. In shirtsleeves but with his tie knotted high, he sat down in the chair where he had met with Trump the day before and ordered some tea. Throughout the campaign, he had told his audiences that if Trump— “uniquely unqualified” and “temperamentally unfit” to be Commander-in-Chief— were to win, eight years of accomplishment would go out the window. I asked him if he still believed that. “Now that the election is over, no, I don’t believe it,” he said with a sharp, dark laugh. “Not because I was over-hyping it. I think that the possibility of everything being out the window exists. But, as a practical matter, what I’ve been saying to people, including my own staff, is that the federal government is an aircraft carrier, it’s not a speedboat. And, if you need any evidence of that, think about how hard we worked over the last eight years with a very clear progressive agenda, with a majority in the House and in the Senate, and we accomplished as much domestically as any President since Lyndon Johnson in those first two years. But it was really hard.” Obama said that he had accomplished “seventy or seventy-five per cent” of what he set out to do, and “maybe fifteen per cent of that gets rolled back, twenty per cent, but there’s still a lot of stuff that sticks.” 62

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He went on, “Obviously, the Affordable Care Act, I think, is most vulnerable, because that has been a unifying bogeyman for Republicans over the course of the last six years. In the minds of a lot of the Republican base, it is an example of a big government program designed to take something from them and give it to someone else who is unworthy.” But he said that, while the Republicans would have to make some attempt to deliver on that, they had to proceed with care, because the program’s twenty-odd million beneficiaries included many Trump voters, “even if they don’t make the connection.” If the Republicans “tinker and modify but still maintain a commitment to provide health insurance for the people who received it,” he said, “then a whole bunch of stuff hasn’t gone out the window.” Obama has a similar view about the Iran nuclear agreement, despite Trump’s regular denunciations of it. “We actually have over a year of proof, and you’ve got the Israeli military and intelligence community acknowledging that, in fact, it has worked,” he said. The agreement has not changed “some of the more obnoxious behavior of Iran,” but it has insured that Iran does not now have “breakout capacity,” the ability to build a weapon in a short window of time. “So, given that proof, I don’t think that it is inconceivable that Republican leaders look and they say, ‘This thing worked. Obama is no longer in office. This is not something that our base is hankering to undo, and we may quietly leave it in place.’ ” This kind of talk has led some to think that Obama was deluded in his quest to provide reassurance. James Hohmann, a columnist in the Washington Post, suggested that Obama had reached only the first stage of grief—denial—in the five stages that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross set out in her book “On Death and Dying.” Anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance were still to come. Yet Obama argued coolly that Trump’s record of shifting positions without losing his supporters might be a curiously hopeful fact. His formulation of this thought was, of course, excruciatingly diplomatic. “I think that the President-elect has shown himself to be able to make a connection with his supporters that gives him much more flexibility than the normal candidate to take a variety of approaches,” he said. “They seem to trust him, separate

and apart from any particular thing that he says or does. And, as a consequence, I think we have to wait and see how, in the face of the realities of governance, he reacts to it. Another way of putting this is that what has been true for some time is that if I proposed something that was literally word for word in the Republican Party platform, it would be immediately opposed by eighty to ninety per cent of the Republican voters. And the reason is not that they’ve evaluated what I said. It’s that I said it. Well, the reverse then becomes true.” At the same time, Obama refused to interpret Clinton’s—and the Party’s— loss as a personal repudiation. “Some of this is really simple and it’s the thing that Mitch McConnell figured out on Day One of my Presidency, which is people aren’t paying that close attention to how Washington works,” he said. “They know there are lobbyists, special interests, gridlock; that the powerful have more influence and access than they do. And if things aren’t working, if there’s gridlock, then the only guy that they actually know is supposed to be in charge and supposed to be helping them is the President. And so the very deliberate strategy that Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party generally employed during the course of my Presidency was effective. What they understood was that, if you embraced old-fashioned dealing, trading, horse-trading, bipartisan achievement, people feel better. And, if people feel better, then they feel better about the President’s party, and the President’s party continues. And, if it feels broken, stuck, and everybody is angry, then that hurts the President or the President’s party.” Obama was convinced, accordingly, that Trump won less as a champion of working people than as an anti-establishment insurgent. “The President-elect, I think, was able to make an argument that he would blow this place up,” he said. “Hillary may have been more vulnerable because she was viewed as an insider. And the reporting around the Goldman speeches”—speeches given to Goldman Sachs executives—“might have reduced her advantage, the normal Democratic advantage, in the eyes of working people, that we were standing for them. I don’t think it was fair, but that’s how it played itself out.” He picked up the thread of what he


had been saying in the car back in North Carolina: that, before the rise of the new-media universe, he had been able— even as a black guy “with a really weird name”—to meet people where they lived, and convey a sense “that I cared about them, that I could relate to them, that I didn’t condescend to them, and that maybe I was in this for the right reasons. . . . So it’s not just, like, the gushing San Francisco liberal hugging me that makes me optimistic. It’s that I’ve seen great decency among people who may, nevertheless, have some presuppositions or biases about African-Americans or Latinos or women or gays. And the issue is, constantly, How do we break through those barriers?” I reminded Obama that, eight years ago, when I was interviewing him about race, he had been somewhat elusive throughout our official session but afterward had tracked me down in the building to remind me how complicated it was for him to talk about the subject. A stray word about race could be as explosive as a stray word about the financial markets. He remembered. “There are certain things we know,” he said. “We know that when there is a conversation about the police and African-Americans, and conflict between those two, everybody goes to their respective corners. That is an area that just triggers the deepest stereotypes and assumptions—on both sides. The biggest drop that I had in my poll numbers in my first six months had nothing to do with the economy. It was ‘the beer summit.’ ” That August, a fifty-eight-year-old black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., had been arrested and handcuffed at his own door by a white police officer. An uproar ensued when Obama seemed to take Gates’s side, and, hoping to quiet the storm, the White House arranged a sitdown over beers between the professor and the policeman. “Among white voters, my poll numbers dropped, like, I don’t know, ten per cent or something,” Obama continued. “If you don’t stick your landing in talking about racial issues, particularly when it pertains to the criminal-justice system, then people just shut down. They don’t listen.” He thought back to that fateful day in August. “I thought that it would be fairly innocuous to say, ‘I don’t know all the facts, but if you’ve got an elderly black gentleman—even if he’s being obnoxious

“Oh, we’re not bouncers. We just can’t fit through the door.”

• to a police officer—handcuffing him probably doesn’t make sense if he’s on his own porch. I thought that would be viewed as a pretty common-sense proposition. It was a pretty visceral reaction. Now, what we also know is that, when we are talking about family or service or sports or popular culture, there are all these categories where people’s stereotypes rarely pop up. And, when they do, the majority of people are offended by them. And so the question for me, over the course of my Presidency, during the course of this election, has always been, How do I strengthen the better angels of our nature? And how do we tamp down our tribal impulses?” ven in the midst of what he can

E only see as a disastrous turn of his-

tory, Obama retained the uncanny capacity to view his quandaries as if he were drafting a research paper. “A President who looked like me was inevitable at some point in American history,” he said. “It might have been somebody named Gonzales instead of Obama, but it was coming. And I probably showed up twenty years sooner than the demographics would have anticipated. And, in that sense, it was a little bit more surprising. The country had to do more adjusting and processing of it. It undoubtedly created more anxiety than it will twenty years from now,

• provoked more reactions in some portion of the population than it will twenty years from now. And that’s understandable.” How did he speak with his two daughters about the election results, about the post-election reports of racial incidents? “What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated. . . . This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop....You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.” For the Democratic Party, these questions have a strategic dimension. After Obama and Clinton, the Party bench is thin. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are hardly young. Obama insisted that there were gifted Democratic politicians out there, but that many were new to the scene. He mentioned Kamala Harris, the THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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new senator from California; Pete Buttigieg, a gay Rhodes Scholar and Navy veteran who has twice been elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Tim Kaine; and Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado. And Obama related the Party’s losses this year to previous setbacks—and recoveries. “Some of my staff are really young, so they don’t remember this,” Obama said. “They remember my speech from the Boston Convention, in 2004, because they uploaded it on YouTube or something, but they might have been fifteen when it happened. Well, that’s the election that John Kerry lost. George Bush was reëlected. Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader in the Senate, was defeated. The Senate went Republican. The House was Republican. Me and Ken Salazar, of Colorado, were the only two Democrats nationally who won. It was a very similar period to where we are right now. Two years later, Democrats had won back the Senate; I think they had won back the House. And four years later I was the President of the United States. “So this notion somehow that these irreversible tides have been unleashed, I think, surrenders our agency. It’s easier than us saying, Huh, we missed that, we messed that up, we’ve got to do better in how we organize. We have to stop relying on a narrow targeting of our base turnout strategy if we want to govern. . . . Setting aside the results of this election, Democrats are well positioned to keep winning Presidential elections just by

appealing to the base. And, each year, the demographic improves.” To put it more bluntly than Obama did, the nonwhite percentage of the population will continue to increase. “But we’ll keep on getting gridlock just because of population distribution in this country,” he went on. “As long as California and Wyoming have the same number of senators, there’s going to be a problem—unless we’re able to have a broader conversation and move people who right now aren’t voting for progressive policies and candidates....All of this requires vigilance in protecting gains we’ve made, but a sense, yes, of equanimity, a sense of purposeful calm and optimism, and a sense of humor—sometimes gallows humor after results like the ones we just had. That’s how ultimately the race is won.” ot long before the election, Val-

N erie Jarrett, the senior aide with the

closest relationship to the Obamas, asked the President, “Don’t you sometimes wish you could run for another term? I’m sure you could win, and there’s so much more to do.” Obama had no appetite for superseding the Twenty-second Amendment. “I said no, because, look, at some point you lose touch,” he recounted. “By being in this room. At some point, you get worn down. At some point, you start getting into bad habits. I told her, ‘We’re playing on house money here. We weren’t supposed to be here. For us to have had

“Then don’t do that.”

this opportunity and to be able to make this much change, as much as we wish that we could have gotten everything done, it’s remarkable.’ ” The Trump era confronted the outgoing President with obvious questions. Who was now the leader of the opposition and of the Democratic Party? What if there were violent racial incidents? Would he step in as a spokesman, a moral voice? Because of the demands of the transition and the tradition of discretion, Obama seemed unwilling to address these issues head on, but, at least in general terms, there was no question that he was now seeing his post-Presidency in a new, if dimmer, light. “I think that if Hillary Clinton had won the election then I’d just turn over the keys,” he said. “We’d make sure the briefing books were in order and out we go. I think now I have some responsibility to at least offer my counsel to those who will continue to be elected officials about how the D.N.C. can help rebuild, how state parties and progressive organizations can work together.” Trump had triumphed in rural America by appealing to a ferment of anti-urban, anti-coastal feeling. And yet Obama dismissed the notion that the Republicans had captured the issue of inequality. “The Republicans don’t care about that issue,” he said. “There’s no pretense that anything that they’re putting forward, any congressional proposals that are going to come forward, will reduce inequality. . . . What I do concern myself with, and the Democratic Party is going to have to concern itself with, is the fact that the confluence of globalization and technology is making the gap between rich and poor, the mismatch in power between capital and labor, greater all the time. And that’s true globally. “The prescription that some offer, which is stop trade, reduce global integration, I don’t think is going to work,” he went on. “If that’s not going to work, then we’re going to have to redesign the social compact in some fairly fundamental ways over the next twenty years. And I know how to build a bridge to that new social compact. It begins with all the things we’ve talked about in the past—earlychildhood education, continuous learning, job training, a basic social safety net, expanding the earned-income tax credit, investments in infrastructure—which, by definition, aren’t shipped overseas. All of


those things accelerate growth, give you more of a runway. But at some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken, in some sense. Because I can sit in my office, do a bunch of stuff, send it out over the Internet, and suddenly I just made a couple of million bucks, and the person who’s looking after my kid while I’m doing that has no leverage to get paid more than ten bucks an hour.” The sense that, on the level of politics and policy, there was work to be done (“I know how to build a bridge to that new social compact”) infused the post-Presidential role that he sketched for himself. “I’ll be fifty-five when I leave”—he knocked on a wooden end table—“assuming that I get a couple more decades of good health, at least, then I think both Michelle and I are interested in creating platforms that train, empower, network, boost the next generation of leadership. And I think that, whatever shape my Presidential center takes, I’m less interested in a building and campaign posters and Michelle’s dresses, although I think it’s fair to say that Michelle’s dresses will be the biggest draw by a huge margin. But what we’ll be most interested in is programming that helps the next Michelle Obama or the next Barack Obama, who right now is sitting out there and has no idea how to make their ideals live, isn’t quite sure what to do—to give them resources and ways to think about social change.” He seemed to be returning to the days when he was a community organizer in the Atgeld Gardens housing project, on the South Side of Chicago. “The thing that I have always been convinced of,” he said, “the running thread through my career, has been this notion that when ordinary people get engaged, pay attention, learn about the forces that affect their lives and are able to join up with others, good stuff happens.” Every ex-Presidency is marked, of course, by the Presidential memoir, and Obama acknowledged that the genre has

been vexed. “My observation in reading Presidential memoirs is that they are very heavy on ‘and then this happened, and then that happened,’ ” he said. He noted that he hadn’t managed to keep a diary in the White House and marvelled at the “remarkable discipline that Jimmy Carter apparently had where each day he was describing what he had for breakfast and what happened here and what happened there.” He admitted that as a writer he could never be as free as he was in his first book, “Dreams from My Father.” “Some of it is just by virtue of decorum,” he said. “If you have meetings with people that they’ve assumed were private and suddenly you’re just spilling the beans, it’s a little bit like telling on an old girlfriend about something.” Shortly after four, following nearly two hours of conversation, Obama got up to call it a day. He would get some rest over the weekend—he played golf on Saturday and Sunday—then leave for the trip to Europe and South America on Monday. Along the way, he knew, his job was to keep offering reassurance, to deny the prospect of apocalypse, just as he had with his staff. This would require some doing, as his successor’s transition team already showed signs of chaotic infighting and of favoring many of the reactionaries, climate-change deniers, and heroes of the alt-right in their midst. On his first stop, in Athens, Obama would give a speech about populism, nationalism, globalization, tribalism, and, by implication, the ominous rise of Donald Trump. alking out the gates of the

W White House, I thought about the

morning at Arlington. The weather was sunny, crisp, cool; dried leaves, russet and umber, skittered across the walk. It reminded me of Election Day eight years ago, in Chicago. Obama had voted near his house, on the South Side, and then accepted victory that night, flanked by his wife and daughters, in Grant Park. “While the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight,” he had told the crowd of nearly a quarter-million people, “we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.” And he cited words that Abraham Lincoln spoke to “a nation far more divided than

ours”: “We are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” Obama, graying now, more exhausted than he admits, carried the wreath at Arlington to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known But to God.” As a bugler played Taps, the realization came that in the coming year it would be Trump, formerly of Trump Taj Mahal, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Donald Trump, formerly the host of “Celebrity Apprentice” and the owner of Trump University, in the Situation Room. At 10 Downing Street. At the Élysée Palace. At the Gate of Heavenly Peace. In the speech at Arlington that morning, Obama managed to deliver a political message. And this time he went beyond the call for orderly transitions and praise for “excellent” meetings. He delivered a distinct paean to values that Trump so often dismissed. “Veterans Day often follows a hardfought political campaign, an exercise in the free speech and self-government that you fought for,” he said. “It often lays bare disagreements across our nation. But the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners. It is to find strength in our common creed, to forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity even when it is hard. “It’s the example of the single most diverse institution in our country—soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen who represent every corner of our country, every shade of humanity, immigrant and native-born, Christian, Muslim, Jew, and nonbeliever alike, all forged into common service.” His sober cadences gave resonance to words that could have been rote. So did the awareness that just seventy days remained of his Presidency. Here was the hopeful vision of diversity and dignity that Obama had made his own, and hearing these words I couldn’t help remembering how he began his victory speech eight years ago. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,” he said, “tonight is your answer.” A very different answer arrived this Election Day. America is indeed a place where all things are possible: that is its greatest promise and, perhaps, its gravest peril.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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A Reporter at Large

THE FACTORY OF FAKES How a workshop uses digital technology to craft perfect copies of threatened art. BY DANIEL ZALEWSKI

The Factum Arte warehouse, in Madrid, is ďŹ lled with copies of treasured art works, including a facsimile of an Assyrian winged PHOTOGRAPHS BY HENRIK SPOHLER


he Egyptian painters who decorated King Tut’s burial chamber had to work quickly— the pharaoh died unexpectedly, at about the age of nineteen, and proper preparations had not been made. Plaster was applied to lumpy limestone walls. On the chamber’s western wall, twelve baboons with an identical design are arrayed in a grid, and various slip-ups suggest haste: one of the baboons is missing a black outline around its penis. When the entrance to the chamber was sealed, some thirty-five hundred years ago, the baboons, along with the gods and goddesses depicted in other panels, were expected to maintain their poses for eternity. This wasn’t an entirely naïve hope. Tutankhamun was interred in the Valley of the Kings, the vast network of tombs in the hills outside Luxor, four hundred miles south of Cairo. The air in the valley is bone-dry, and pigment applied to a plastered wall in a lightless, undisturbed chamber should decay little over the centuries. When the British archeologist Howard Carter unsealed the burial vault, in 1923, turning the obscure Tutankhamun into the modern icon of ancient Egypt, the yellow walls remained dazzlingly intact. The Egyptians had made only one mistake: they had closed the tomb before the paint, or Tut’s mummy, had dried, and bacteria had fed on the moisture, imposing a leopard pattern of brown dots on the yellow background. The room is known as the House of Gold. Since then, tens of millions of tourists have crowded inside the living-roomsize chamber, exuding a swampy mist of breath and sweat, which has caused the plaster to expand and contract. Bahaa AbdelGaber, an Egyptian antiquities official, told me recently that the temperature inside the Luxor tombs sometimes exceeds a hundred and twenty degrees. “Oh, the smell on a busy day!” he said. In 2009, a team of conservators from the Getty Conservation Institute, in California, visited Tut’s tomb and determined that some painted areas had become dangerously loosened. The conservators cleaned portions of the walls and applied adhesives to flaking paint, in an effort to forestall pictorial losses. Reversibility is a prime rule of modern conservation, and, according to the latest

T

lion that once stood in Nimrud—a site, in Iraq, that has been largely destroyed by ISIS.

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scholarly thinking, these physical interventions were safe. Recently, I visited Luxor. For the past several years, terrorism and political tumult have devastated Egypt’s tourist economy. Going into the Valley of the Kings felt like sneaking into the Metropolitan Museum in the middle of the night: I had the place to myself, but the privilege was discomfiting. Before 2011, when tourism in Egypt was at its peak, a thousand people a day visited Tut’s tomb. Now, in a parking lot the size of a football field, a lonely bus baked in the sun. Tram cars that convey tourists up the inclines between tombs had been abandoned near the ticket kiosk, coiled together like snakes. The Valley of the Kings looks like an elegant quarry; as I approached the tombs, it was so quiet that I heard the skittering of every pebble dislodged by my shoes. To my eye, the Getty’s touch-ups looked nimble. Freed of desert grime, the marigold pigment saturated my field of vision. But, as with plastic surgery, some treatments don’t hold up well over time. Lori Wong, a Getty conservator who has worked in the tomb, is a model of circumspection, and she told me that the Getty was “really cautious” when making interventions. But the scientific understanding of how treatment materials affect art works keeps changing. For example, a 2013 study suggests that the adhesive Paraloid B-72, which previous conservators applied to the wall paintings in Tut’s tomb, can cause “chromatic variations” in surface pigments. Other research has suggested that the adhesive isn’t fully reversible: getting rid of it can dislodge paint. In the end, every physical alteration is a risk. Too often, the main reason to restore a treasured art work is to remedy a botched restoration. Wong said that she has removed patches of B-72 that had left “a shiny surface,” as well as “a fair amount of surface drips” caused by old repainting efforts. I have seen what Tut’s tomb looked like before conservation work began. Dust had settled on protrusions in the walls, and, though these areas were a bit distracting, they allowed the murals to double as relief maps, underscoring the fact that the walls had been chiselled by hand. More troubling were the bacterial splotches. The goddess Nut, stylishly attired in a white dress with a red belt, 68

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OLD WEST DAYS

It was just after the war of course which everyone had been so excited about. And everyone was doing the math while the buses gave them back, all the town’s families adding themselves up. Oh, it was a great year to be a queen. We restored the old barn of good intentions and our dilapidated sense of adventure, which had been, for several years preceding the return of frontier days, co-opted for the war effort. Mothers, who came to us from the French, were made of the finest lace and exquisite fringe. It was a great year to be a queen, did I say that already? Well, O.K., but it was! It was just before the war of course when they still made the sun out East. She carried them everywhere, her schoolbooks, which understandably she was incapable of reading, and in her other hand the great unspooling cable of voices from the old country. You could fall in love with an idea in those days, appeared to have a five-o’clock shadow. When this detail leaped out at me, I was not standing in the real tomb. I was inside a full-sized replica that has been installed on a gravelly hillside about a mile east of Tutankhamun’s resting place. The facsimile had been made by digitally recording the tomb, in 2009, with a fleet of scanners, for seven weeks. Nut and her companions were immortalized at actual size, and at a resolution of up to eight hundred dots per inch. After the data sets from the scans were stitched together on a computer screen, the quilt of 0s and 1s was returned to physical form. The process eerily echoed that of making a fresco. First came the walls. A recording of their topography, capturing every bulbous paint drip, was rendered in 3-D by a computer-numerical-control milling machine, which produced two hundred and forty panels of high-density polyurethane. The panels, which mimicked the uneven surface of the original walls, were fitted together. The ersatz walls were then wrapped with a flexible “skin,” of a gesso-like material, bearing a lush ink-jet printout of the frescoes.

Mummified walls: a nice Egyptian touch. The man who led the facsimile project, a proudly dishevelled Englishman named Adam Lowe, was admiring the fake walls alongside me. Lowe prefers to call them “rematerialized” walls. He whispered, “Amazing—it looks just like the real thing, doesn’t it?” He is fifty-seven years old, and looks like what Paul McCartney might look like had McCartney never undergone restoration. Lowe, a former painter, who, in the nineteen-eighties, became obsessed with printmaking, runs Factum Arte, a “digital mediation” workshop that is based in Madrid. It took two years for Lowe and several dozen technicians to remake the Tutankhamun walls—considerably longer than the ancient Egyptians took to produce them. Perfecting the digital printout, he told me, had involved hundreds of hours of analog assessment: thousands of paint samples were mixed by hand, in Luxor, to match the tones in the original tomb, then compared with ink-jet outputs. Factum modified an enormous Epson printer so that it could make repeated passes over the gesso-like skin in


recalls John Gast, 32, retired painter of secrets. Everyone I knew had an idea back home. This was her, he said, handing me a dusty frame, the faded print inside preserving against all odds an unsmiling but determined gaze I’d seen many times in Mr. Lovesick’s History. She was beautiful, I said, and she was, in a way that surprises, as if seeing for the first time a photograph of your grandmother when she was your age. Hey, Gast, you’re living in the past! they always tell me, well perhaps that’s right where I belong. By busload, the men in their pressed costumes and starched distracted glances returned with an appetite for waving goodbye and an eye toward the glass-knobbed door. While the parade waded by they stood in neat white rows like a pack of cigarettes anxious to turn to smoke. And there’s me in my buckskin dress and my twenty-two shooter. A queen for a feast of beasts and suitors. —Brian Russell perfect registration, allowing for fine tweaks. As I examined the facsimile, I was prepared to summon my inner Walter Benjamin and bemoan the mechanical reproduction’s lack of an “aura.” But there were no Disneyfied abominations: the baboons, with their playful upturned tails, looked as mischievous, mold-mottled, and ancient as the originals. I could make out the spot where, in a long brushstroke outlining a baboon’s crest, the artist had just begun to run out of paint. In their brutal objectivity, the 2009 scans had recorded beauty and blemish alike. “That’s printed dust,” Lowe joked, pointing at a baboon that had been painted on a particularly bumpy area. “It’s not something that will just come off.” The only thing that was perceptibly modern was the absence of a musty odor. Lowe noted that the room’s sound wasn’t right, either. He hopes to enlist engineers to record the “acoustic signature” of Tutankhamun’s tomb, so that he can re-create it inside the facsimile. Factum began operations in 1998, when it was becoming clear that 3-D printing was a revolutionary tool. The workshop has made millions of dollars

by fabricating sculptures for artists— Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, Marc Quinn— who sometimes require technological assistance to realize their visions. Lowe appears to spend nearly all his profits on fanciful-seeming projects that, in aggregate, mount a serious case that the facsimile can play a central role in art conservation. In order to raise funds for his preservation projects, he established a nonprofit wing, the Factum Foundation. A digitally recorded copy, Lowe argues, can be both a lode of “forensically accurate information” and a vehicle for provoking a “deep emotional response.” Because an art work can be scanned without physical contact, the facsimile process makes traditional conservation efforts—from repainting to varnishing—seem like an exalted form of graffiti. A facsimile also allows the public to see objects that are nearly impossible to approach in person: Factum has recorded and reassembled everything from a Renaissance painting outside the Pope’s bedroom to rock carvings on a remote

plateau in Chad.Lowe has a boyish indifference to danger, and colleagues must constantly dissuade him from, say, driving into Libya with a scanner in the trunk. Factum made its reputation in 2007, with a replica of Paolo Veronese’s monumental painting “The Wedding at Cana,” which Napoleon presented to a new museum, the Louvre, after ripping it off the wall of a refectory in Venice in 1797. The painting’s place in the refectory, which was designed by Palladio, had never been filled; Lowe installed his copy in the exact spot. Factum’s noninvasive protocol, in which their scanner’s lasers captured every whorled brushstroke without touching the canvas, was in stark contrast to the Louvre’s restoration of the painting, in the nineteen-nineties, during which it accidentally fell onto some scaffolding and was gored in five places. The Tutankhamun reproduction, which is about sixty square metres, expanded on the ambition of the “Cana” project, and it is the most heralded digital facsimile yet made. (National Geographic called it “a replica fit for a king.”) Lowe believes that Factum’s work transcends the taint of chicanery and cheesiness which traditionally has been associated with copies. The goal, after all, is not deception. “It’s verisimilitude, not falsity,” Lowe said. “What we’re trying to do is to actually study something close enough that we can remake it.” Factum’s scanning technology allows recorded objects to be viewed at a zoom of five hundred per cent. “You can study many art works more deeply with the data we’re recording,” Lowe went on. Closeup photographs are helpful, he conceded, but wouldn’t an academic learn even more by handling one of his replicas? How many art historians have felt the heft of a Brancusi bird? Factum’s Web site contains dozens of treatises questioning the aesthetic assumptions behind our disdain for fakes. Lowe proclaims that his workshop seeks to “redefine the relationship between the original and the copy.” He told me, “We have this weird obsession with the original, as though it were static and immortal, even though we know that, like everything else, it journeys through time. We know this every time we look in the THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Life Hacks

SCREEN BEE was in the garden with Augie, my

I four-year-old grandson, watching

the bees in the lavender. “Bees make honey,” I said, transmitting the wisdom of the ages in good grandmotherly fashion. After a pause, Augie replied, “How do they make the honey?” There is nothing like a child’s question for exposing the limits of a grandmother’s wisdom. “Actually, Augie, I don’t know,” I said. “But, Grandmom, you have your phone,” he said. For Augie, a smartphone is as natural and unremarkable as the bees and the lavender, and holding one is almost synonymous with knowing. I Googled “How do bees make honey?” There were dozens of videos explaining it. As we stood in the garden, shielding the screen against the sunlight, Augie and I learned that worker bees secrete an enzyme called invertase, which converts nectar into dextrose, then flap their wings to thicken the nectar into honey. “It’s kind of hard to see the bees,” I said, squinting at the screen. “Why don’t we watch it on the big computer?” Augie said. For the next hour, we sat inside, bee-surfing. Someone in Sweden had posted a speeded-up video of bees building a hive, months of construction compressed into two minutes. There was a whole subgenre of beekeeper selfie videos. Best of all was a BBC documentary about the “waggle dance,” the remarkable communication system that allows bees to give one another directions to the places where they’ve found nectar. My own childhood was dominated by a powerful device that used an optical interface to transport the user to an alternate reality. I spent most of my waking hours in its grip, oblivious 70

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of the world around me. The device was, of course, the book. Over time, reading hijacked my brain, as large areas once dedicated to processing the “real” world adapted to processing the printed word. As far as I can tell, this early immersion didn’t hamper my development, but it did leave me with some illusions—my idea of romantic love surely came from novels. English children’s books, in particular, are full of tantalizing food descriptions. At some point in my

childhood, I must have read about a honeycomb tea. Augie, enchanted, agreed to accompany me to the grocery store. We returned with a jar of honeycomb, only to find that it was an inedible, waxy mess. Many parents worry that “screen time” will impair children’s development, but recent research suggests that most of the common fears about children and screens are unfounded. (There is one exception: looking at screens that emit blue light before bed really does disrupt sleep, in people of all ages.) The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend strict restrictions on screen exposure. Last year, the organization examined the relevant

science more thoroughly, and, as a result, changed its recommendations. The new guidelines emphasize that what matters is content and context, what children watch and with whom. Each child, after all, will have some hundred thousand hours of conscious experience before turning sixteen. Those hours can be like the marvellous ones that Augie and I spent together bee-watching, or they can be violent or mindless—and that’s true whether those hours are occupied by apps or TV or books or just by talk. New tools have always led to panicky speculation. Socrates thought that reading and writing would have disastrous effects on memory; the novel, the telegraph, the telephone, and the television were all declared to be the End of Civilization as We Know It, particularly in the hands of the young. Part of the reason may be that adult brains require a lot of focus and effort to learn something new, while children’s brains are designed to master new environments spontaneously. Innovative technologies always seem distracting and disturbing to the adults attempting to master them, and transparent and obvious—not really technology at all—to those, like Augie, who encounter them as children. Like the bees, we live by the reports of others. Unlike the bees, we can invent new worlds, constructing them out of sonic vibrations, ink, or pixels. Sometimes those worlds deceive and confuse; at other times, they tell us something revelatory. When Augie’s father got home, Augie rushed to meet him, his words tumbling out in excitement. “Daddy, Daddy, look,” he said, reaching for the phone. “Do you know how bees make honey? I’ll show you. . . .” 

TODD ST. JOHN

By Alison Gopnik


mirror! But why is it that we engage in these efforts to try to keep an art object looking the same, especially when those efforts so often fail?” Is seeing “The Wedding at Cana” in the Louvre—where it occupies the same noisy salon as the “Mona Lisa”—a richer experience than seeing the facsimile in the painting’s original location? When Italians witnessed the unveiling of the Veronese replica, in the creamily lit space where the artist intended his masterpiece to be seen, many of them wept. Bruno Latour, the French theorist, championed the “Cana” project, and he and Lowe later wrote an essay about it, in which they referred to a “migration of the aura” from original to copy. Some scholars remain wary. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, of the Max Planck Institute for Art History, in Rome, told me that the “Cana” installation is valuable, because it makes Palladio’s refectory “aesthetically complete.” But she warned that a visitor “will not learn anything about the original painting,” adding, “A painting is not just made of the surface, but of a multitude of layers and changing pigments which are part of its individuality and that of its creator. It has not only an iconography but also its own material personality. It is a horrifying vision to imagine that we could be faced with a horde of never-aging clones.” But clones have their advantages. AbdelGaber, the antiquities official, told me that tourists in Luxor are typically allowed to view the actual Tut tomb for about “ten to fifteen minutes.” Many Egyptologists expect that Tutankhamun’s resting place, like many others in the Valley of the Kings, will one day be closed to tourists, in order to save it from destruction. But they can pant as long as they like inside the fake tomb, which is built beneath the same scalding sun, and set at the same angle. Lowe pointed out a few divergences between Tutankhamun’s tomb and his reconstruction of it. Most notably, the facsimile contains a “virtual restoration” of a printed panel that used to be part of the south wall. Howard Carter largely destroyed that wall when he broke into the sealed room. A boulder-size fragment, now missing, was photographed, in black-and-white, soon after Carter’s discovery. Factum technicians scanned the photograph, then colorized it and added relief, by extrapolating from topo

graphical data extracted from similar areas in the tomb. Placing the missing panel inside the replica led Lowe to notice that its surface was far less deteriorated—visual proof that tourism is rapidly damaging the surviving walls. If the joy of studying a masterpiece is, as Nabokov put it, “to fondle the details,” lingering inside the facsimile is unquestionably superior to being herded through the original tomb by a guide. Lowe has signed an agreement with the Egyptian government to place at least two other tomb facsimiles near his Tutankhamun replica, creating an Uncanny Valley of the Kings. he Tut replica cost more than six

T hundred thousand dollars to pro-

duce. Factum paid for almost all of it. In 2014, the facsimile was presented to the nation of Egypt, as a gift. In theory, Lowe’s data could be rematerialized anywhere. In practice, Lowe said, he could build the tomb facsimiles only in Luxor. The Egyptian government holds the copyright on the data, and would consider it cultural theft—and an assault on its tourism industry—if someone installed tomb facsimiles in London or Dubai. “We’d have another Elgin Marbles kind of drama,” Lowe joked. AbdelGaber told me that his country is grateful to Factum. “When we make a replica, we can protect something very fragile—that’s good for Egypt and for culture,” he said, adding, with a laugh, “The Russian people! They go inside the tombs and touch the color. We’ve talked about it with their Ambassador. But, with only one or two guards, you can’t watch all the tourists.” By educating visitors about their impact, Lowe argues, tourism can “become a positive force in the preservation of the past.” He is training Egyptians in his scanning methods, and he plans to set up, in Luxor, a digital-fabrication studio modelled on the glass-blowing workshops in Murano. Lowe can’t be sure how long the materials in his Tutankhamun facsimile will last, but his data sets have no expiration date. The 2009 recording could be rematerialized a hundred years from now—and at an even higher resolution, because current printing technology is not refined enough to harness

all the data in the scans. The data could also play a role in preservation: comparing the 2009 scan with a future one would pinpoint the tomb’s rate of decay. Although you must fly to Luxor to go inside Lowe’s tomb, the high-resolution images have been posted on Factum’s Web site. They are hypnotically detailed, and if you scroll through the data on an iPad it seems as if you were touching the walls. When the screen frames a tiny portion of the wall, you notice how varied in intensity the color washes are, and how every square inch is spiderwebbed with cracks. Lifesize copies of ancient sites have been made before: you can walk though fake versions of the Lascaux and Altamira caves. But these replicas, Lowe points out, are “painted by hand.” Such facsimiles, which record only the details that the copyists notice, have no scholarly value. Few Vermeer scholars study forgeries of Vermeer paintings. A high-resolution digital scan, Lowe notes, captures details that may not yet have been appreciated as significant. Indeed, the topographic map of Tutankhamun’s chamber has already led an Egyptologist to a radical theory. After combing through the grayscale images, Nicholas Reeves, an English scholar, detected several ridges that had escaped notice for a century— the ornate paintings had provided too much distraction. The ridges were rectilinear and seemed to outline doorways. One such shape was on the western wall, underneath two of the baboons; another was on the righthand side of the north wall. The doorways, Reeves surmised, must have been filled in before the walls were painted. Was something hidden behind them? He felt confident that there was. One day in early 2015, he called Lowe and said, “If I’m right, I think it’s going to change my life and yours.” Lowe checked the scans, and he panicked. One of the lines was so long and straight that he worried it was a “digital artifact”—the result of two scanning sets being fused improperly. But, as a review of the data and a subsequent visit to the tomb confirmed, the ridges were real. Reeves shared with Lowe a monograph that he had prepared. The tomb THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most celebrated Egyptian royals, has never been found. Many scholars suspect that her mummy is hidden in the Valley of the Kings, which, despite its name, contains the tombs of various nobles as well. The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who is known for flashy projects—for a TV special, he placed Tut’s mummy in a CAT scanner—has searched for her tomb, without success. Nefertiti was the chief wife of Akhenaten, and is thought to have died about a decade before Tutankhamun. When Carter discovered Tut’s burial chamber, Reeves noted, he was surprised to find many tribute objects depicting a royal woman—among them a statue of a pharaoh, with breasts, standing atop a leopard. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti assumed control of the Egyptian empire at the end of Akhenaten’s reign. Reeves told Lowe that Tutankhamun, having died before a tomb was ready for him, might have been squeezed into the entrance of a deeper tomb. Did one of the sealed doorways lead to Nefertiti’s burial chamber? In November, 2015, preliminary thermal imaging detected that the area inside the rectangular outline on the north wall was “different in its temperature than the other parts” of the wall—suggesting that there was a space behind the area. The news made the front page of the Times. The Egyptian government announced plans to follow up with ground-penetrating radar. As we examined the replica’s north wall, Lowe pointed out the ridges that Reeves had identified. “See the black shape and the feather above the table?” he said. “That would be the top of the door. And then you can see the line going down just behind the length of this figure of Osiris.” I asked him if he would be embarrassed if the hidden space turned out to be as big a dud as Al Capone’s vault. “No,” he said. “It’s a victory, no matter what.” Factum’s facsimiles could not be trivialized as high-tech stunts. The intense scrutiny of digital data could open doors.

actum Arte occupies a compound

F of skylighted, paint-splattered ware-

houses in the eastern part of Madrid. When I visited, last December, new sculptures and fake old ones mingled 72

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promiscuously on the workshop floor. Three busts had been made from a scan of the head of the performance artist Marina Abramović, her eyes closed in willed ecstasy. Huddled in a corner were resin replicas of three marble Biblical figures by the Renaissance master Jacopo della Quercia. (The originals are perched high on the façade of an Italian basilica.) “Factum is a place of atemporal creativity,” Lowe said later. “People always say, ‘Isn’t it difficult working with contemporary artists and working with, say, Caravaggio?’ The answer is no. They’re exactly the same. The only difference is that Caravaggio is dead.” Lowe, who was giving me a tour of the workshop, explained that the della Quercia replicas had been made with a 3-D printer—a device that expels pixel-size globules of synthetic resin, which harden and amass into a complex shape. “That’s one way to make a 3-D object,” he said. “We generally prefer using C.N.C.s”—computernumerical-control milling machines, which carve into a block of material. For large objects, this process is more accurate. “With current technology, subtracting is better than adding,” he said. Across the room, a hulking milling machine was applying rotary cutters to a slab of high-density polyurethane, which, Lowe said, “is the material that will hold the finest information.” (Stone cannot be cut as precisely.) The machine’s robotic head darted a few inches above its plastic target, lunging at the surface like a fencer. Resin replicas have a telltale sheen, so to reproduce antique sculptures the protocol at Factum includes a step that is more 1816 than 2016: the digital data set is rematerialized using a C.N.C., and then a mold and a cast are made. Factum has rendered facsimiles in everything from plaster to bronze. In a nook that resembled a messy kitchen, an Argentinean employee, a trained sculptor named Sebas Beyro, was preparing to make a cast by kneading a “dough” of scagliola—plaster tinted to imitate stone. The mold was made from a scan of the hindquarters of a colossal alabaster statue that once stood in the ancient Assyrian capital of Nimrud: a winged lion with a

man’s gently smiling face, dating from the ninth century B.C. Factum was reconstructing the creature, an Assyrian deity, in sections. A few milling machines on the market are large enough to produce a single resin mold of a tenfoot-tall sculpture, but they are not accurate enough for Factum’s purposes. Beyro planned to mask the joints between the sections with wisps of plaster—the sole human touch on an object that had a resolution of three hundred microns. Beyro was tinting his dough brownish gray, so that the plaster would match the hue of the original lion, which is in the British Museum. Lowe prizes objective data, but he also believes in the artist’s eye. In his view, most computer-generated creations require “craft skills” in order to be fully convincing. Recently, his workshop explored methods for giving facsimile sculptures an ancient-looking patina, including, he said, “burying them in a pit filled with yogurt and dog shit.” Lowe has a fine-arts degree from the Ruskin School of Art, at Oxford University, but he is happy to stand apart from fusty academic conservationists. He sees himself as closer in spirit to Hollywood directors like James Cameron, who freely combine cuttingedge and traditional methods in order to achieve visionary ends. Universities are becoming attuned to the promise of digital restoration; Columbia University, which offers a master’s degree in historic preservation, recently hired Lowe to teach a course in its conservation lab. But Factum isn’t likely to lose its lead anytime soon. Because of all the Kapoors that Lowe fabricates, he can invest hundreds of thousands of euros a year in experimental technology—something that few academics can do. The winged-lion replica, which was nearly complete, loomed over the workshop. I touched its front paws, and the plaster surface felt craggy, echoing the eroded surface of the original, which stood, for nearly three millennia, on the site of a palace in Nimrud, in what is now Iraq. In April, 2015, soldiers from isis besieged what remained of the Nimrud site. After a few days of hacking and bulldozing, they released a video of the entire archeological site being blown


Two versions of a medieval Christ: a computer-milled wooden facsimile (right) and a 3-D-printed model. up. They also took a cruel photograph of a winged lion similar to the one being fashioned in Madrid: a militant was obliterating its smile with a drill. The British Museum wasn’t the only Western institution that owned precious objects from Nimrud. Many treasures were spirited out of Iraq during the nineteenth century, the heyday of imperialist archeology. After the Iraq War began, Lowe contacted curators at five museums that own pieces from the throne room of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II and secured permission to replicate them. The British Museum’s lion was scanned, at night, in the course of five weeks. (Recording at a resolution of three hundred microns takes time.) Lowe’s initial plan was to help Iraqi curators partly “reassemble” the throne room in a library in Mosul. Facsimiles of the winged lion, and of reliefs depicting a lion hunt, were completed in 2014. High-density polyurethane is expensive, so the milling alone cost four hundred thousand euros. “We got them all through Turkey, through Kurdistan, through Erbil, down though Iraq into Mosul,” Lowe said. Then isis ransacked the li

brary.The facsimiles were likely destroyed. Fortunately, Factum saved its molds. “The beauty is that we can send another set,” he said. The winged lion being finished by Beyro, then, could be a replacement for a replacement. Now that isis had laid waste to all of Nimrud, Lowe had conceived an even bolder proposal. He told me that Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, had announced plans to help reassemble the Nimrud fragments remaining from the recent destruction, following the model of the Acropolis, in Athens. This struck Lowe as foolish nostalgia— fetishizing stone shrapnel that was likely too ruined to conjure the monuments’ beauty. A smarter way to honor Nimrud’s past, he told me, would be to “scan all the known fragments”—he gestured to a wall that held copies of Nimrud friezes that are in the Pergamon Museum, in Berlin—“and have copies erected on the site.” He planned to start a campaign to promote his idea, presenting his latest lion to potential donors as a proof of concept. As Lowe contemplated the digital restoration of Nimrud, he noted that

even the British Museum’s lion was substantially changed from its initial state. It originally had colored paint on its surface, but after it arrived in London, in the eighteen-fifties, British curators made a plaster cast of it, and the color was peeled off in the molding process. “An original, you see, is never an original, once it goes through time,” Lowe said. He is confident that Factum’s facsimile technology is without parallel. Though he welcomes competition, he can be withering about rivals, especially the Institute for Digital Archaeology, an upstart founded, in 2012, by Roger Michel, an American. Michel is an unconventional arts professional; he is an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, who has, as Lowe puts it, a “talent for publicity.” Last year, the I.D.A. made headlines, and the cover of Newsweek, after it erected, in Trafalgar Square, a marble replica of a triumphal Roman arch in Palmyra, Syria— another icon destroyed by isis. A 3-D model was produced, Michel says, by collating dozens of photographs that archeologists and tourists had taken before the terrorists descended. Lowe went THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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to London to examine the arch, and felt that it was a sloppy stunt. “For starters, it is one-third the original size!” he fumed. (According to Michel, a one-to-one facsimile would have been too heavy to display in Trafalgar Square.) Moreover, Lowe said, the facsimile was inaccurate: “If you look at the arch, there are these beautiful Corinthian columns on it, and on the finial it looks like there’s an artichoke on it. You can just tell that one of the people making it was, like, ‘That’s too hard right there,’ and simplified the shape! It’s appalling.” Recently, Michel and Lowe appeared on a panel at Columbia. Michel said that he made his arch to “redress a sense of loss” felt by Syrians, and he complained that Western scholars were “very fetishistic” about high-resolution data. Lowe noted icily that Nicholas Reeves’s Tutankhamun discoveries would not have been possible “without the data being submillimetric.” Lowe agrees with Michel about one thing: locals should be enlisted to digitally record cultural-heritage sites, as a safeguard against iconoclasm or accidental damage. Although Lowe is fond of his lasers, sophisticated digital replicas of monuments can now be generated with S.L.R. cameras—if thousands of shots are taken from every possible angle, in consistent light. This method, called photogrammetry, “is really about to take off, and replace 3-D scanning as the state of the art for fac-

similes,” Lowe said. “The algorithms have gotten so much better.” The latest technology can achieve a resolution of a hundred microns, which is what the typical human eye can discern at reading distance. “If you can get the same quality data and object by using photographs, not lasers, the recording process is cheaper and a lot faster.” Lowe has initiated a project to demonstrate how to do proper photogrammetry of a historic site. Next year, he plans to fly a drone equipped with a camera over some sandstone tombs in Petra Archeological Park, in Jordan, and compile data for “exquisite, one-to-one” facsimiles. “The recording will be done by a small group of Jordanians,” Lowe said. “And this scan, unlike some, will actually be worth keeping for posterity.” e climbed some stairs and Lowe

W led me into a small chamber that

houses Factum’s most prized invention: the Lucida scanner. Photogrammetry is deft at capturing sculptural form, but it is less suited to recording the glossy surface of Old Master paintings—the glare caused by a flash results in errors. Lowe said that it took Factum more than a decade to solve the problem. The Lucida was invented by Manuel Franquelo, a Spanish painter, who helped Lowe found Factum. A laser pointer projects onto a painting a vertical red beam, which becomes

“Pillows for sleeping on are downstairs. These are all for screaming into.”

slightly crooked wherever the surface isn’t flat. The laser pointer is flanked by two video cameras, and a topographic map is generated. Both cameras capture underexposed images and overexposed ones, an arrangement that helps insure that no detail is lost. A metal support bar affixed to a trolley allows the laser to follow a level path a few inches from the painting’s surface. The system can record the shiniest of substances, including the gold leaf on a Byzantine halo. The National Gallery in London bought a Lucida, for twenty thousand pounds, and has begun scanning its permanent collection with it. The Prado used a Lucida to scan Goya’s “black paintings,” including “Saturn Devouring His Son.” The Lucida is easy to pack on a plane, and Lowe has been travelling around the world with one in order to record the sixteen scattered panels of the Polittico Griffoni—an altarpiece, completed in 1473, that once decorated the Basilica of San Petronio, in Bologna. The work, painted primarily by Francesco della Cossa, was dismantled in 1725 and its components were sold off. “I think that if the altarpiece could again be seen all together it would finally be recognized as one of the great achievements of the Renaissance,” Lowe told me. A printout of Lowe’s favorite panel, depicting St. George, was on his office desk. It had not yet been framed, and I could see white gesso around the edges of the printout. “Slightly more work needed on the face,” Lowe pronounced. “I still don’t believe it.” As sophisticated as facsimile printouts have become, they remain flawed in one key respect: printers deploy ink, not oil paint, let alone other materials, like walnut oil, that artists such as Rembrandt swirled into their brushes. A painting’s texture and shine are connected to its physical makeup, and until 3-D printers can squirt simulations of the varied materials that were originally applied to a canvas, the surface reflectivity of a digital facsimile will be suspiciously uniform. Lowe disguises this problem as much as he can by employing a classic optical trick—he coats his printouts in Old Master varnish. (The St. George replica shone warmly when I placed it under Lowe’s desk lamp.) This final barrier


to authenticity may soon be conquered. For the Griffoni project, Factum is conducting some experiments with a Dutch company, Océ, which is at the frontier of 3-D printing. Researchers there have created a printer that uses special inks that mimic the reflective qualities of oil and lacquer and lead. Such a printer, guided by data about a painting’s chemistry, could yield the ultimate fake. In 2018, Factum plans to mount an exhibition of a re-created Polittico Griffoni, which, Lowe hopes, will travel among all the museums that own panels. Over the centuries, most of the panels have been extensively restored through repainting, some of them clumsily, so they will clash when joined together: in the central panel, which is at the National Gallery in London, the sky has a teal cast, but it looks marine blue in the two flanking panels, which are at the Pinacoteca di Brera, in Milan. Lowe is considering presenting two versions of the altarpiece—“one with the pieces as they look now, and one with each panel digitally restored, so that they harmonize into one image.” Such a project might be his strongest challenge yet to the idea of physical restoration. If you can create a replica that effectively relays a curator’s hypothesis about what an art work once looked like, why make possibly damaging physical alterations to the original? The Art Institute of Chicago has experimented with a similar approach. In 2005, it displayed a “digital rejuvenation” of Seurat’s Pointillist masterpiece “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” many of whose pigments, such as zinc yellow, have browned with age. A large printout of the color-adjusted image was presented next to the painting, which has not been restored. Lowe’s proposition is thornier: will museums want their doctored Griffoni panels subjected to a merciless critique? “It’s an idea that may have to remain inside my head,” Lowe said. ven if every prominent museum

Ebought a Lucida scanner, digital

restoration is hardly going to make Lowe rich. Fortunately, getting rich is not one of his goals. He has what a colleague calls a “karmic business model”—

London galleries seem to make fresh fabrication commissions whenever his conservation projects leave him in debt. In order to pay for his lavish facsimiles, Lowe has radically streamlined his life. He drives a rotting old Saab, and for the past two years he hasn’t even had a permanent place to live—he is always off scanning in France or Chad, anyway, so when funds ran low he didn’t mind giving up the apartment he rented in Madrid. By that point, his all-consuming commitment to Factum had prompted his first wife to leave him; Lowe told me, with sympathy, that “she wanted a tranquil life, full of holidays and nice things, and she wasn’t going to get it.” His son, Otto, who is twenty-seven, has been more willing to be sucked into the Factum vortex: he helps run the nonprofit foundation. Earlier this year, Lowe married a British architect, Charlotte Skene Catling, in Venice, on the island where the “Wedding at Cana” replica resides. A constant traveller herself, she finds his wanderings romantic. In December, 2015, they spent what Skene Catling called a “holiday” in Dagestan, where Lowe scanned medieval Muslim tombstones. The U.S. State Department strongly advises against travel there, given the prevalence of Islamist extremism. When I asked the couple if the trip had been nerve-wracking, they scoffed, in unison, “It was fine! ” When Skene Catling, who works out of London, is visiting Lowe in Madrid, they sleep in the Factum warehouse, which has beds in a few rooms. I peeked into one of them. The wall above the bed’s headboard was covered with a welter of color printouts depicting closeups of Caravaggio paintings. If the painter were still alive, you’d think that Lowe was stalking him. Factum has scanned three of the Baroque artist’s paintings, whose extreme contrasts between light and dark are difficult to capture with ordinary photography. The paintings, which depict the life of St. Matthew, are at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, in Rome. The replicas have been installed at a research center in the Lombardy town that gave the artist his name. The scans,

archived on Factum’s Web site, contain six gigabytes of data each. A few test printouts of the Caravaggios now decorate a salon in the Madrid workshop, giving it the air of a Mafia safe house filled with stolen masterpieces. One of Caravaggio’s most celebrated works, the “Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence,” was, in fact, stolen by the Mob from a chapel in Palermo, the Oratory of San Lorenzo, in 1969. The painting depicts the two saints and a few other figures clustered around Mary; her face has the spotlighted glamour of a Hollywood head shot. Nobody is sure what happened to the “Nativity” canvas, although the favored local story is that it was rolled up and stashed in a Sicilian barn, where it was destroyed by rats and pigs. After the theft, a blurry photograph of the “Nativity” was hung in the chapel in its place. A few years ago, Lowe decided that he would try to restore the chapel’s aura, by creating what he called a “performance of the Caravaggio, with me as the conductor.” He digitally combined details from multiple photographs of the “Nativity,” including black-andwhite images, to create the “most complete data set possible.” (Anna Paola Ferrara, a Factum employee who worked on the project, calls the resulting image “a Frankenstein.”) Lowe marshalled what he had learned from making the other Caravaggio facsimiles to mimic the topography created by the artist’s thick, quick brushstrokes. Using the giant Epson, he printed out the “rebuilt” composition, then showed it to an Italian art historian. In response to his comments, Lowe and two colleagues acted like old-school restorers, making touch-ups with a brush. To integrate these tweaks, he scanned the altered fake and made another 3-D print. The historian made yet more critiques, and six more printouts were produced before the work was deemed ready for display. The project, which cost a hundred thousand euros, was paid for by Sky TV, the European cable channel, which made a documentary about the painting’s theft. At the end of my Madrid visit, I flew with Lowe to Palermo, to attend the unveiling. Just before 11 A.M., we THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Life Hacks

COOKED DATA he interface for Chef Watson,

T I.B.M.’s artificial-intelligence

cooking app, is simple and welcoming, a minimalist canvas of four empty text fields and four dove-gray circles. You type in the ingredients, or let Chef Watson choose them for you according to its own mysterious logic: tomato, garlic, onion, purple seedless grape. These four ingredients, Watson declares, have a “synergy” of a hundred per cent—they are an unimprovable combination, chemically speaking. But, as an embodied being who has tasted those ingredients, you might be skeptical about combining them—especially when you scroll down to the suggested recipes and discover, near the top of the list, something called Purple Seedless Grape Starch Dish. The recipe also calls for “sixtyseven medium trimmed Easteregg radishes,” black beans, cinnamon, curly parsley, marjoram, and Calvados. Cook, salt to taste, then top with Jack cheese, olive oil, and the grapes, “for squeezing over.” And there you have it: the computer-assisted future of cuisine, in the form of a pile of sweet-smelling, mud-colored radishes. So far, artificial-intelligence researchers have mostly built machines capable of demonstrating their own prowess. At I.B.M., engineers have used natural-language processing and enormous computational power to beat the most proficient humans at our own games, like chess and “Jeopardy!” Having achieved these goals, Watson’s handlers now imagine a more intimate, domestic role for A.I. To create Chef Watson, I.B.M. exposed its algorithms to the entire recipe archive of Bon Appétit, as well as to recent research in “hedonic psychophysics”—“the psychology of what people find pleasant.” The algorithms also took note of which ingredients tended to be 76

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combined, and inferred the roles they seemed to play in a dish. The result is a browser-based Web app that allows users to generate recipes by selecting a permutation of ingredients and a style of cuisine. Watson can invent several dozen recipes that prominently feature prunes; it can satisfy a request for banana biscotti in a Creole or a Basque style; and it makes suggestions that no human would ever make, like adding milk chocolate to a clam linguine or mayonnaise to a Bloody Mary.

With Watson’s help, I cooked some eggplant fritters that made convenient use of every sad, wrinkling root in my refrigerator’s crisper. (Combining seemingly incongruous spare ingredients is the app’s most practical function.) I made a butternut-squash-andshrimp sandwich—a tuna-and-pickle sandwich from the Bon Appétit archive, transformed by Mad Libs logic. I made a caper-and-fennel salad that was lovely, though I left out the suggested cocoa. After a week of collaborating with Watson, I began to worry that I wasn’t giving it a fair trial. Perhaps, by using whatever I had on hand and selecting for novelty, I was making Watson seem kookier than necessary. I decided

to impose the social pressure that a skittish cook like me needs: I scheduled a dinner party for myself, my husband, and four nonjudgmental friends. On the morning of the party, I wandered the grocery store with phone in hand, trawling the app for familiar summertime dishes with just a dash of robotic weirdness. I settled on a cherry-tomato gazpacho, followed by a clam-and-salmon paella and a maplesyrup ice cream. Watson’s gazpacho recipe called for cabbage; or, according to a drop-down menu of psychophysically similar ingredients, I could substitute squash blossoms or watermelon radish. The app’s quantitative approach made cooking a simple, combinatorial thing, an equation with variables waiting to be filled in. When it came time to prepare the paella, Watson was cagier. “Add enough fish stock to measure the remaining fish stock mixture,” it told me, an intriguing Zen koan but hardly a useful instruction. When I took the paella out of the oven, I found myself poking at a heap of tough undercooked rice, gooey overcooked rice, unopened clams, and desiccated salmon. By dessert, I was ready to mutiny. I decided to discard Watson’s ice-cream recipes, all of which called for butter or garlic or curry powder, and go it alone. That Chef Watson unleashed an improvisational cook within me is evidence of how frustrating the program often is, and how productive that frustration can be. Sifting through dozens of recipes had taught me that ice cream was just a creamy base and flavoring, so I relied on my human intuition. I boiled blueberries with brown sugar to make a compote, which I stirred into a vanilla-flavored base and sweetened with maple syrup. For the first time all evening, my guests looked delighted. 

TODD ST. JOHN

By Alexandra Kleeman


entered the chapel through a courtyard graced by a solitary orange tree; overripe fruit had fallen off and rolled into the corners. The courtyard was crowded with European journalists: the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, and the mayor of Palermo were coming to see the new “Nativity.” The chapel is a Baroque folly, its white stucco walls decorated with putti spanking and kissing one another. Just as Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” dominated the spare refectory in Venice, Lowe said, Caravaggio’s work was the “only colored image in a chapel that’s essentially bone white.” He said of the “Nativity,” “Losing it throws off the entire scheme of the chapel.” Inside, Lowe’s creation was hidden behind a curtain. He told me that, after examining closeups of the three scanned Caravaggios on computer screens, he had divined some of the Baroque master’s secrets. Caravaggio typically painted his figures with brushstrokes that were perpendicular to those he used for his dark backgrounds; the subtle friction caused a feathering of the surface, lending the figures a gauzy luminosity. As Lowe put it, “Caravaggio grounded his canvas specifically so that he’d break down the edges while he painted.” When Lowe made his touch-ups, he imitated this practice. With the original object missing, he said, such artisanal impositions could not be avoided; at least they were based in rigorous digital analysis of Caravaggio’s style. The curtain itself had a playful trompe-l’oeil effect: it had been digitally printed with an image of the rectangle of flaked paint which had been exposed by the theft. Soon after the President arrived, a bell rang, and the curtain fell to the floor, revealing the new “Nativity.” The hundred or so people gathered in the chapel applauded. In the decade since the Veronese facsimile had been completed, a cultural shift had taken place: instead of crying, the Italians began feverishly taking cell-phone pictures of the facsimile and posting them on social media. A lunette window near the ceiling splashed the canvas with light at an angle similar to that of the implicit light source in Caravaggio’s composition. The shimmer felt integral to the work, and it highlighted the many

bumps, folds, and varnish cracks on the printout, producing the illusion of an antique provenance. Lowe came over and appraised his work. “The texture of the background has this manky surface at the bottom,” he said, with satisfaction. The facsimile needed to look like it was painted in the seventeenth century, with gravity taking its toll. I asked him how he knew that his colors were accurate. “Caravaggio has a relatively limited palette,” he said. “And so the reds—from the work we did in San Luigi dei Francesi, we have exact color matching.” President Mattarella smiled before the “Nativity” and got his picture taken. He made a brief statement, in which he called the theft a “desecration” and noted that Factum “allows us not to fix what happened but to rediscover the effect and the emotions that Caravaggio’s work created in this oratory.” Lowe acknowledged that the “Nativity” project was new territory for Factum. It was a speculative act—an educated guess about an art work’s original condition. Then again, so is a traditional restoration. Lowe’s speculation, however, had not been imposed on the original. As we left the chapel, he told me, “In my dreams, I hope that the people who stole this painting will feel the power that is generated when many people focus on the importance of an object, and the importance of its place, and that tomorrow morning, rolled up outside the chapel, the original painting will be left.” Meanwhile, Lowe was planning a furtive operation of his own. Before the Factum “Nativity” was sent to Palermo, he noticed a few details that still made him unhappy. A new iteration was being prepared, and Lowe promised that, one day in the coming months, “we’re going to replace it and see if anyone notices.” He paused and smiled. “We’re basically going to steal our own painting.” he Lucida scanner is easy to op-

T erate, but it’s hard to carry, in pieces,

down the steps of an ancient Egyptian tomb. Many parts aren’t heavy—the component containing the lasers and the cameras is the size of a laptop—

but the trolley base bears an unnerving similarity to a toboggan, and the stairs to the tomb we were entering, that of Seti I, were steep. The tomb is the longest and the deepest in the Valley of the Kings. “Here we go,” Lowe said, as we descended with four others from the surface to a metal security gate, whose turnkey code system evoked a Cold War submarine. Lowe had been in Luxor for several days, and, though he hadn’t bothered with a hat or sunscreen, his skin remained pale. He is the kind of heedless traveller who somehow avoids the food poisoning that befalls his companions. We were accompanied by an Egyptian official, who unlocked the gate. As we walked into the shadows, a wave of chill hit us. Lowe was exhilarated. He had been waiting to scan the Seti tomb for years. “We were meant to go and record it in 2009,” he had told me. “But, when we got there, Zahi Hawass was removing debris from a long passage at the bottom of the tomb. He didn’t find anything, but he filled the whole tomb with dust! He said, ‘All right, you’re here with all the equipment, you can go and do Tut.’ But I was disappointed. Because Seti is a large, important tomb that desperately needs recording. And Tut is a famous tomb, but it is not one of the most important.” This twist of fate, he admitted, had turned out to be “the biggest gift in the world from the pharaonic gods.” The global fascination with Tut—and the subsequent excitement about the possible hidden tomb of Nefertiti—had given Factum a level of prominence that a scan of the Seti tomb, however valuable, would not have provided. Throughout the aughts, Lowe kept asking to record the Seti tomb, but he met resistance from Egyptian officials, who found Lowe’s proposal either bizarre or suspicious. “But I’m fucking stubborn,” he said. “I’m like a terrier that bites into something and I just don’t let go.” The modern city of Luxor is across the Nile from the Valley of the Kings. He had so many meetings with local bureaucrats that the canopied ferry he hired to shuttle him across the river was christened the Adam Boat. In May, Lowe began scanning the THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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Seti tomb, with the understanding that he would also be training Egyptians in the art of making facsimiles. Aliaa Ismail, a twenty-five-year-old native of Cairo, had been working in Madrid for eighteen months, mastering the Lucida scanner, and she was ready to lead a team of Egyptians. Lowe had been recruiting locals for the cause, including Abdu Ghaba, a Jack-of-all-trades who had helped machine a set of bespoke screws for the Lucida after a batch got lost on the journey from Spain. He was now carrying some of our equipment, with pointed ease. “I can make a scanner if I watch you do it,” he told Lowe at one point. “I am a fast learner. Things that slide exactly on metal—I can do that!” The scanning was going to require five Lucidas, if the work was to be completed within five years. Compared with Tut’s burial chamber, Seti I’s tomb, which was once the most gloriously decorated in the Valley of the Kings, has fifty times the amount of painted surface. It was discovered not by an archeologist but by a circus strongman from Padua, the Great Belzoni, when he was treasure hunting in the Valley of the Kings. In 1817, he found an opening in a hillside, and, inside, a stairway. The tomb descended more than four hundred feet. There were ten connected chambers. Tens of thousands of hieroglyphs, carved in bas-relief and painted with vivid colors, covered the walls of nine of them. In the other room, Belzoni saw thousands of preliminary drawings—red outlines that had been corrected, in black, by a master artisan. Exhaustion had apparently set in: this was the first Egyptian tomb to feature decoration on every wall, a style that became the pharaonic standard. It was a fitting tribute to Seti I, a commanding pharaoh who had built one of ancient Egypt’s architectural glories: the Great Hypostyle Hall, in the temple of Karnak. The tomb, Belzoni wrote in his journal, appeared “as if just finished on the day we entered it.” He added, “The paintings became more perfect as we advanced farther into the interior. They retain their gloss, or a kind of varnish over the colors, which had a beautiful effect.” As Belzoni explored the 78

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space with torches, he discovered that paintbrushes still littered the floor. The tomb is no longer in superb condition. After Belzoni discovered it, flash floods turned its lower chambers into a swimming pool, causing many of the bas-reliefs to crack. During the next century, Egyptologists hacked into the walls to remove panels, which allowed groundwater to seep in. Others made “wet-paper squeezes”—applying moist paper to the surface to create a colored print. Throughout the tomb, I saw ghost traces of these souvenirs: Rothko rectangles where the paint is less intense. Huge chunks of a celestial painting on a ceiling—the stars aligned as rigidly as those on the American flag—have fallen off. In the late eighties, conditions were deemed so dangerous that the tomb was closed to the public. One chamber of bas-reliefs so impressed Belzoni that he named it the Room of Beauties. “When standing in the center of this chamber, the traveller is surrounded by an assembly of Egyptian gods and goddesses,” he wrote. The stairway leading into the chamber was flanked by two panels depicting the same scene: Hathor, the goddess of the underworld, welcoming Seti into her domain. The panels are now separated, one residing in the Louvre and one in a Florence museum. As we walked down the steps, Lowe gave a damage report: “The panels no longer look alike, and they also look nothing like the rest of the tomb. The Louvre color background has become beige, which is not a color you see in any tomb in the Valley of the Kings.” Belzoni wanted fame and money for his trouble. He lugged Seti’s alabaster sarcophagus out of the tomb and sold it to the architect and collector Sir John Soane, in London. He also made wax impressions of the walls of the Room of Beauties—removing paint in the process—and commissioned plaster casts of its bas-reliefs. An exhibition of the assembled replicas opened near Piccadilly Circus, in London, in 1821. The show was a sensation, making Belzoni rich. He died two years later, of dysentery, while trying to find the source of the Niger River. Lowe wasn’t going to make a profit

from his tomb replicas, but they were a calling card for his technology. After setting up a Lucida in the tomb, he was going to Abu Dhabi, to meet curators at the Louvre’s new outpost there, which will occasionally display masterpieces borrowed from Paris. Why not scan and replicate every object on loan? Doing so would allow the curators in Abu Dhabi to assemble a twenty-firstcentury version of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Casts Courts—a grand nineteenth-century project to display plaster replicas of the world’s best sculptures, including Michelangelo’s David. Some of the reproductions in the V. & A. collection are of sculptures that have been destroyed. The cost of scanning and rematerializing the Seti I tomb will likely approach twenty million dollars. The Factum team will use the Lucidas for eyelevel bas-reliefs and photogrammetry for the ceiling. “Seti has probably got three thousand square metres in decorated wall,” Lowe said. Setting up a workshop in Egypt would help the project proceed more quickly, and funnel money into the local community. We set the equipment down in the Room of Beauties. The metal hitting the floor produced a sinister echo. There is rudimentary lighting in the tomb, but the electricity is spotty, and there are sporadic blackouts. Lowe showed me around, pointing to a panel of Horus which retained deep reds and blues. “It is the most naturalistic thing of extraordinary power,” he said. He noted all the damage: “That’s been stolen. That’s been taken.” For the Seti replica, Lowe planned to scan and incorporate the many fragments that had been hacked off since Belzoni’s day. “Egyptologists from Basel have identified hundreds of fragments that are missing from the original tomb,” he said. “Recently, at the Griffith”—an Egyptology institute in Oxford—“they tracked down a few more.” The Room of Beauties still earned its name, but it looked deeply scarred. “You can see a lot of big squeezes here,” Lowe said. “It’s very lacking in color.” There was some recent damage, too, in an adjoining chamber. In the nineties, the American Research Center in Cairo had undertaken a test restoration of a panel depicting Horus, the god of


the living, introducing Seti I to Osiris, the god of the dead. The colors didn’t match the surrounding ancient pigments, and some touch-ups were already decaying. “Here, where this is all peeling off the wall, is acrylic paint,” Lowe said, shaking his head. Egyptian officials, Lowe said, had given the go-ahead to Factum’s proposal to scan a third tomb, that of Queen Nefertari. To celebrate the start of the Seti project, Lowe had arranged for a party to be held just outside the Tutankhamun replica. Musicians played electric ouds while several dozen guests sipped chilled hibiscus tea with sugar sediment at the bottom of the cups. In a speech in Arabic, Ismail, the Egyptian Factum employee, said that the scanning project would “change the way we see ancient monuments,” adding, “Adam scanned the first tomb. We will all do the second tomb. The third will be done by Egyptians.” Inside the Seti tomb, we descended to the chamber with the celestial fresco. The lapis lazuli on the ceiling and the golden paint on the walls reminded me of a Byzantine church. In a corner, there was a pile of rubbish from the nineteen-twenties. “Those are flashbulbs used by Harry Burton, who took the first photographs of the tomb,” Lowe said. I asked Lowe about the ongoing investigation into Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. Since November of 2015, Egyptian officials had approved more tests, and the results had been ambiguous. A Japanese radar technician, Hirokatsu Watanabe, assessed the walls using ground-penetrating radar, and he concluded that “organic and metallic substances” lay behind the north wall. Watanabe’s test, however, couldn’t give a clear sense of how much metallic material there was. It could be a few broken tools, or a heap of Nefertiti treasures. Zahi Hawass, perhaps out of competitiveness, dismissed Watanabe’s findings, saying, “Radar is not scientific.” In March, the National Geographic Society sent over two American experts in ground-penetrating radar, who publicly cast doubt that there was any hidden chamber at all. The society, however, also submitted the data to an Englishman, George Ballard, who runs an international firm that conducts forensic structural investigations. Word spread in

“Set the alarm for 2020.”

• Luxor that Ballard concurred with Watanabe’s more optimistic assessment. Egyptian officials began discussing whether to drill a very small hole behind the north wall, from an unpainted nook adjoining the burial chamber, and peek in with a fibre-optic camera. Any incursions would have to be meticulous: scientists now have the technology to study the chemistry of air that’s been locked inside a sealed tomb, and, if anyone allowed precious data to seep out, it would be a scandal. Nicholas Reeves told me he hopes that a hole will eventually be opened, but he appreciates the caution: “You can’t start drilling the tomb like a Swiss cheese. You want to be sure.” In the Seti tomb, Lowe told me that a conclusive answer to the mystery did not seem imminent. After the crash of an EgyptAir plane, in May, even fewer tourists were planning trips to Luxor. The Supreme Council of Antiquities would likely not move forward until touristic fears had subsided. Ghaba, the handyman, began assembling the Lucida. A second scanner would be set up in the summer, Lowe said, and in the fall a Factum photogrammetry specialist would begin work on the celestial ceiling. Ismail and a Spanish colleague, Carlos Bayod, were about to spend several months in what amounted to an underground kiln watching a laser stripe

• inch across a wall. I asked Bayod, who has supervised dozens of scans with the Lucida, if the prospect daunted him. “No,” he said. “It gives you time in front of the painting—time to appreciate.” In an age of crowded museums, digitization afforded an increasingly rare experience: private communion with a work of art. When the Great Belzoni entered Seti’s tomb, its resplendence could not make up for one major disappointment. There were no treasures except for the sarcophagus. “Seti I was a more famous pharaoh than Tut,” Lowe told me. “Very few of his funerary objects have ever been found. We’d know at this point, I think, if they had been found.” That is, they would have shown up on the black market, if not in museum collections. “So this means that they could possibly be hidden somewhere,” he went on. “And that’s why this scan is especially important. With the Tut, we weren’t even looking to find extra chambers. But the Egyptian authorities wanted us to scan Seti I precisely because a lot of people speculate that there are additional chambers.” Before we began climbing the steep steps back to the surface, leaving the Lucida scanner entombed in the Room of Beauties, I stared at the walls with suspicious eyes. But I was overwhelmed by all the ancient color.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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FICTION

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THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

ILLUSTRATION BY ALAIN PILON


he schoolmarm is playing poker in the town saloon. The stake is the saloon itself. As she is preparing to deal the cards, one of the men demands that she cut the fuckin’ deck, and she shoots him from her lap. “Sorry, but I simply cannot allow . . .” The others tip their crumpled hats. “No, ma’am, you just go ahead and deal.” The men of the town find the schoolmarm difficult but are awed by her refined and lofty character, and generally do what she tells them to do. The sheriff likes to say that she’s as pure as the spotless lily of the lake, though they have no lake, and there are no lilies in it. No damn lilies. The men cuss a lot—in fact, all the time— but never around the schoolmarm. Cussing doesn’t go together with the schoolmarm. It’s like salting your coffee, to put it politely. After winning the saloon in the poker hand, the schoolmarm has the deceased removed and turns the card tables into school desks. The bar becomes an altar on Sundays, but there’s no preacher, so the schoolmarm provides temperance lectures from it, which the men are obliged to attend. In their minds, it’s still the old bar, the old saloon, so they carry along hip flasks and beef jerky to ease themselves through the unholy tedium, belching and snorting noisily. The men are also obliged to take spelling and counting lessons on weekdays, using the signs on the saloon walls and the playing cards with numbers on them as their schoolbooks. The men learn that there are two “t”s in “spitting,” for example, and, when they forget or when they ignore the sign’s admonition, they get their heads rapped with a wooden ruler. The schoolmarm also raps their heads for uncouth laughter, bad grammar, cigar smoking in class, and tardiness.This headrapping hurts, and finally it’s too much for them. They form a jury and condemn the schoolmarm to be hanged for her cruel city ways. The schoolmarm insists that they discuss it first at their weekly meeting of the Deep Thinkers Club. The men associate deep thinking with deep drinking, so they welcome the opportunity. They’ve been missing the old saloon since its unlucky conversion. They gather at their desks, as the schoolmarm calls them, feeling like they’ve come home again. The schoolmarm says that today, her

T

last day, she wants them to think about justice and time, how little there is of either, and also about irony, which somehow relates to the same circumstances. The schoolmarm’s just showing off again, making their brains ache, unrepentant criminal that she is. There is talk of getting on with the hanging, but the men are comfortable where they sit, sucking their teeth contentedly, so no one really wants to get up and go do it. The sheriff, famous for his quick wit, says that time is what he never has enough of, but at least he’s got more than the schoolmarm has. He laughs at his own little joke. The men think about it for a while, and then they laugh, too. The schoolmarm says that that’s what she means by irony, and the sheriff says he’s glad she explained it, because he couldn’t figure out what the dang ironing had to do with anything. Neither could the others. They still can’t, but they hoot and slap their desks just the same. The sheriff ’s a pal of theirs. On the subject of justice, the sheriff considers himself something of an expert. He disagrees with the schoolmarm about there being little of it and reminds her that he himself has dealt out a potful. In deference to the schoolmarm, he doesn’t say what sort of pot it was, but the men grunt knowingly. The sheriff then provides a discourse on law and order, which he says are birds of a feather. Blue, he says when someone asks, like a jay’s. One of the men says he thought it was more yellowish, like a chicken hawk’s. The sheriff says it depends on the color of the law that was broken, and at what time of day or night order got criminally dis-ordered. On that subject, he explains to the Deep Thinkers that he prefers order to ordure, though they are more or less the same thing, only because “order” is easier to spell and don’t sound so foreign. “Doesn’t sound so foreign,” the schoolmarm corrects. “Yes’m, that’s what I said,” the sheriff says. “I ain’t completely stupid.” The men applaud the sheriff ’s incomplete stupidity. Then the schoolmarm delivers a lecture on eternity. It is too long. Many of the men’s heads are now on their desks. The schoolmarm’s lecture cannot be heard over the snoring, so she walks among them, twisting their ears. This wakes up only one at a time, and meanwhile another head falls. It’s a kind of dance of bouncing heads.

The sheriff does not want to get his ear twisted, so while the men are dropping off he takes the schoolmarm out to hang her. On the way to the gallows, the sheriff says that sometimes, in shootouts with desperadoes or when wrestling cattle rustlers at the edge of a cliff, he suffers trepidations, and he wonders if the schoolmarm is feeling anything like that now? She isn’t. Her unsentimental tough-mindedness is legendary. Self-pity, she says, is the lowest state to which a person’s mind can fall. Other than lust and gluttony, of course. And indecency. When the sheriff leads the schoolmarm up onto the gallows, he says, “I know you’re sad about losing your life, ma’am, but you gotta understand—out here, life don’t mean nothing. What only matters is rocks. Rocks and the un-effable, pardon the French.” “Your French loses something in the translation,” the schoolmarm says, “but I suppose when you speak of the ineffable you are speaking of me.” “Yes’m,” the sheriff says. “Sure am.” “Rocks have more to say,” the schoolmarm says. “They express something profound about this place, this life, as I cannot. Language, even when grammatically correct, is simply inadequate. The situation is, in that sense, unspeakable. A landscape of rocks evokes a time before time, and the end-times as well, forcing us, while contemplating it, to live in all time at once, where words have nothing to attach themselves to.” The sheriff nods, but he doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about. He fits the noose around her neck. “Only humans can experience time,” the schoolmarm continues portentously, “so time itself will not exist when life ends, as life inevitably must. Between the beginning of time and the end of it, there’s relatively only an eyeblink, and without life there’s no one to see that eyeblink or remember it. That is what rocks express. Though they are otherwise meaningless, they are, in this respect, the most meaningful thing we have, putting us in touch with oblivion. Which is the ineffablest thing of all.” The schoolmarm smiles, having invented a new expression. “Excuse me, ma’am, ain’t all this just a way of putting off what’s got to happen?” “Well, yes, sorry. I suppose it is. Give me a rock to hold.” ♦ THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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THE CRITICS

POP MUSIC

WHAT THE HEART SAYS The resurgent appeal of Stevie Nicks.

he cover of “Bella Donna,” Ste-

T vie Nicks’s first solo album, shows

the artist looking slender and wideeyed, wearing a white gown, a gold bracelet, and a pair of ruched, kneehigh platform boots. One arm is bent at an improbable angle; a sizable cockatoo sits on her hand. Behind her, next to a small crystal ball, is a tambourine threaded with three longstemmed white roses. Nicks did not invent this storefront-psychic aesthetic—it is indebted, in varying degrees, to Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina, de Troyes’s Guinevere, and Cher—but, beginning in the mid-nineteen-seventies, she came to embody it. The image was girlish and delicate, yet inscrutable, as if Nicks were suggesting that the world might not know everything she’s capable of. This intimation is newly germane: a vague but feminine mysticism is in. Lorde, Azealia Banks, FKA Twigs, CHVRCHES, Grimes, and Beyoncé have all incorporated bits of pagan-influenced iconography into their music videos and performances. Young women are now embracing benign occult representations, reclaiming the rites and ceremonies that women were once chastised (or worse) for performing. On runways, on the streets, and in thriving Etsy shops, you can find an assortment of cloaks, crescent-moon pendants, flared chiffon skirts, and the occasional jewelled headdress. While Nicks’s sartorial choices have been widely mimicked, it’s rare to hear echoes of her magnanimity in modern pop songs, which are frequently defen82

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sive and embattled, preaching selfsufficiency at any cost. It’s difficult to imagine Nicks singing a lyric like “Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye,” as Beyoncé does in “Sorry,” a song from her newest album, “Lemonade.” Nicks’s default response to betrayal is more introspective than aggressive. Her music has long been considered a balm for certain stubborn strains of heartache; her songs are unsparing regarding the brutality of loss, yet they are buoyed by a kind of subtle optimism. It’s as if, by the time Nicks got around to singing about something, she already knew that she would survive it. This month, “Bella Donna,” from 1981, and Nicks’s second solo album, “The Wild Heart,” from 1983, are being reissued. Nicks was thirty-three when “Bella Donna” was released. Though its cover might not suggest an excess of reason, in its songs she is a sagacious and measured presence. Her acknowledgment of the heart’s capriciousness is gentle, if not grandmotherly. There’s surely no kinder summation of love’s petulance than the chorus of “Think About It,” a jangling folk song about taking a breath before hurling yourself off a metaphorical cliff. “And the heart says, ‘Danger!’” Nicks sings. She pauses briefly. “And the heart says, ‘Whatever.’” For anyone busy self-flagellating over an error in judgment, this can feel like a rope ladder thrown from above— an invitation to scramble up and out of despair. It is generous and knowing, and offers a clear-eyed conclusion: some things can’t be helped. In 2012, Tavi Gevinson, the young

ABOVE: LUCI GUTIÉRREZ; RIGHT: NEAL PRESTON

BY AMANDA PETRUSICH

Nicks’s music has long been considered a balm


for stubborn strains of heartache: her songs are unsparing about the brutality of loss, yet buoyed by a kind of subtle optimism.

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“See what happens when you square the clubface?”

• founder of Rookie, an online magazine concerned chiefly with the complexities of teen-age girlhood, ended a TEDX talk with some blunt advice: “Just be Stevie Nicks. That’s all you have to do.” What does it mean to be Stevie Nicks? To understand loss and longing as being merely the cost of doing business? To acknowledge the bottomless nature of certain aches, yet to know, in some instinctive way, that you’ll keep going? Nicks evokes Byron, in spirit and in certitude: “The heart will break, but broken live on.”

icks was born in 1948, in Phoe-

N nix. Her paternal grandfather, A. J.

Nicks, Sr., was a struggling country musician, and he taught Nicks how to sing when she was four years old. She was given an acoustic guitar for her sixteenth birthday, and immediately wrote a song called “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost and I’m Sad but Not Blue.” The title is a surprisingly succinct encapsulation of Nicks’s lyrical alchemy: a combination of acceptance (I am hurting) and perspective (I will not hurt forever). In 1966, when Nicks was in her senior year of high school and living in Atherton, California—her father, an executive at a meatpacking com84

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

• pany, had been relocated there—she met the guitarist Lindsey Buckingham at a party. He was sitting crosslegged on the floor—bearded, curlyhaired, and strumming the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” Uninvited, she joined him in harmony. (“How brazen!” she later said.) Buckingham asked Nicks to join his band, Fritz. By 1971, the two were romantically involved. They eventually took off for Los Angeles, where they tried to make it as a duo, called Buckingham Nicks, releasing one album, in 1973, to very little acclaim. Not long afterward, Buckingham was asked to join Fleetwood Mac, a British blues band featuring the singer and keyboard player Christine McVie, the bassist John McVie, and the drummer Mick Fleetwood; the group was being rebooted as an American soft-rock act. Buckingham insisted that Nicks be invited, too. She ended up writing two of the band’s biggest early hits, “Landslide” and “Rhiannon.” Extraordinary success often leads to spiritual dissolution, and Fleetwood Mac had its share of psychic turmoil. In 1975, Fleetwood divorced his wife, the model Jenny Boyd, after she had an affair with one of his for-

mer bandmates. Nicks and Buckingham broke up the following year. Around the same time, John and Christine McVie’s marriage collapsed. There was an ungodly amount of brandy and cocaine on hand to help nullify the despair. Still, in 1977, Fleetwood Mac—now five wild-eyed, newly single people—released “Rumours,” a collection of yearning songs about love and devotion. The record spent thirty-one weeks at the top of the charts, and is one of the best-selling albums in American history. “Tusk,” which the group released two years later, was a bombastic double LP that cost a million dollars to produce. The critic Stephen Holden, in his review of the album for Rolling Stone, suggested that Nicks sounded “more than ever like a West Coast Patti Smith.” Superficially, at least, Nicks and Smith aren’t obvious analogues. Nicks is hyperfeminine, intuitive, and bohemian; Smith is androgynous, cerebral, and gritty. But both are unusually perceptive chroniclers of their time and place. If Smith is obliged to the Lower East Side of Manhattan—and the punk scene that included the Ramones, Television, and Suicide—Nicks’s debt is to Laurel Canyon, and to the sentimental, silky-voiced artists who emerged from L.A. in the late sixties and early seventies. Some of those acts—James Taylor, the Eagles—are now considered, fairly or not, irrelevant to the Zeitgeist: too mellow, too affluent, too sexless, too white. Candles and incense and macramé plant hangers; wistful thoughts about weather. Nicks’s lyrics often worry over domestic or earthly concerns—gardens, mountains, flowers, the seasons—and how they might affect the whims of her heart. “It makes no difference at all /’Cause I wear boots all summer long,” she sings in “Nightbird.” When compared with the dissonant and provocative music coming out of downtown New York, the California sound could seem limp. But the scene in Laurel Canyon was tumultuous. Many of its artists—including, at various times, Nicks—were wrecked by drug addiction. Nicks’s voice, a strange, quivering contralto, gives her songs unexpected weight. Its tone reminds


me of the gloaming—that lambent, transitional moment between night and day. ella Donna” was produced by “B Jimmy Iovine, a Brooklyn-born

audio engineer who worked on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and produced the Patti Smith Group’s “Easter” and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Damn the Torpedoes.” Iovine spent time in California, but his sensibility was tougher and more plainly that of the East Coast. He later became a co-founder of Interscope Records, where he helped to establish the career of the rapper Tupac Shakur, and, for a period, he oversaw the hip-hop label Death Row Records. Iovine was aware of concerns that Nicks was too coddled and immature to make a solo record as good as the records she’d made with Fleetwood Mac. Regardless, there was romantic chemistry. “This record was our love story unfolding,” she has said. “Bella Donna” reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and produced four hit singles: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a duet with Petty; “Leather and Lace,” with Don Henley; “Edge of Seventeen”; and “After the Glitter Fades.” The last, a country song about the travails of stardom—Nicks wrote it just after she and Buckingham moved to Los Angeles, long before she had a record deal, showing either hubris or prescience—contains organ, pedal steel, and reassurances. “The dream keeps coming even when you forget to feel,” she sings. Nicks, like most artists, culls inspiration from disparate sources. She is prone to saying things like “ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was about Tom Petty and his wife, Jane, my uncle dying, and the assassination of John Lennon.” But her personal life—a tangle of love affairs, often with her collaborators—informs her work in explicit ways. “Heartbreak of the moment isn’t endless,” she sings, in “Think About It.” This might seem like a billowy platitude, but if you are someone who does not think that every flubbed decision is fodder for personal growth, it is comforting to hear someone assert that nearly all mistakes can be neutralized, if not conquered. If “Bella Donna” contains a single directive, it’s to love freely, love fully, and hang on. In 1981, Iovine flew with Nicks to 86

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

the Château d’Hérouville, in northern France, where Fleetwood Mac was recording its next album, “Mirage.” Iovine left almost immediately, to escape the interpersonal conflicts that roiled the band. Iovine and Nicks’s relationship foundered. The following fall, while Fleetwood Mac was on tour, Nicks’s childhood friend Robin Anderson died, of leukemia, at the age of thirty-three. “What was left over was just a big, horrible, empty world,” Nicks has said. Days before her death, Anderson had prematurely given birth to a son. Nicks, operating under the savage logic of grief, married her friend’s widower, Kim Anderson, thinking that she would help raise the child. They divorced three months later. By 1983, Nicks was ready to make another record. Her relationship with Iovine was strained, but Nicks asked him to produce the record anyway. “The Wild Heart” is inspired in part by the unravelling of that relationship, and in part by her mourning for Anderson. Nicks frequently cites as a guiding influence for the recording sessions the 1939 film adaptation of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” which depicts an undying, almost fiendish love. Mostly, the songs are about bucking against the circumstances that separate us from the people we need. he artist Justin Vernon, of the

T band Bon Iver, uses a brief sam-

ple of “Wild Heart” (a track from “The Wild Heart”) on the group’s new album, “22, A Million.” Nicks’s voice is sped up, pitch-altered, and barely discernible as human—just a high, grousing “wah-wah,” deployed intermittently. Vernon pinched it from a popular YouTube video of Nicks, in which she sits on a stool having her makeup done, wearing a white dress with spaghetti straps. She begins to sing. Soon, someone is messing with a piano; one of her backup singers joins in with a harmony. The makeup artist gamely tries to continue with her work, before giving up. While the studio recording of “Wild Heart” is saturated, almost wet, this version is all air, all joy. What affects me most about the video is how profoundly Nicks appears

to love singing. Her voice has an undulating, galloping quality. It is as if, once it’s started up, there’s no slowing down, no stopping; the car is careering down a mountain, with no brakes. You can see on her face how good it feels just to let go. “Stand Back,” the first single from “The Wild Heart,” was inspired by Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” which Nicks heard on the radio while driving with Kim Anderson to San Ysidro Ranch, in Santa Barbara, for their honeymoon. (Prince played keyboards on the track, though he’s not credited in the album’s liner notes.) The song was produced in accordance with the style of the era, with lots of synthesizer and rubbery, overdubbed percussion. The lyrics describe a deliberate seduction followed by an acute betrayal. “First he took my heart, then he ran,” Nicks sings. The chorus is appropriately punchy: “Stand back, stand back,” she warns. Nicks is capable of going fully feral before a microphone, perhaps most famously at the end of “Silver Springs,” a song intended for “Rumours” and one of several that she wrote about Buckingham. (It ends with Nicks hollering, “Was I just a fool?”) On “Stand Back,” she erupts briefly, on the middle verses, but for the rest of the song she is more characteristically sanguine. “It’s all right, it’s all right,” she concedes. “I did not hear from you, it’s all right.” Nicks went on to make six more solo albums, and three more with Fleetwood Mac. Following her divorce from Kim Anderson, she never married again, or had any children, though a rich maternal instinct runs through all her songs. This, more than anything else, may be the reason that Nicks’s work has endured—why listeners turn to her for consolation, especially now, when many feel wounded and the radio remains rife with confrontational whoops. To be Stevie Nicks is to offer shelter. 

1 Block That Metaphor! From the Times.

In the month since a Liberian man infected with Ebola traveled to Dallas, where he later died, the nation has marinated in a murky soup of understandable concern, wild misinformation, political opportunism, and garden-variety panic.


A CRITIC AT LARGE

NOT OUR KIND What moral claims do animals—and robots—make on us? BY NATHAN HELLER

arambe, a gorilla, was described

H as “smart,” “curious,” “coura-

geous,” “magnificent.” But it wasn’t until last spring that Harambe became famous, too. On May 28th, a human boy, also curious and courageous, slipped through a fence at the Cincinnati Zoo and landed in the moat along the habitat that Harambe shared with two other gorillas. People at the fence above made whoops and cries and other noises of alarm.

the gorilla dead. The child was hospitalized briefly and released, declared to have no severe injuries. Harambe, in Swahili, means “pulling together.” Yet the days following the death seemed to pull people apart. “We did not take shooting Harambe lightly, but that child’s life was in danger,” the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, explained. Primatologists largely agreed, but some spectators were distraught. A Facebook group called Hon-

It received half a million signatures— several hundred thousand more, CNN noted, than a petition calling for the indictment of Tamir Rice’s shooters. People projected thoughts into Harambe’s mind. “Our tendency is to see our actions through human lenses,” a neuroscientist named Kurt Gray told the network as the frenzy peaked. “We can’t imagine what it’s like to actually be a gorilla. We can only imagine what it’s like to be us being a gorilla.” This simple fact is responsible for centuries of ethical dispute. One Harambe activist might believe that killing a gorilla as a safeguard against losing human life is unjust due to our cognitive similarity: the way gorillas think is a lot like the way we think, so they merit a similar moral standing. Another might believe that go-

In relation to animals, we can conceive of ourselves as peers or protectors. Robots may soon face the same choice about us. Harambe stood over the boy, as if to shield him from the hubbub, and then, grabbing one of his ankles, dragged him through the water like a doll across a playroom floor. For a moment, he took the child delicately by the waist and propped him on his legs, in a correct human stance. Then, as the whooping continued, he knocked the boy forward again, and dragged him halfway through the moat. Harambe was a seventeen-year-old silverback, an animal of terrific strength. When zookeepers failed to lure him from the boy, a member of their Dangerous Animal Response Team shot ILLUSTRATION BY NISHANT CHOKSI

oring Harambe appeared, featuring fan portraits, exchanges with the hashtag #JusticeforHarambe, and a meditation, “May We Always Remember Harambe’s Sacrifice. . . . R.I.P. Hero.” The post was backed with music. As the details of the gorilla’s story gathered in the press, he was often depicted in a stylish wire-service shot, crouched with an arm over his right knee, brooding at the camera like Sean Connery in his virile years. “This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child,” a petition calling for a criminal investigation said.

rillas get their standing from a cognitive dissimilarity: because of our advanced powers of reason, we are called to rise above the cat-eat-mouse game, to be special protectors of animals, from chickens to chimpanzees. (Both views also support untroubled omnivorism: we kill animals because we are but animals, or because our exceptionalism means that human interests win.) These beliefs, obviously opposed, mark our uncertainty about whether we’re rightful peers or masters among other entities with brains. “One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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human,” the anthropologist and naturalist Loren Eiseley wrote. In confronting similarity and difference, we are forced to set the limits of our species’ moral reach. oday, however, reckonings of

T that sort may come with a twist. In

an automated world, the gaze that meets our own might not be organic at all. There’s a growing chance that it will belong to a robot: a new and ever more pervasive kind of independent mind. Traditionally, the serial abuse of Siri or violence toward driverless cars hasn’t stirred up Harambe-like alarm. But, if like-mindedness or mastery is our moral standard, why should artificial life with advanced brains and human guardianships be exempt? Until we can pinpoint animals’ claims on us, we won’t be clear about what we owe robots—or what they owe us. A simple case may untangle some of these wires. Consider fish. Do they merit what D. H. Lawrence called humans’ “passionate, implicit morality”? Many people have a passionate, implicit response: No way, fillet. Jesus liked eating fish, it would seem; following his resurrection, he ate some, broiled. Few weekenders consider fly-fishing an expression of rage and depravity (quite the opposite), and sushi diners ordering kuromaguro are apt to feel pangs from their pocketbooks more than from their souls. It is not easy to love the life of a fish, in part because fish don’t seem very enamored of life themselves. What moral interest could they hold for us? “What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins” (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is Jonathan Balcombe’s exhaustively researched and elegantly written argument for the moral claims of ichthyofauna, and, to cut to the chase, he thinks that we owe them a lot. “When a fish takes notice of us, we enter the conscious world of another being,” Balcombe, the Humane Society’s director for animal sentience, writes. “Evidence indicates a range of emotions in at least some fishes, including fear, stress, playfulness, joy, and curiosity.” Balcombe’s wish for joy to the fishes (a plural he prefers to “fish,” the better to mark them as individu88

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

als) may seem eccentric to readers who look into the eyes of a sea bass and see nothing. But he suggests that such indifference reflects bias, because the experience of fish—and, by implication, the experience of many lower-order creatures—is nearer to ours than we might think. Take fish pain. Several studies have suggested that it isn’t just a reflexive response, the way your hand pulls back involuntarily from a hot stove, but a version of the ouch! that hits you in your conscious brain. For this reason and others, Balcombe thinks that fish behavior is richer in intent than previously suspected. He touts the frillfin goby, which memorizes the topography of its area as it swims around, and then, when the tide is low, uses that mental map to leap from one pool to the next. Tuskfish are adept at using tools (they carry clams around, for smashing on well-chosen rocks), while cleaner wrasses outperform chimpanzees on certain inductive-learning tests. Some fish even go against the herd. Not all salmon swim upstream, spawn, and die, we learn. A few turn around, swim back, and do it all again. From there, it is a short dive to the possibility of fish psychology. Some stressed-out fish enjoy a massage, flocking to objects that rub their flanks until their cortisol levels drop. Male pufferfish show off by fanning elaborate geometric mandalas in the sand and decorating them, according to their taste, with shells. Balcombe reports that the female brown trout fakes the trout equivalent of orgasm. Nobody, probably least of all the male trout, is sure what this means. Balcombe thinks the idea that fish are nothing like us arises out of prejudice: we can empathize with a hamster, which blinks and holds food in its little paws, but the fingerless, unblinking fish seems too “other.” Although fish brains are small, to assume that this means they are stupid is, as somebody picturesquely tells him, “like arguing that balloons cannot fly because they don’t have wings.” Balcombe overcompensates a bit, and his book is peppered with weird, anthropomorphizing anecdotes about people sharing special moments with their googly-eyed friends. But his point stands.

If we count fish as our cognitive peers, they ought to be included in our circle of moral duty. uarrels come at boundary points.

Q Should we consider it immoral to

swat a mosquito? If these insects don’t deserve moral consideration, what’s the crucial quality they lack? A worthwhile new book by the Cornell law professors Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf, “Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights” (Columbia), explores the challenges of such bordermarking. The authors point out that, oddly, there is little overlap between animal-rights supporters and pro-life supporters. Shouldn’t the rationale for not ending the lives of neurologically simpler animals, such as fish, share grounds with the rationale for not terminating embryos? Colb and Dorf are pro-choice vegans (“Our own journey to veganism began with the experience of sharing our lives with our dogs”), so, although they note the paradox, they do not think a double standard is in play. The big difference, they argue, is “sentience.” Many animals have it; zygotes and embryos don’t. Colb and Dorf define sentience as “the ability to have subjective experiences,” which is a little tricky, because animal subjectivity is what’s hard for us to pin down. A famous paper called “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, points out that even if humans were to start flying, eating bugs, and getting around by sonar they would not have a bat’s full experience, or the batty subjectivity that the creature had developed from birth. Colb and Dorf sometimes fall into such a trap. In one passage, they suggest that it doesn’t matter whether animals are aware of pain, because “the most searing pains render one incapable of understanding pain or anything else”—a very human read on the experience. Animals, though, obviously interact with the world differently from the way that plants and random objects do. The grass hut does not care whether it is burned to ash or left intact. But the heretic on the pyre would really rather not be set aflame, and so, perhaps, would the pig on the spit. Colb and Dorf refer to this as having “interests,” a term


that—not entirely to their satisfaction—often carries overtones of utilitarianism, the ethical school of thought based on the pursuit of the greatest good over all. Jeremy Bentham, its founder, mentioned animals in a resonant footnote to his “An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation” (1789): The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. . . . The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

If animals suffer, the philosopher Peter Singer noted in “Animal Liberation” (1975), shouldn’t we include them in the calculus of minimizing pain? Such an approach to peership has advantages: it establishes the moral claims of animals without projecting human motivations onto them. But it introduces other problems. Bludgeoning your neighbor is clearly worse than poisoning a rat. How can we say so, though, if the entity’s suffering matters most? Singer’s answer would be the utilitarian one: it’s not about the creature; it’s about the system as a whole. The murder of your neighbor will distribute more pain than the death of a rat. Yet the situations in which we have to choose between animal life and human life are rare, and minimizing suffering for animals is often easy. We can stop herding cows into butchery machines. We can barbecue squares of tofu instead of chicken thighs. Most people, asked to drown a kitten, would feel a pang of moral anguish, which suggests that, at some level, we know suffering matters. The wrinkle is that our antennae for pain are notably unreliable. We also feel that pang regarding objects—for example, robots—that do not suffer at all. ast summer, a group of Canadian

L roboticists set an outlandish inven-

tion loose on the streets of the United States. They called it hitchBOT, not because it was a heavy-smoking contrarian with a taste for Johnnie Walker Black—the universe is not that generous—but because it was programmed to hitchhike. Clad in rain boots, with a goofy, pixellated smile on its “face” screen, hitchBOT was meant to travel from Salem, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, by

“First stop: Brooklyn.”

• means of an outstretched thumb and a supposedly endearing voice-prompt personality. Previous journeys, across Canada and around Europe, had been encouraging: the robot always reached its destination. For two weeks, hitchBOT toured the Northeast, saying inviting things such as “Would you like to have a conversation? . . . I have an interest in the humanities.” Then it disappeared. On August 1st, it was found next to a brick wall in Philadelphia, beat up and decapitated. Its arms had been torn off. Response was swift. “I can’t lie. I’m still devastated by the death of hitchBOT,” a reporter tweeted. “The destruction of hitchBOT is yet another reminder that our society has a long way to go,” a blogger wrote. Humans’ capacity to develop warm and fuzzy feelings toward robots is the basis for a blockbuster movie genre that includes “WALL-E” and “A.I.,” and that peaks in the “Star Wars” universe, a multigenerational purgatory of interesting robots and tedious people. But the sentiment applies in functional realms, too. At one point, a roboticist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory built an unlovable, centipede-like robot designed to clear land mines by crawling forward until all its legs were blown off. During a test run, in Arizona, an Army colonel ordered the exercise stopped, because, according to the Washington Post, he found the violence to the robot “inhumane.” By Singer’s standard, this is nonsense. Robots are not living, and we know for sure that they don’t suffer. Why do even hardened colonels, then, feel shades of

• ethical responsibility toward such systems? A researcher named Kate Darling, with affiliations at M.I.T., Harvard, and Yale, has recently been trying to understand what is at stake in robo bonds of this kind. In a paper, she names three factors: physicality (the object exists in our space, not onscreen), perceived autonomous movement (the object travels as if with a mind of its own), and social behavior (the robot is programmed to mimic human-type cues). In an experiment that Darling and her colleagues ran, participants were given Pleos—small baby Camarasaurus robots—and were instructed to interact with them. Then they were told to tie up the Pleos and beat them to death. Some refused. Some shielded the Pleos from the blows of others. One woman removed her robot’s battery to “spare it the pain.” In the end, the participants were persuaded to “sacrifice” one whimpering Pleo, sparing the others from their fate. Darling, trying to account for this behavior, suggests that our aversion to abusing lifelike machines comes from “societal values.” While the rational part of our mind knows that a Pleo is nothing but circuits, gears, and software—a machine that can be switched off, like a coffeemaker—our sympathetic impulses are fooled, and, because they’re fooled, to beat the robot is to train them toward misconduct. (This is the principle of HBO’s popular new show “Westworld,” on which the abuse of advanced robots is emblematic of human perfidy.) “There is concern that mistreating an object that reacts in a THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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lifelike way could impact the general feeling of empathy we experience when interacting with other entities,” Darling writes. The problem with torturing a robot, in other words, has nothing to do with what a robot is, and everything to do with what we fear most in ourselves. uch concerns, like heartland riv-

S ers flowing toward the Mississippi,

approach a big historical divide in ethics. On one bank are the people, such as Bentham, who believe that morality is determined by results. (It’s morally O.K. to lie about your cubicle-mate’s demented-looking haircut, because telling the truth will just bring unhappiness to everyone involved.) On the other bank are those who think that morality rests on rights and rules. (A moral person can’t be a squeamish liar, even about haircuts.) Animal ethics has tended to favor the first group: people were urged to consider their actions’ effects on living things. But research like Darling’s makes us wonder whether the way forward rests with the second—an accounting of rights and obligations, rather than a calculation of consequences. Consider the logic, or illogic, of animal-cruelty laws. New York State forbids inflicting pain on pets but allows fox trapping; prohibits the electrocution of “fur-bearing” animals, such as the muskrat, but not furry animals, such as the rat; and bans decorative tattoos on your dog but not on your cow. As Darling puts it, “Our apparent desire to protect those animals to which we more easily relate indicates that we may care more about our own emotional state than any objective biological criteria.” She looks to Kant, who saw animal ethics as serving people. “If a man has his dog shot . . . he thereby damages the kindly and humane qualities in himself,” he wrote in “Lectures on Ethics.” “A person who already displays such cruelty to animals is also no less hardened toward men.” This isn’t peership morality. It looks like a kind of passive guardianship, with the humans striving to realize their exalted humanness, and the animals—or the robots—benefitting from the trickledown effects of that endeavor. Darling suggests that it suits an era when people, animals, and robots are increasingly swirled together. Do we expect our sixteen-month-old children to under90

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stand why it’s cruel to pull the tail of the cat but morally acceptable to chase the Roomba? Don’t we want to raise a child without the impulse to terrorize any lifelike thing, regardless of its putative ontology? To the generation now in diapers, carrying on a conversation with an artificial intelligence like Siri is the natural state of the world. We talk to our friends, we talk to our devices, we pet our dogs, we caress our lovers. In the flow of modern life, Kant’s insistence that rights obtain only in human-on-human action seems unhelpfully restrictive.

ere a hopeful ethicist might be

H moved, like Gaston Modot in

“L’Age d’Or,” to kick a small dog in exasperation. Addressing other entities as moral peers seems a nonstarter: it’s unclear where the boundary of peership begins, and efforts to figure it out snag on our biases and misperceptions. But acting as principled guardians confines other creatures to a lower plane—and the idea that humans are the special masters of the universe, charged with administration of who lives and thrives and dies, seems outdated. Benthamites like Peter Singer can get stuck at odd extremes, too. If avoiding suffering is the goal, there is little principled basis to object to the painless extinction of a whole species. Where to turn? Some years ago, Christine M. Korsgaard, a Harvard philosopher and Kant scholar, started working on a Kantian case for animal rights (one based on principles of individual freedom rather than case-by-case suffering, like Singer’s). Her first obstacle was Kant himself. Kant thought that rights arose from rational will, clearing a space where each person could act as he or she reasoned to be good without the tyranny of others’ thinking. (My property rights keep you from installing a giant hot tub on my front lawn, even if you deem it good. This frees me to use my lawn in whatever nonhot-tub-involving way I deem good.) Animals can’t reason their way to choices, Kant noted, so the freedom of rights would be lost on them. If the nectar-drinking hummingbird were asked to exercise her will to the highest rational standard, she’d keep flying from flower to flower. Korsgaard argued that hanging everything on rational choice was a red herring, however, because humans, even for Kant, are not solely rational beings.

They also act on impulse. The basic motivation for action, she thought, arises instead from an ability to experience stuff as good or bad, which is a trait that animals share. If we, as humans, were to claim rights to a dog’s mind and body in the way we claim rights to our yard, we would be exercising arbitrary power, and arbitrary power is what Kant seeks to avoid. So, by his principles, animals must have freedom—that is, rights— over their bodies. This view doesn’t require animals to weigh in for abstract qualities such as intelligence, consciousness, or sentience. Strictly, it doesn’t even command us never to eat poached eggs or venison. It extends Enlightenment values—a right to choice in life, to individual freedom over tyranny—to creatures that may be in our custody. Let those chickens range! it says. Give salmon a chance to outsmart the net in the open ocean, instead of living an aquacultural-chattel life. We cannot be sure whether the chickens and the fish will care, but for us, the humans, these standards are key to avoiding tyrannical behavior. Robots seem to fall beyond such humanism, since they lack bodily freedom. (Your self-driving car can’t decide on its own to take off for the beach.) But leaps in machine learning, by which artificial intelligences are programmed to teach themselves, have started pushing at that premise. Will the robots ever be due rights? John Markoff, a Times technology reporter, raises this question in “Machines of Loving Grace” (Ecco). The matter is charged, in part because robots’ minds, unlike animals’, are made in the human image; they have a potential to challenge and to beat us at our game. Markoff elaborates a common fear that robots will smother the middle class: “Technology will not be a fount of economic growth, but will instead pose a risk to all routinized and skillbased jobs that require the ability to perform diverse kinds of ‘cognitive’ labor.” Don’t just worry about the robots obviating your job on the assembly line, in other words; worry about them surpassing your expertise at the examination table or on the brokerage floor. No wall will guard U.S. jobs from the big encroachment of the coming years. Robots are the fruit of American ingenuity, and they are at large, learning everything we know. That future urges us to get our moral


goals in order now. A robot insurgency is unlikely to take place as a battle of truehearted humans against hordes of evil machines. It will probably happen in a manner already begun: by a symbiosis with cheap, empowering intelligences that we welcome into daily life. Phones today augment our memories; integrated chatbots spare us customer-service on-hold music; apps let us chase Pokémon across the earth. Cyborg experience is here, and it hurts us not by being cruel but by making us take note of limits in ourselves. he classic problem in the pro-

T gramming of self-driving cars con-

cerns accident avoidance. What should a vehicle do if it must choose between swerving into a crowd of ten people or slamming into a wall, killing its owner? The quandary is not just ethical but commercial (would you buy a car programmed to kill you under certain circumstances?), and it holds a mirror to the harsh decisions we, as humans, make but like to overlook. The horrifying edge of A.I. is not really HAL 9000, the rogue machine that doesn’t wish to be turned off. It is the ethically calculating car, the military drone: robots that do precisely what we want, and mechanize our moral behavior as a result. A fashionable approach in the academic humanities right now is “posthumanism,” which seeks to avoid the premise—popular during the Enlightenment, but questionable based on present knowledge—that there’s something magical in humanness. A few posthumanists, such as N. Katherine Hayles, have turned to cyborgs, whether mainstream (think wearable tech) or extreme, to challenge old ideas about mind and body being the full package of you. Others, such as Cary Wolfe, have pointed out that prosthesis, adopting what’s external, can be a part of animal life, too. Posthumanism ends its route, inevitably, in a place that much resembles humanism, or at least the humane. As people, we realize our full selves through appropriation; like most animals and robots, we approach maturity by taking on the habits of the world around us, and by wielding tools. The risks of that project are real. Harambe, born within a zoo, inhabited a world of human invention, and he died as a result. That this still haunts us is our species’ finest feature. That we honor ghosts more than the living is our worst. 

BRIEFLY NOTED The Framers’ Coup, by Michael J. Klarman (Oxford). This history of the Constitutional Convention, in 1787, highlights the extent to which our Constitution was geared “toward constraining democracy.” The reason was that the delegates charged with reforming the Articles of Confederation (the Constitution’s forerunner) feared that rising populism might lead to civil war. Klarman details the resulting debates about “peacetime standing armies,” executive term limits, and who should have the power to elect the people’s representatives. Antifederalists “charged the Framers with seeking to establish an aristocracy of sorts,” objecting to such anti-democratic elements as the Electoral College and Supreme Court appointments—complaints that resonate today.

Avalanche, by Julia Leigh (Norton). This intimate memoir of

in-vitro fertilization starts when the author, a novelist and filmmaker in her late thirties, marries an old flame. They try for a baby, but are hampered not only by her ticking clock but by his vasectomy (albeit reversed). The marriage fails, but she keeps trying on her own. The book’s straightforward tone sometimes seems almost like therapy, but Leigh poses trenchant questions about the competing demands of motherhood and artistic careers and the way that our faith in technology and consumerism produces a kind of blithe certainty in would-be parents. As she goes through round after round of egg harvesting, she tells herself, “I only need one and it could be the next one.” The Explosion Chronicles, by Yan Lianke, translated from the

Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Grove). Explosion City—the fictional town at the heart of this satire of Chinese corruption since the Communist Revolution—was named for nearby volcanoes. In the present day, the name has come to reflect its boomtown ways. The plot hinges on a prophecy about four brothers, which throws them into a frenzy of competitive self-enrichment—through train robbery, prostitution, and, eventually, American industry. Charting the arc from unprincipled Communism to lawless capitalism, Yan employs hyperbolic touches that facetiously evoke legend: applause at a rally lasts “for eight and a half hours, and many villagers clapped so hard their hands bled”; a critic of the new prosperity drowns in his neighbors’ spittle. Sleeping on Jupiter, by Anuradha Roy (Graywolf ). In this con-

cise, elegant novel, a twentysomething filmmaker’s assistant travels to an Indian temple town, ostensibly in order to scout locations but actually with the intention of confronting her traumatic past. (As a child, she saw her father murdered, and then landed in an ashram run by a sexually abusive guru.) Roy intertwines the protagonist’s journey with her attempts to discover more about the ashram; she also incorporates the experiences of other visitors to the town, including a trio of elderly vacationers and a tour guide lusting after a tea-stall waiter. The numerous perspectives and the split chronology create some confusion, but the novel’s examination of violence, sexism, and spirituality is powerful. THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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TROUBLE MAKER A Francis Picabia retrospective. BY PETER SCHJELDAHL

he more serious you are about

T modern art, the more likely you are

to be stupefied by “Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction,” a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The merrily nihilistic Frenchman strewed the first half of the twentieth century with the aesthetic equivalent of whoopee cushions. As a painter, a poet, a graphic artist, an editor, and a set designer, he mastered, and mocked, canonical styles, with an emphasis on Dada—a movement in which he co-starred with his friend Marcel Duchamp, and which raised travesty to a beau ideal. “A free spirit takes liberties even with liberty itself,” he said, and

he proved it, during the Second World War, with garishly realist paintings, often based on photographs in porn magazines, which are so awful that you can’t take your eyes off them. All but forgotten for decades, partly on account of their chilling resemblance to Nazi-approved styles of heroic nudes, they became talismans of temerity for neo-expressionists in the nineteen-eighties.The moma show, elegantly curated by Anne Umland, climaxes a period of rediscovery of Picabia’s work, in which scholars have noticed that the anti-academic artist met, in advance, just about every academic criterion of postmodernism. He was born in Paris in 1879. His

Winking at the present: Picabia’s “La Bête Jaune,” from 1927-28. 92

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father was a Cuban diplomat, with a fortune from a sugarcane plantation. His mother, from a wealthy French mercantile family, died of tuberculosis when Picabia was seven, and he was brought up by his father, his maternal grandfather, and an uncle. He won a prize for drawing at the age of ten, and was educated in art academies and ateliers. He claimed that he scored his first artistic coup as a teen-ager, by copying paintings in his father’s collection and swapping the fakes for the originals, which he sold. By the age of twenty-one, he had taken his first reported mistress, the partner of a prominent journalist; developed a passion for Nietzsche, which tilted his politics (to the extent that he had any) toward Fascism; established a studio; and bought the first of the more than a hundred cars he owned. In his mid-twenties, Picabia had achieved respectable renown with Impressionist landscapes, evidently achieved without risk of sunburn; he derived at least some of the airy outdoor views from postcards. Former appreciators, including Camille Pissarro, were shocked— catching an introductory whiff of the artist’s rapturously cynical, gravely trivial, authentically ersatz sincere insincerity. Meanwhile, the prestigious Salon d’Automne had incautiously granted him lifetime admittance, obliging it each year to hang his ever more outrageous works, which it did, as out of the way as possible. Beginning in 1907, Picabia went avant-garde, proceeding through faux Fauvism, mashup Cubism, and some prescient stabs at abstraction before winding up at the witches’ Sabbath of Dada. Picabia and Duchamp (who can seem rather sedate by comparison) were already far along in a generational assault on taste and reason when Dada officially began, in Zurich, in 1916. For Picabia, the period was a whirlwind of sojourns in Barcelona, Switzerland, and, repeatedly, New York, where he had been on hand for the Armory Show of 1913. He frequented Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, befriended Man Ray, and launched an avocation in magazine design and editing, founding a journal, 391, that ran for nineteen issues. His mechanistic imagery (machine parts rendered to vaguely erotic or sinister effect) and typography still dazzle, and

COURTESY GALERIE 1900–2000, PARIS/ARS, NY/ADAGP, PARIS

THE ART WORLD


his caprices, such as, from 1919, a picture frame that holds only a few strands of yarn, attached to slips of paper bearing droll words—can seem to exhaust, before the letter, the repertoires of nineteen-seventies Conceptual artists. Picabia renounced Dada in 1921, the year of “The Cacodylic Eye”—a sort of epochal get-well card, whose title comes from a medicine for an eye infection that Picabia was suffering from. The work began as a painting of his eye and bears signatures, doodles, and collages by more than fifty friends and colleagues. A 1922 Barcelona gallery show, partly re-created at moma, alternated mechanistic pictures with jazzy abstractions and portraits of Spanish ladies in traditional garb. Picabia then enlisted in Surrealism, eagerly welcomed by its dictator, André Breton, but his stay was brief. Groups bored him. In the twenties, he made frisky collagepaintings of banal subjects, employing materials such as matchsticks and hairpins, as well as grotesque, wildly inventive paintings, in crude industrial enamel, of women and of loving couples. He also began his “Transparencies”—palimpsestlike pictures made by overlaying images, a trope that was revived in the sixties, to sensational effect, by the German artist Sigmar Polke. Picabia spent most of the thirties on the Riviera, living with a mistress and designing the décor for fancy-dress galas. During the war, still in the South of France, he perpetrated his statuesque nudes, simpering lovers, and coarse enigmas, including “Hanged Pierrot,” circa 1941, in which a woman appears to lament a dead clown. Picabia told Gertrude Stein that he could turn out one such picture a day. Stein was a close friend, who, though Jewish, had powerful protectors and, like Picabia, fell under the shadow of collaboration with the Vichy regime. Unlike Stein, he was formally accused, but cleared for lack of evidence. Finally, until he died, in 1953, Picabia painted abstractions— such as colored dots embedded in black grounds—that presaged the generic feel of paintings about painting, rife in Chelsea galleries in the past few years, of what the painter and critic Walter Robinson has termed “zombie formalism.” Just about everything in the moma show crackles with immediacy, popping free of its time to wink at the present,

but not much of it truly pleases. Picabia is soulless. My one epiphany occurred with “Salome” (1930), a “Transparency” that superimposes an outlined woman’s face and some flowers (a crown of thorns is hinted at, and there are stray lines indicating divine radiance) on a naked Salome dancing beside John the Baptist’s head. Sumptuously dense and dark, with a patch of sky blue, the work comes perilously close to being a sureenough marvellous painting. Picabia seems to have forgotten himself, momentarily, and wandered into fine style. Was Picabia an outlier of modernism? Or was modernism the background accompaniment for his one-man band? The show suggests the latter, notably in the section devoted to Cubist works. The writhing shapes in “Udnie (Young American Girl; Dance),” from 1913, spectacularized Cubism as a look—an engine of style—that shrugged off the residual figuration and the analytical rigor of Picasso and Braque. The subtitle of the moma show, about the expedient shape of our heads, is a bon (or mauvais) mot typical of Picabia, who also said, “If you want to have clean ideas, change them as often as your shirt.” He aspired to an art that, he declared, would be “unaesthetic in the extreme, useless and impossible to justify”—a formulation that secretes an aesthetic, a function, and a justification all its own. His nose wasn’t the only part of his anatomy that he thumbed at the world: “My ass contemplates those who talk behind my back.” A bonus of the show is a dose of Parisin-the-twenties nostalgia, centering on the notorious ballet “Relâche” (meaning “cancelled” or “theatre closed”), which Picabia conceived in 1924, with dancers from the Swedish Ballet and music by Erik Satie. Picabia’s set incorporated banks of lights that, when fully turned on, blinded the audience. During the intermission, a film, “Entr’acte,” played. Directed by René Clair and written by Picabia, it opens with Picabia firing a cannon at the camera. Duchamp and Man Ray play chess on a rooftop, until they are washed away in a flood. Mourners dash, leaping, after a runaway hearse. Finally, a magician emerges from the disgorged coffin and makes everybody disappear. What would you give to have been there that evening?  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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THE THEATRE

WORKED Real and surreal black life onstage. BY HILTON ALS

Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, and, most recently, Dominique Morisseau, was that there was, and is, a broader perspective out there, one in which “the man” wasn’t the entire issue: being was. Those women playwrights of color made the recognizable unrecognizable—which is to say, they made it art. What also struck me about these playwrights was that they invariably wrote in one of two ways: either their work was highly stylized and poetic, a dreamscape of the soul, or it was naturalistic and conventionally structured, with political overtones. The fifty-two-year-old Nottage is a master of the latter voice, and Parks, who is fifty-three, has dominated the former since her first full-length play, “Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom,” opened, in a small Brooklyn theatre, in 1989, and changed everything. Both artists have productions in New York just now, and each raises fascinating questions about how black theatre has evolved since the Black Arts Movement, and why so many black plays are naturalistic or fantastic, with little, if any, absurdism in between. Perhaps black life is absurd enough already; there’s no need for theatre to dress it up.  n her best work, Nottage offers a

I powerful critique of the American at-

hen I was a boy, I went to

W shows—plays, concerts, recita-

tions—with my older sister Bonnie. This was in Brooklyn, in the early nineteenseventies. The venue we liked best was the East, in Crown Heights, which had been established, in part, in response to the Black Arts Movement, which was itself founded in reaction to the death of Malcolm X. In those days, anti-honky fever was high, and, just as I flinched when I encountered racial slurs in books or on TV, I backed away from the militancy of the plays I saw at the East and elsewhere. Watching those spectacles, I wondered why, if whiteness was supposed to be rendered powerless on a

black-owned stage, it was still dictating the action. I didn’t know then that what I was looking for was diversity, stories about how America made all Americans, in their male, female, queer, colored, white, and misshapen glory. Aside from the gay male postwar writers I revered as a teen-ager (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, midto-late William Inge), the playwrights I learned the most from were women of color. I never entirely forsook the theatre I saw as a kid—agitprop grows out of agitation, and that’s interesting, too— but what I discovered, as I read and saw works by Alice Childress, Adrienne Kennedy, and Ntozake Shange, then Suzan-

Daniel J. Watts as Black Man with Watermelon in Suzan-Lori Parks’s play. 94

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titude toward class, and how it affects the decisions we make, including whom to love and how. “Sweat” (at the Public) has fraternity at its heart, but also the violence and the suspicion that can result from class aspirations. The play is set, primarily, in 2000—several scenes take place eight years later—in a bar in Reading, Pennsylvania. The bartender at this dark, funky joint is the white, salt-andpepper-haired Stan ( James Colby), who walks with a limp—he lost a leg in a factory accident years ago. His Colombian bar back, Oscar (Carlo Albán), is quiet but watchful, the target of occasional casual racism. Stan likes Oscar, and he steps in from time to time to put down the put-downers. Stan is a father figure to his patrons, too, but he lets his parental guard slip when a woman named Tracey ( Johanna Day) enters in a leather jacket, red hair flying, in the opening scene. It’s Tracey’s birthday, and she wants to shake off the tedium of the day with her pals from the steel-tubing factory where she works—the hard-drinking ILLUSTRATION BY PAUL ROGERS


Jessie (Miriam Shor) and the highvoiced, trying-to-keep-pain-at-bay Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), who is black. You can feel Tracey’s need to be alive in a non-work environment, because what else is there for vibrant women like her and Cynthia but the pulsating moments after work at a deadening job? Still, it’s work that links the women, just as it bonds Tracey’s son, Jason (Will Pullen), and Cynthia’s kid, Chris (Khris Davis), who are also employed at the factory. The bar is a home away from home for all of them, a place where they can momentarily forget how life has failed them. (As with any American play set in a bar, Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” hovers over the action, like a ghost.) Eventually, Cynthia’s man, Brucie ( John Earl Jelks), turns up to tell her that he’s sober now. But how can she believe what she’s heard so many times before? Brucie has picked her clean, emotionally and financially. Tracey’s in her corner—she wants Brucie to shut up and shove off—and in this perfectly written scene Nottage shows us how being defended and looked after by a friend is everything when you have so little control anywhere else. But the bonds of friendship are tested when Cynthia becomes a foreman at the plant and huge changes occur: the new owners want the workers to take a buyout. What should Cynthia do? Betray her ambition by stepping down, or stay with a company that is forcing her friends and her child into unemployment? It’s an ingenious move on Nottage’s part to confront Cynthia with the conundrum of class aspirations, to give the black woman power over the white. Implicit in Nottage’s characterization is Cynthia’s fear that she’s less real, less black, because of her promotion, because of her desire to rise above what she was meant to be. The workers go on strike. Unemployment breeds distrust and hatred. Jason attacks Chris, then turns on Oscar, because the scabs are Hispanic, like him. The director, Kate Whoriskey, stages this and the ensuing disasters with clarity and verve. Watching Jason, a powerless white man, try to reclaim power is terrifying, and Pullen combines confusion, force, doubt, and fear in such a way that you can’t avert your eyes. Nottage and Whoriskey spent a great deal of time in Reading, interviewing fac

tory workers and survivors—if that’s the word—of the economic downturn. You can hear the region in Nottage’s lines; the people there got into her bones. A kind of alchemy occurs in her rhythms, in the way a character’s lines jump on or sidestep another character’s emotions. Those emotions are harrowing, particularly in the scenes set in 2008, when we see where the economic devastation and chaos have left Tracey and Cynthia. Not to mention Oscar and the physically ruined Stan, who have both experienced a reversal of fortune but are still working together, partly because of their long-term bond and partly because, one imagines, it takes a long time for the formerly oppressed to understand how to make the world their own—that is, completely different. he failure to make things differ-

T ent is at the heart of Suzan-Lori

Parks’s 1990 work “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead” (at the Pershing Square Signature Center).This exceptional production is directed by a great new talent, Lileana Blain-Cruz, whose work, earlier this year, on Alice Birch’s “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again,” was equally impressive; Blain-Cruz drew out the theatricality in Birch’s opaque text, thus bolstering the actors for the big game of performance. Parks has had no better director since Liz Diamond, who staged many of her early productions. Parks loves metaphors, and the idea of something being both itself and something else entirely. Indeed, her work is the best support I know for an assertion made by Zora Neale Hurston, in her still startling 1934 essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression”: The Negro’s universal mimicry is not so much a thing in itself as an evidence of some­ thing that permeates his entire self. And that thing is drama. . . . His interpretation of the English language is in terms of pictures. One act described in terms of another. Hence the rich metaphor and simile.

The overlong full title of “The Death of the Last Black Man” tells us what it’s about, but not what it’s really about, which is language—the rich sound and implications of black English. The play, which borrows elements from Adrienne Kennedy and Ntozake Shange, not to mention Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last

Tape” and Ishmael Reed’s “Mumbo Jumbo”—Parks is the premier hoodoo artist of the stage—tells the story of Black Man with Watermelon (Daniel J. Watts), who is married to Black Woman with Fried Drumstick (Roslyn Ruff ). (Previously, Ruff has been used by white directors to represent versions of the indomitable angry black woman; it’s a measure of Blain-Cruz’s strength as a director that we get to see Ruff act here, rather than be a symbol.) Various characters—Prunes and Prisms (the wonderful Miriam Sithole) and Lots of Grease and Lots of Pork ( Jamar Williams), for instance—take the stage individually but also move en masse: they are ideas about blackness clustering together, then separating, like beautiful molecules, as we learn that Black Man with Watermelon is, in fact, dead. Black Woman with Fried Drumstick tells the audience, “Yesterday today next summer tomorrow just uh moment uhgo in 1317 dieded thuh last black man in thuh whole entire world. Uh! Oh. Don’t be uhlarmed. Do not be afeared. It was painless. Uh painless passin.” But Black Man’s death wasn’t actually painless, because no death is. What Parks is saying—and not saying—is that the marginalization of black men means that their lives can be trivialized and forgotten if there is no one around to remember them. Parks wants to remember them, and her effort to engage the politics of black male bodies recalls aspects of the Black Arts Movement, if at a distance. The black man who dies and lives to tell the tale in her play is not an Everyblackman (though Blain-Cruz makes a case for that by showing us a series of wrongful deaths—a lynching, an electrocution). He is Parks’s attempt to understand the black men she’s known— which is to say, the men in her family. It’s disorienting for a young colored girl to see her father, say, reduced to the world’s small vision of him, especially when he looms so large in her own life and imagination. I don’t know if Parks had that experience, but it’s more than likely that she did. Had my sister seen this stage poem, she would have recognized—somewhere in all that language that stands upright, topples over, then stands back up again, like any number of black men we’ve known—the life of the black man who helped make us but got lost when it came to trying to love us, or himself.  THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

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THE CURRENT CINEMA

FIGHTING DEMONS “Manchester by the Sea” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” BY ANTHONY LANE

he highlight of “Manchester

T by the Sea” consists of two people

talking in the street. One is an apartmenthouse janitor, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), and the other is his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), whom he hasn’t seen in a while. In a stroller is a child from her second marriage. “I don’t have anything big to say,” she tells Lee,

wiring—seems frayed beyond repair, and there is a hint of savage penitence in his solitude. It will take us an hour or more to find out why. Affleck keeps us guessing with his every look and gesture: hands jammed in his pockets even when he’s out of the cold, eyes hazing over as the beers mount up or darting away during conversations, un-

Casey Affleck stars in a movie written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. and he replies, “That’s O.K.” She asks if he would like to meet again, and maybe have lunch. “You mean us, you and me?” he says. “Yeah,” she says. They talk some more. She cries a little, and then a lot, and he leaves. That’s it. And yet, in years to come, when people look back on the movies of 2016, anyone who saw “Manchester by the Sea” will remember Lee and Randi, talking in the street. The start of the film finds Lee alone in Boston, living in a basement, scrubbing toilets, shovelling snow, and quarrelling with a tenant about a leaky shower. For fun, of the joyless kind, he goes to a bar, gets drunk, and fights with other customers. In short, his ability to connect—his basic emotional 96

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

able to meet the gaze of others. In flashbacks, we see his character joshing with Randi, or kidding around on a boat with his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), so we know that Lee was once capable of opening up. For now, though, the guy has walled himself in. Those flashbacks take some getting used to. They’re not announced in any way. They don’t look different from what’s happening now. They just cut right in, like a car pulling in front of you, and you have to brake for a second and take stock. Near the start of the film, for instance, Lee learns from a phone call that Joe has suffered cardiac failure, in Manchester; by the time that Lee has driven from Boston to the coast, his brother has died. Suddenly,

we flick to Joe sitting up in bed, in hospital, being given a diagnosis. The past is upon us, without ado, and we have the curious sensation of watching a living person in the immediate aftermath of his death. The is and the was are looped and tied together. Not that Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed the movie, is deliberately making things hard for us to grasp. Rather, he proceeds on the assumption that things are hard, some irreparably so, and that it’s the job of a film not to smooth them over. That is why “Manchester by the Sea” becomes a litany of human error, with the tragic parts nicked and grazed by semi-comedy. We get minor misunderstandings, as when Joe’s best friend, the robust and reliable George (C. J. Wilson), has to shout to his wife across a crowded wake. We get dreadful mistimings, worthy of a farce, as when medics try and fail to fold the wheels of a gurney so that it can be loaded into an ambulance. Worst of all, we get stupid little mistakes, near-nothings, with consequences so vast that they reduce a life to ashes. The town of the title is deftly sketched, both in its colors—you can’t always tell where the gray of the ocean ends and the winter air begins—and in the smallness of its scale. Everybody seems to know of one another. “That’s the Lee Chandler?” and “The very one,” people say, when Lee returns to sort out Joe’s affairs, and the lawyer who reads the will, in his office, wears a sweater and no tie. To Lee’s alarm, he is named as the legal guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s son, who is sixteen, and has absolutely no wish to move to Boston. “All my friends are here, I’ve got two girlfriends, I’m in a band,” he says to Lee. “You’re a janitor in Quincy.” Patrick thinks of moving in with his mother (Gretchen Mol), not far away, but she has the glassy brittleness of an ex-drunk, and one lunch with her and her pious new husband (Matthew Broderick) is enough to scotch that plan. Much of the story, then, involves Lee keeping company with Patrick— driving him around, to school or to band practice, and watching him tack back and forth between girls. Many scenes are funnier than you’d expect ILLUSTRATION BY JON McNAUGHT


(“This could be good for both of us,” Patrick says, trying to set Lee up with one of the girls’ mothers), and Hedges is convincing as the kid, who seems to be handling grief suspiciously well. Indeed, his only false note is a crying jag, as the sneers and grins of his natural cockiness yield to implausible sobs. If you feel ashamed to be laughing, then Lonergan has got you exactly where he wants you—stirred and confounded, casting around for breaks in the cloud of sadness. Hollywood likes to insist that by meeting one special person, be it lover, alien, or friend, you can heal and be healed in turn. Lonergan tends to the wounds that never close, and although “Manchester by the Sea” concludes in peace, it’s the peace of compromise and exhaustion, as if family existence were a type of civil war. All of which will make some people wary of the movie, and a synopsis of the plot does sound like a parody of a downer. Even if you love the film, as I do, all the lurching, stopand-go exchanges of these unquiet souls may leave you with a craving for “The Philadelphia Story,” or something equally streamlined. Also, should Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor not be banned onscreen? Any piece of music that has been used for “Rollerball,” “Gallipoli,” and “Flashdance” has, by definition, been squeezed dry, and Lonergan has more luck with his other choices—two excerpts from the Messiah, each with a grave lilt that precisely fits the tempo of the film, followed by the Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald, with “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” While the song lasts,

you borrow its illuminated mood. You tell yourself that Lee might yet be emerging from the wreckage of his despair and finally turning a corner. Then he turns it, and meets Randi in the street. hat a relief to get away from

W Hogwarts. No more school rules,

no more snitches (golden or otherwise), no more droning teen-agers stuck in the Scottish countryside. It is only while watching “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” directed by David Yates and adapted by J. K. Rowling from her book, that you realize how cramped the world of Harry Potter had become in the later films. They felt yawningly long, yet far too hermetic for their own good—obsessed with wizard-on-wizard action, and forgetting that what makes wizardry compelling, rather than whimsical, are the sparks that fly when it clashes or grinds against the iron of ordinary lives. Hence the pleasure of a solid place at a specific time: New York, 1926. Any non-magical mortal, whom Harry would call a muggle, is known here as a nomaj, and any no-maj lucky, or unlucky, enough to see a monster gets obliviated—given a memory wipe, as Tommy Lee Jones was at the end of “Men in Black.” That is the fate confronting Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), definitely no relation of Stanley’s, who visits a bank to request a loan, meets an English eccentric named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), and, after a mixup over suitcases, goes home with a portable bestiary. Before you know it, there’s an escaped whatchamacallit—half platypus, half mole—filching

jewellery and cash, and a mega-rhino with a glowing horn marauding through Central Park in search of a mate. If you ever wondered what magical sex would look like, now you know. Like Casey Affleck, Redmayne keeps glancing down or aside, although in his case you sense a blatant ploy, designed to pull us into Newt’s endearing shyness. The result, like his floppy haircut, is too quaint for a hero, but the rest of the cast is a sturdy gang, headed by Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein, an investigative agent with unearthly powers, and Alison Sudol as her sister Queenie, a mindreading flirt. They are instantly clad in evening gowns—hey presto!—to enter a speakeasy, and the loveliest sight, in a movie generously laced with charm, is a strudel that makes and bakes itself in midair, at Queenie’s command, to feed the hungry Jacob. I wanted more of Samantha Morton to balance the sweetness; she plays the boss of an orphanage, a pale-eyed human bully who suspects that wizards are afoot and yearns to crush them. As often with Rowling, the details out-linger the plot, though the villain is quite a novelty—not any sort of creature but an Obscurus, a parasitic spitting cloud of wrath. It’s an expensive update on the black scrawl that appeared above Lucy’s head, in “Peanuts,” when supercrabbiness loomed. In all, the movie is a cunning and peppy surprise, dulled only by the news that no less than four sequels await. Will the spell not wear off before then?  NEWYORKER.COM

Richard Brody blogs about movies.

THE NEW YORKER IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF ADVANCE MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS INC. COPYRIGHT ©2016 CONDÉ NAST. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. VOLUME XCII, NO. 39, November 28, 2016. THE NEW YORKER (ISSN 0028792X) is published weekly (except for five combined issues: February 8 & 15, June 6 & 13, July 11 & 18, August 8 & 15, and December 19 & 26) by Condé Nast, which is a division of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. PRINCIPAL OFFICE: Condé Nast, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. Elizabeth Hughes, publisher, chief revenue officer; Risa Aronson, associate publisher advertising; James Guilfoyle, director of finance and business operations; Fabio Bertoni, general counsel. Condé Nast: S. I. Newhouse, Jr., chairman emeritus; Charles H. Townsend, chairman; Robert A. Sauerberg, Jr., president & chief executive officer; David E. Geithner, chief financial officer; James M. Norton, chief business officer, president of revenue. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Canadian Goods and Services Tax Registration No. 123242885-RT0001. POSTMASTER: SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO THE NEW YORKER, P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684. FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS, ADDRESS CHANGES, ADJUSTMENTS, OR BACK ISSUE INQUIRIES: Please write to The New Yorker, P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684, call (800) 825-2510, or e-mail subscriptions@newyorker.com. Please give both new and old addresses as printed on most recent label. Subscribers: If the Post Office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within one year. If during your subscription term or up to one year after the magazine becomes undeliverable, you are ever dissatisfied with your subscription, let us know. You will receive a full refund on all unmailed issues. First copy of new subscription will be mailed within four weeks after receipt of order. For advertising inquiries, please call Risa Aronson at (212) 286-4068. For submission guidelines, please refer to our Web site, www.newyorker.com. Address all editorial, business, and production correspondence to The New Yorker, 1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007. For cover reprints, please call (800) 897-8666, or e-mail covers@cartoonbank.com. For permissions and reprint requests, please call (212) 630-5656 or fax requests to (212) 630-5883. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without the consent of The New Yorker. The New Yorker’s name and logo, and the various titles and headings herein, are trademarks of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. Visit us online at www.newyorker.com. To subscribe to other Condé Nast magazines, visit www.condenast.com. Occasionally, we make our subscriber list available to carefully screened companies that offer products and services that we believe would interest our readers. If you do not want to receive these offers and/or information, please advise us at P.O. Box 37684, Boone, IA 50037 0684 or call (800) 825-2510. THE NEW YORKER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RETURN OR LOSS OF, OR FOR DAMAGE OR ANY OTHER INJURY TO, UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS, UNSOLICITED ART WORK (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DRAWINGS, PHOTOGRAPHS, AND TRANSPARENCIES), OR ANY OTHER UNSOLICITED MATERIALS. THOSE SUBMITTING MANUSCRIPTS, PHOTOGRAPHS, ART WORK, OR OTHER MATERIALS FOR CONSIDERATION SHOULD NOT SEND ORIGINALS, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED TO DO SO BY THE NEW YORKER IN WRITING.

THE NEW YORKER, NOVEMBER 28, 2016

97


CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST

Each week, we provide a cartoon in need of a caption. You, the reader, submit a caption, we choose three finalists, and you vote for your favorite. Caption submissions for this week’s cartoon, by Frank Cotham, must be received by Sunday, November 27th. The finalists in the November 14th contest appear below. We will announce the winner, and the finalists in this week’s contest, in the December 12th issue. Anyone age thirteen or older can enter or vote. To do so, and to read the complete rules, visit contest.newyorker.com. THIS WEEK’S CONTEST

” ..........................................................................................................................

THE FINALISTS

THE WINNING CAPTION

“It’s amazing to think he started out in the lobby.” Barbara Farrell, San Marino, Calif. “Finally, a C.E.O. who doesn’t suck all the oxygen out of the room.” Andrew Ward, Swarthmore, Pa. “We hired him to appeal to perennials.” Toye Eskridge, Raleigh, N.C.

“Actually, it’s all we ever talk about.” Daniel Walsh, Atlanta, Ga.



The New Yorker 28 Noviembre 2016