Curses on You, Elif

Damn! It finally happened. Someone I know, someone I grew up with, has been published in the New Yorker. Pfoey!

It didn’t bother me so much when a Penn classmate, John Legend, got nominated for a dozen or so Grammies. And when Pingry peer Justin Gimelstob was at Wimbeldon, playing mixed doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 1999, against John McEnroe and Steffi Graf, I was like, go Justin!

NY Cover Jan 16But publishing a witty, riveting, first-person essay about Taiwanese kick-boxing (“Cool Heart: The lethal art of Muay Thai,” Jan. 16, 2006), well, that just can’t be forgiven. I noticed the story, by another Pingry classmate named Elif Batuman, when I was slogging through recent issues the other night. I tend to hone in on my favorite authors (Gladwell, Surowiecki, Sedaris, Flanagan, etc.), read the Talk of the Town and movie reviews, and listen to whatever else is included in the Audible’s abridged version of the magazine. But this one slipped through the cracks. It was only when I did my final once-over, before the issues get sent to the great scrap heap that is the Children’s Hospital waiting room, that I noticed, with a sinking dread, Elif’s brilliant piece. Damn, this is really good. A few examples:

I was having trouble with high kicks, and Bunkerd came over and began explaining something in a heartfeld, meaningful tone. “||| || ||||!” he said, an utterance that I pictured as a row of verticle lines, like Woodstalk talking to Snoopy. “|||| ||||| ||| kick,” he added, pointing at my leg.

At the fight, I had taken a photograph of Bunker’s ring entrance. In it, he is walking with a light, purposeful step, and appears to be about to skip right out of the picture. You can almost tell that his recording is playing in the background. When I gave him a copy of the photograph, he accepted it cautiously and held it up to his eyes.

“Thank you,” he said. A smile lit up on his face: “Oh — it’s me.”

Alas, the text isn’t online, but trust me, you don’t want to throw out the issue before reading it. Next time, though, I wish she’ll have the good sense to be like Gimelstob: lose to MacEnroe and, if you absolutely must publish your writing, do so on Just stay away from the fancy intellectual magazines and suburban lifestyle magazines. That’s my turf!