Gil Scott-Heron Article

There’s a pretty amazing Gil Scott-Heron article in this weeks New Yorker. It’s a rare piece of writing that reads like a well edited documentary film.

So much of the time, even in good articles, the writing is almost as much about the writer as it is about the subject. It’s kind of understandable that this would be the case, because without the ability to control the pace of reading, the sound, and the visuals, the writer feels a need to put his or her stamp on things. How else do they compete with other writers for gigs? In this case we feel the presence of the writer not as a spy but as a kind of an accepting friend. There’s clearly a bit of distance, but also a sense of trust built up that pays off. I think it’s more typical in this kind of writing to have a feeling that the reader is the secret friend of the writer and the writer has kind of seriptitiously slipped us into the room to gawk at the person they are covering in. In this case I wouldn’t say that the writer, Alec Wilkinson is “voiceless”, but the writing is non-judgmental in way that is rarely seen.

A recent thread on the dreaded non-elitist facebook was a back and forth about whether or not the New Yorker is elitist. I happen to love the New Yorker and I argued that it isn’t, that it’s just good. When the thread popped back up again today I countered with the fact that this week features the Gil article and a talk of the town about Iggy Pop. The Iggy article is actually a little bit elitist- but the GS-H article is not. The fact that it almost feels a little bit out of place in the New Yorker brings forth a few little cracks in my argument. The truth is, the magazine is mildly elitist, but it’s really the cartoons that push it in that direction the farthest. Here is what I pecked away to my friend on my phone:

“The Gil Scott article is pretty amazing
I just thought about it though. It’s the cartoons that are elitist- painfully so
The illustrations aren’t always – sometimes yes- but they can also be amazing- it’s the nature of the cartoons to be extremely elitist. Since we are such visual creatures and the new yorker gives us so few images compared to other mags we give the stupid businessman jokes way too much. … Power??”

The article isn’t online but they do have this nice slideshow. The pictures and words are all by Monique de Latour- and in true elitist fashion somehow the cads that slapped it together took full credit for it- and gave her an “images courtesy of” credit.

  • dg
    Posted at 08:17h, 04 August Reply

    the new yorker is not elitist, it always has something for everyone.

    besides this article, this issue has one about video games by a great author, Nicholson Baker. nothing more mainstream than video games

    • Michael
      Posted at 09:57h, 04 August Reply

      I agree- yet a lot of people feel that it is. I think that the cartoons have a lot to do with this- they generally have a kind of elitist sheen to them. I also think that some of the articles have a slightly elitist bent- especially things like the architecture reviews. I think it’s a great magazine and it’s really the only magazine I read- and I devour it.

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