March 25, 2008


Unread New Yorkers have been gathering dust lately — sprawled on the coffee table in the living room, perilously stacked on the bedroom bureau and resisting gravity in unstable columns on every unclaimed office surface.

Why am I foregoing the pleasure of one of my favorite pastimes? I’m certain there may be deep psychological reasons for this literary self-abnegation.

But discovering the reason doesn’t demand much analysis. I just don’t have enough time.

Fortunately, there is “emdashes: The New Yorker Between the Lines.”

It’s been nearly two years since I stumbled across this fresh and imaginative blog created by Emily Gordon. She has dedicated herself to exploring where the em dash (a punctuation mark the length of the letter m) goes: in this case, between the lines and behind the stories of The New Yorker magazine.

emdashes, as with all good blogs, is fueled by obsession. “Like me, you read The New Yorker. With interest. Loyally, actively, critically. Ardently,” wrote Gordon, an editor at PRINT magazine with an impressive freelancer’s pedigree.

Two years later, she still fits that profile, and she has added a raft of new features for New Yorker aficionados. For the time-pressed, she provides a welcome service: sifting through the week’s New Yorker for the best and brightest fact, fiction, criticism and poetry.

This week, emdashes points the way to a Huffington Post piece heralding the National Magazine Award finalists. Huffington Post provides links to the finalists, including The New Yorker‘s dozen. Among the magazine’s finalists is its vastly improved Web site.

A cool addition to emdashes is Gordon’s “Rossosphere,” the blogroll of her favorite blogs that she named in honor The New Yorker‘s legendary founder, Harold Ross. It includes a link to a fascinating description of The New Yorker records collection at the New York Public Library. (Ever wanted to know who was J. D. Salinger’s agent?)

emdashes also refers readers to the new Web site from Ben Yagoda, who relied on the New Yorker archive to write About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made. (He’s also a favorite writer and teacher of mine.)

Perhaps now that I have Emily Gordon as my guide, I will find time for a magazine that rarely disappoints.

An earlier version of this “M&M” post appeared July 23, 2006, on “The Mechanic and the Muse,” a now-defunct blog I maintained from January 2006 to March 2007. I am updating and re-posting these items once a week.

This post was published with the incorrect name of the founder of The New Yorker. It has been corrected in the text.

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Chip Scanlan is an affiliate faculty member at The Poynter Institute. From 1994-2009, he taught reporting and writing in its real and virtual classrooms and…
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