In early 2008, I took notice that many of my friends had stacks of The New Yorker magazines neatly piled on their coffee table (or bedside table, or dining room table . . .). Each time I spotted this stack I instinctively asked if they had read some article with which I was currently obsessed. Perhaps it seemed that I asked only to assert that I too was one of the cool kids reading this fine Condé Nast publication. Although I have oft been guilty of such transparent self-serving inquisition, on these occasions I had no ulterior motives. Each time I asked, the answer would be some variation of “I’m still about ten issues behind, is that a good article?” After months of these conversations, I figured that there may be more people out there who love The New Yorker, but just don’t have time to read each issue from cover to cover. Thus the New Yorkerest was born.
The intention behind the name was to treat the title as a bizzarro inflected adjective referring to the piece in the issue that most lives up to the thought-provoking writing that we expect from The New Yorker. My two finalists under this concept were the New Yorkerer and the New Yorkerest. Since it progresses tall, taller, tallest I decided that the superlative state best embodied the endeavor (plus Yorkerer made me a little tongue-tied). Soon after launching the project, I realized (or rather vocal members of the Internet public informed me) that the name had a slight snag.
Some thought the name referred to the project’s author and were perplexed that I live in San Francisco, not New York City. Others thought it should be spelled with an -ist presuming that I thought of myself as a practitioner of or expert about New York. Still others thought that I had even the slightest association with The New Yorker magazine or the fine folks at Condé Nast. I can assure you that I am neither an expert on New York nor am I in the employ of Condé Nast. I am just a man who likes a magazine a little too much.
To ensure the project would be more complicated than necessary, I created a short list of arbitrary rules.
- Each issue can have only one piece selected (the most arbitrary and difficult of the rules to follow);
- Each discrete piece in the issue (article, review, cartoon) is eligible; and
- Only pieces published in the print edition are eligible.
Some issues have one standout piece, while the plethora (or dearth) of pieces I enjoy in other issues make it difficult to make my pick. I post the “winner” on the website sans editorial and toss a note on my Twitter account. Sometimes my kind readers tweet a sentiment of agreement or disagreement, sometimes the Twitterverse stands silent. A few days pass and the process begins anew.
The project does have some notable limitations including its reliance on relative strength and subjective judgment. Since I choose the best of each issue, it is really the best piece relative to the other pieces in that issue. One could imagine an issue that has the three best pieces ever written in human history. Or perhaps an issue that even opening is a waste of time. Both of these get treated the same and have a piece crowned. Sadly, not all valedictorians are created equally.
My measure for selection is simply which piece had the biggest impact on me. Sometimes I wonder if this project is better viewed as a psychological examination of my reading proclivities. This is further exacerbated by my reluctance to editorialize on the rationale behind my selection. I made this decision to ensure the project was sustainable (i.e. I am more likely to post weekly if I don’t have to provide a thoughtful support thesis) and because providing more to read is the exact wrong solution for my audience (i.e. If you barely have time to read professional writers, why spend any of it reading an amatuerish blog).
If you enjoy this site please spread the word, tweet me a note, become a Facebook fan, or post a comment on a week’s selection. And if you want to support this project, please use our Amazon link when it comes time for you to renew your subscription to this fine magazine. Thanks and happy reading. ♦