Kirkus Reviews QR Code
LIFE STORIES by David Remnick

LIFE STORIES

Profiles from The New Yorker

By David Remnick

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50355-2
Publisher: Random House

This companion anniversary volume to Remnick’s short-story anthology Wonderful Town (p. 1912) collects 25 of the biographical Profiles that have long been a hallmark of The New Yorker. From Wolcott Gibbs’s parody of Henry Luce’speak (—Best advice: Don—t. . . . Where it all will end, knows God!—) to Lillian Ross’s poker-faced visit with celebrity Ernest Hemingway (—How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?—) to Richard Preston’s report on the Chudnovsky brothers, a pair of mathematicians obsessed with calculating the value of pi, the profiles not only showcase the immense range of the magazine’s interests (their method could be described as nosiness aspiring to the condition of art) but provide an endlessly fascinating catalog of the variety of attitudes profiles can adopt to their subjects. Janet Flanner worships at the shrine of Isadora Duncan; Truman Capote goes several rounds with Marlon Brando in a battle of egoists; Calvin Trillin rides with Miami crime reporter Edna Buchanan; Kenneth Tynan sits through round after round of Johnny Carson’s practiced spontaneity; Ian Frazier chats with domestic columnist Heloise; Hilton Als tries to pin down Richard Pryor; John Lahr asks what’s so great about Roseanne Barr; Henry Louis Gates examines Anatole Broyard’s flight from himself. Taken together, the collection amounts to a mordantly amusing meditation on the varieties of fame in 20th-century America.