SOME TIMES IN AMERICA by Alexander Chancellor


And a Life in a Year at the New Yorker
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Breezy Brit journalist Chancellor, former editor of the Spectator and the Independent Magazine, recalls the brassy charm of the US—an affection nurtured as he, a visiting scion of his country’s upper class, survived a turbulent year under Tina Brown at The New Yorker. During WWII, Chancellor fell in love with an original cast recording of Oklahoma! brought home by his father, the general manager of Reuters. Over the years, the author progressed from enthusisasm for the latest American pop-culture crazes to dining with rich widows like Evangeline Bruce and Pamela Harriman while posted as a Washington correspondent for the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph in the —70s and —80s. None of this high-powered mixing, however, prepared him for the brouhaha that surrounded his appointment by Brown as The New Yorker’s —Talk of the Town— editor. Chancellor surmounted his justifiable initial protest——But I—ve never even lived in New York——with the help of a generous salary, the promise that the stint need only last one year, and a book proposal based on his experiences. In retrospect, he admits wryly, the appointment was ill-starred, doomed by his transparent lack of familiarity with the Big Apple and the disparity between his goals for the department and Brown’s. Although absolving Brown of journalistic offenses charged by The New Yorker’s old guard, he does criticize her for her last-minute decisions to pull stories that lacked buzz, her insensitivity to staffers— personal problems, and her obsession with bad publicity. Unfortunately, the pre- and post-Brown halves of the book are yoked together uneasily, undermining a narrative that, while consistently amusing, rarely becomes penetrating. Genteel gossip from a member of London’s chattering classes that ends up just rambling on, albeit amiably, about America and one of its most quizzically cherished cultural institutions. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7867-0710-0
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999