As usual, I’ve dilly-dallied on reading the latest New Yorker until it only has a few more days on the newsstands, but for any fellow Adam Gopnik fans, the July 4 issue is indispensable (as usual, they don’t put Gopnik’s piece online—they know how to sell a magazine). “Death of a Fish” (“Through a glass bowl, darkly”) begins:

When our five-year-old daughter Olivia’s goldfish, Bluie, died, the other week, we were confronted by a crisis larger, or, at least, more intricate, than is entirely usual upon the death of a pet. Bluie’s life and his passing came to involve so many cosmic elements—including the problem of consciousness and the plotline of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”—that it left us all bleary-eyed and a little shaken.

It’s as good as “Bumping into Mr. Ravioli,” and that’s high praise indeed. A word of warning: those of you who have not seen Vertigo (and I must deplore the New Yorker‘s cockamamie tradition of putting movie titles in quotes) should not read the article until you’ve seen the movie, because there are spoilers aplenty. (Then again, why haven’t you seen Hitchcock’s greatest movie yet?) The rest of you, you know what to do.


  1. I suspect the funerary objects rotated in a northern hemisphere “clockwise” direction? A memorable experience for a child…the memory is likely to resurface for your daughter over the years in curious ways.

  2. Hey I object! — Hitchcock’s greatest movie (and who knows perhaps the greatest movie ever) is The Lifeboat — that’s my story and I’m sticking by it.

  3. If The New Yorker is putting movie titles in quotes, they are merely following AP style, which is an artifact of the Linotype era.
    It was impossible to change fonts on a Linotype without stopping the whole big, clanking, lead-smoking machine, so underlines, italics, and so forth were impossible.

  4. Ah, thanks for the explanation!

  5. Was searching for the D of F online and ran into a fellow Gopnik fan. Three cheers for Mr.Gopnik. See you later.

  6. Just figured out maybe they couldn’t sort out how to use the underline function on their typing software, it happens. Not to worry about the quotes, they were probably an afterthought to cure the lack of underline. Perhaps they felt the new fangled computerized system was a bit more than they could throw the switches and turn the dials on?
    Technical note: Yup, unless you had the words already underlined or a stereotyper to make the underlined word for ya in linotype, you didn’t use it. It would be broken or uneven under each letter of the word. The stereotyped word with the underline was actually molded from separate letters of type and a filed line added at the bottom. Then the whole thing had to have a cast made of it, after which it was made out of molten led. Voila! The complete word with underline to be added to the linotype, after more than an hour of work!

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