THE BOOK OF THE MONTH: Sixty Years of Books in American Life by Al--Ed. Silverman

THE BOOK OF THE MONTH: Sixty Years of Books in American Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Book-of-the-Month Club, present chairman Silverman has assembled this collection of reviews, essays and articles from the pages of the Club News. Taken together, they present a continually entertaining, always informative and sometimes surprising picture of the American literary scene over the past six decades. Maxwell Perkins writes glowingly of Hemingway in 1940 and produces a howler when he remarks on ""Poppa's repugnance to publicity."" Harper Lee recalls her long friendship with Truman Capote, John P. Marquand reviews Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and notes that it ""has a larger vocabulary of plain and fancy four-letter words than I have ever seen in print."" The selections are, without exception, delightfully idiosyncratic, polished and absorbing. The volume is, happily, packed with facts as well as opinions. It is intriguing to learn that Winston Churchill's books have been purchased by more Club members than any other author's, though William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is the all-time single best-selling book with more than 1,500,000 copies distributed. One is taken aback to learn that Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind threatened to be a resounding dud when it was first selected in June, 1936--Club members were slow to respond to Henry Seidel Canby's measured (""Miss Mitchell is not Tolstoi"") review. The fact that William Faulkner's works were not selected until late in the author's life, when the minor The Reivers was finally chosen, remains a puzzlement. So much for ""elevating American taste."" Silverman's introduction is a graceful summing up of the history of the Club, and his brief explanatory notes throughout the work are helpful in tying the individual pieces together. Book-lovers (whether they receive the Club's monthly notices or not) will be grateful to have such a wealth of fascinating literary memorabilia contained between hard covers.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown