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The upside to the New Yorker's Obama controversy

July 14, 2008 |  2:05 pm

NewyorkerobamasatireEveryone's up in arms about the image of a Muslim Barack and machine-gun toting Michelle Obama on the cover of the July 21 issue of the New Yorker.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a cartoon — not designed to deceive, like a doctored photo — and if our friends and neighbors laugh at "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," I'm certain they're sophisticated enough to understand a little illustrated satire. But maybe someone out there thinks this accurately represents how Barack Obama moves through the world.

This is for sure: This is bringing a lot of attention to the (often low-key) New Yorker, and the magazine will likely sell more copies than in an average week. Which means new readers.

So who benefits? Fictionwise, it's SoCal local Sarah Shun-lien Bynum — author of "Madeline Is Sleeping" — whose story "Yurt" is in this issue. There are brief reviews of the novels "City of Thieves" by David Benioff and Poppy Adams' "The Sister."

As always, there is plenty of excellent nonfiction to be found in the New Yorker, in articles on current affairs and essays and criticism. Of course you can read about Barack Obama inside, and catch up on restaurants and music and movies.

As for nonfiction books, in this issue attention is paid to wine, the poet Mayakovsky and a 167-year-old book on gardening (lawns, yes or no?).

There's even a little bit of satire in the mag, too: a piece called "14 Passive-Aggressive Appetizers" by Yoni Brenner. And all those cartoons. Isn't it clear that the New Yorker doesn't want to be taken too seriously?

Carolyn Kellogg