Thursday, January 08, 2009

The New Yorker book of numbers


- Profiles, reviews, features, and interviews tend to focus around ONE significant figure - a person who has become influential and famous in public life.
- There is always only ONE Shouts and Murmurs column per issue. This is because New Yorker readers cannot stand too much humour per issue.
- There is usually only ONE book review per issue. This is because New Yorker readers want to be seen as intellectual, but don't want to go over the top.
- There is also, sometimes, but not often, ONE piece on a Republican politician. This is just plain weird.


- Some New Yorker articles can be written about the friendship, correspondence, or working relationship between TWO famous and influential individuals.
- The ordinary number of full-length film reviews per issue is TWO.


- The number of letters in an issue of the New Yorker is usually limited to THREE or FOUR.
- There are precisely THREE cartoons on the back page for the cartoon caption competition.
- Typical number of words in an article title: THREE, or in rare cases FOUR or FIVE.
- There are usually about THREE poems per issue. This is because New Yorker editors would like to publish a bit of poetry without publishing a lot of poetry.


- Most New Yorker issues have only ONE cover, but others have closer to FIVE. This is because New Yorker editors get excited by things like covers and sometimes go over the top.
- There are usually about FIVE Talk of the Town news items at the beginning of each issue. These include: ONE political piece, TWO pieces about quirkily whimsical events or whimsically quirky characters around New York City, and ONE piece about New Yorker art and/or culture.


- The number of cartoons in each issue of the New Yorker that make you go 'huh?' is usually about EIGHT.


- TWELVE, the number of adjectives I counted in a piece I just read about Susan Sontag. It was worth it.


- The number of cartoons in any ONE issue of the New Yorker must be around TWENTY, if you do not include cover illustrations, article illustrations, or the weird little guys that editors sometimes use to break up paragraphs, but do include the cartoons that make you go 'huh?'


- The average New Yorker article will contain, but not be limited to FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE words.


- In some countries, the number of New Yorkers sold each week are in the THOUSANDS.


Average = Regular
New Yorker writers often use the term REGULAR to mean 'average' or 'ordinary', usually in connection with the measurement GUY. "He is a regular guy..." "He's just a regular guy..." "For the regular guy on the street..."

Similar but not equal too = Recent
When New Yorker writers want to talk about a time but not disclose what exactly that time was, they will probably say 'recent'. "On a recent Saturday..."


eyrie said...

I hope this doesn't mean that your love affair with The New Yorker is over! Perhaps you've just assumed a jaundiced eye after a little tiff or minor disagreement.

If you tired of The Spectator- ! Now that would make me very sad!

TimT said...

The man who is tired of the Spectator is tired of life!

TimT said...

I have a feeling that some 50 or 60 years ago the New Yorker would have been a great read. Then again, maybe the articles by Thurber, or Perelman, or Parker, were as rare then as the pieces by Woody Allen or David Sedaris today, and the stock-in-trade was the worthy-but-slightly-dull journalism then as now.

No, not tired of the New Yorker. It can be just a little predictable at times...

eyrie said...

I've never really read The New Yorker (apart from occasional articles online), but I've been feeling like I should because you like it so much (or, at least, I thought so!) and for a moment there I didn't know what to think! I also haven't read any David Sedaris, but I know that a lot of people love him.

The kind of elegant wit The New Yorker, etc practise certainly does have its limitations. I suppose it's the difference between the bon mot or piece of word play and something a bit more complex which plays out across an entire piece. The former can seem a bit like fairy floss, especially if you have a bit too much of it in one sitting.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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