It’s not often, especially nowadays, that the cover of The New Yorker is better than any of the contents of the issue, but that certainly happened last week.
The issue had an infuriating piece by Tad Friend about a family of irresponsible Nantucket knuckleheads whose ordeal at sea only momentarily distracts the reader from the glaring fact that they all should have died a long time ago from sheer stupidity about sailing and the sea. And James Wood opens his review of the new Jesse Ball novel with this line: “Like his earlier work, Jesse Ball’s strange, brief, beguiling fourth novel, ‘Silence Once Begun,’ flirts with the hermetic.” Good to know, good to know.
In other words, there was no real competition this time around for Tomer Hanuka’s beautiful cover illustration. It’s called “Perfect Storm,” and it more wonderfully captures what a snowstorm in New York City can feel like than any New Yorker cover has done in many years. Everything about the cover is perfect, from the warm, cozy yellows of the apartment’s interior to the old-fashioned metal radiator (the kind that whizzes and clunks and gurgles all winter long) to the slightly startled languor of the young couple looking out at the storm – to the storm itself, falling on the brownstones and mounting layers of the city in a way that looks both lovely and uninviting.
I’ve only very briefly ever lived in New York City, and that was only for a wretched, tar-sticky summer. But I’ve visited more times than I can count, and there’ve been many, many mornings where I woke up to just such a sight as the one captured in Hanuka’s painting. I remember one such morning vividly – after a wonderful, late, late evening, I was sleeping in the tall, narrow guest bedroom of an old friend’s place on the corner of Washington and Bethune. The room had one tall thin window, at 6 the next morning the bed was deliciously crowded with me and my host’s soundly-sleeping dogs. Even after all these years, I recall how warm and comfortable we all were as I looked out at a fierce, almost impenetrable snowstorm raging outside.
I’m sure that next week The New Yorker will go back to its customary balance of words and images. But for this issue, the images win easily.