FAR-FLUNG AND FOOT-LOOSE: Pieces from The New Yorker, 1937-1978 by

FAR-FLUNG AND FOOT-LOOSE: Pieces from The New Yorker, 1937-1978

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I have never had any single compelling area of interest, or expertise,"" says ""Talk of the Town"" veteran Kahn (About the New Yorker and Me); and indeed this chronological potpourri of over 100 bits of reporting-and-such presents a giddy array of subject matters: society girls, baseball, bridge, travel (Russia, Japan), soldiering (Korea), hats, dogs (a cocker spaniel piece inspired by Nixon's Checkers), Baskin-Robbins, Coca-cola (a recurring preoccupation), and lots, lots more. But unfortunately, along with Kahn's flexibility--and his ever-graceful, sometimes cutesy prose (the royal ""we,"" the ""as is our wont"" preciousness)--goes a viewpoint-less, lightweight slipperiness that doesn't stand up particularly well to time or book form. The verse here would have been best forgotten, likewise the whimsical occasionals (""We wish a Merry Christmas to the man in the moon. . ."") and limply frolicsome casuals (the adventures of press agent Ted Worrier). Most worthy of preservation are Profiles of people who still count--Sinatra (in '46), Javits (in '50), Averell Harriman, Dr. Seuss, David Rockefeller--but these appear here in skimpy excerpts only. And the few times that Kahn finds himself in really serious company--Amnesty International, student riots in Harvard Yard, the Munich Olympics terrorism--he doesn't rise to the challenge. (Two exceptions: Kahn's early attacks on McCarthyism, and a piece on Yukio Mishima's suicide co-authored by Kahn's wife, Eleanor Munro.) Browsing heaven for nostalgic New Yorker devotees and dilettante social historians. . . but most readers will find that Kahn reads much better in magazine context, where his sprightly blandness is surrounded by somewhat tougher voices.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1979
Publisher: Putnam