24. Writers also have an affection for the tricky or vaguely cosmic last line. “Suddenly Mr. Holtzmann felt tired” has appeared on far too many pieces in the last ten years. It is always a good idea to consider whether the last sentence of a piece is legitimate and necessary, or whether it is just an author showing off.
25. On the whole, we are hostile to puns.
26. How many of these changes can be made in copy depends, of course, to a large extent on the writer being edited. By going over the list, I can give a general idea of how much nonsense each artist will stand for.
27. Among many other things, the New Yorker is often accused of a patronizing attitude. Our authors are especially fond of referring to all foreigners as “little” and writing about them, as Mr. Maxwell says, as if they were mantel ornaments. It is very important to keep the amused and Godlike tone out of pieces.
28. It has been one of Mr. Ross’s long struggles to raise the tone of our contributors’ surroundings, at least on paper. References to the gay Bohemian life in Greenwich Village and other low surroundings should be cut whenever possible. Nor should writers be permitted to boast about having their telephones cut off, or not being able to pay their bills, or getting their meals at the delicatessen, or any of the things which strike many writers as quaint and lovable.
29. Some of our writers are inclined to be a little arrogant about their knowledge of the French language. Probably best to put them back into English if there is a common English equivalent.
”—From “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles,” by Wolcott Gibbs, quoted in James Thurber, The Years With Ross (via michelledean)
On Thursday, I went running at the very end of dusk. I saw bats on the lake and a sign that said they were rabid, so don’t touch the dead ones. I knew this since I can remember, DON’T TOUCH BATS, but every summer my dad always had new people-touching-dead-bats stories to tell. A girl in a stroller passing me said, “Gramma, look at the long line on that duck.” And it was: the lake totally still except for a single duck and its contrail. Girl 1- Nature 1. I read before bed. I read this beautiful story in the New Yorker about flight. The writer had changed the ending (or at least, I thought so at first). I I was getting my early aviators wrong, and thought he was too, but it didn’t matter, because the sentences hit you in the sternum before you can feel anything like fact.
On Friday, I watched a boy on the bus toss imaginary dice with one hand, holding his phone in the other. He rolled four times. I don’t know what he got. My ex left me a voicemail wishing me happy pre-birthday, four days late (and one day early). I couldn’t tell if it was better or worse than when the atm says happy birthday and it’s only close. I had a beer with a friend and argued about the judicial system. I stopped reading early so I could watch the lightning come on, and fell asleep to the radio and the storm.
On Saturday, I woke to Weekend Edition, having dreamed of Romney’s Woman Problem. (PS read this right now.) I ran around the lake, which was filling up with sunbathers. My parents in Arizona were getting snow. My mom texted me a picture of my dad in snow, then one of her with a snowball. It was sort of a rectangle, and she was the happiest person I saw that day. On the lake path, I could see the dogs with the bad gaits coming from a distance. I don’t know why.
On Sunday, I sang for hours, some of it in French. I ran again. A recapitulation.
On Monday, Facebook told me all my friends had gotten engaged or pregnant or married over the weekend. Or, not and, or. This made me happy, as happy as one gets sitting there in Caribou coffee without a power cord and a kid glowering out from under a rain jacket because you took the last outletted table. I congratulated them by clicking. Mondays always have errands in them, and this one was no different. I did some and put off others. On the way to school, our bus was stopped on the onramp for 15, then 20 minutes. “There’s a jumper,” one boy finally said, “my dad works for Minneapolis fire.” And sure enough, as soon as we knew where to look, there was a man on the LaSalle bridge. Well, the left side of the bus could see him. I was on the right side. I passed the time by reading a book about a woman who fails to act, over and over again, about the way that failure diverted her children, her neighbors. The man was pulled off the bridge by cops who, I read later, had to cut holes in the chain link to reach through. “Choose life, buddy,” someone said when the cars started to move. Another one said: “Why not rat poison?” and a stranger put him in his place. We had places, on that bus.
It is Tuesday, and it’s clear the summer is coming, the shadows of branches on the cement are dulling up. I am trying to read them before they go flat with blossoms, I am trying to see if they say anything new.