I, too, caught that New Yorker profile of John Ashbery. Josh and Jack quite rightly take issue with its failure to offer anything particularly helpful in reading Ashbery's work. That didn't surprise me; I instinctively cringe when I pick up any New Yorker writer profile/puff piece and am usually glad if I don't come out on the other end hopping mad.
My guess is that Larissa MacFarquhar thought she was being quite clever, not in the content of her piece (it has almost none) but in its form. Ashbery is rarely, if ever, quoted in the piece; instead, MacFarquhar folds any material she must have gleaned from interviewing him into an omniscient, third-person, present-tense ramble that seems to want to portray Ashbery's process as if from the inside. It would be laughable to do this to, say, David Mamet or Matthew Barney--and it's pretty silly here--but I think MacFarquhar must have thought it was a kind of journalistic version of New York School writing: a "he does this, he does that" celebrity profile.