Make room on the bookshelf. The New Yorker’s look at 1940s history, culture, literature and civilization is a book to be read, reread and savored.
Divided into seven sections—The War, American Scenes, Postwar, Character Studies, The Critics, Poetry and Fiction—this book shows how founder Harold Ross (1892-1951) could single out the most important aspects of history and culture—and not just of New York, but of the country. As a further bonus, each of the sections features an introduction from a contemporary writer; these include George Packer, Zadie Smith, Susan Orlean, David Denby and Louis Menand. After the war, the magazine, toning down its New York–centric stance, experienced a journalistic awakening. In this book, the editors begin each section with a short explanation of the genre followed by “Notes and Comments” by the eternally delightful personification of the New Yorker, E.B. White. Readers are certain to enjoy the beautiful writing, clever thinking and insightful thoughts across a vast range of topics. To choose an article, poem or short story from this great wealth of writing is beyond difficult: There is Lillian Ross’ indictment of the House Un-American Activities Committee; Joseph Mitchell’s article on McSorley’s Old Ale house, the oldest Irish tavern in New York City; Richard O. Boyer’s profile of Duke Ellington, who took jazz from New Orleans bawdy houses to Paris and beyond; and E.J. Kahn’s hagiographic profile of the widowed Eleanor Roosevelt. Don’t look for cartoons—they’ve had enough coffee-table books of their own; this is the soul of the New Yorker. An abbreviated list of the contributors includes such luminaries as Edmund Wilson, Rebecca West, A.J. Liebling, George Orwell, W.H. Auden, John Hersey, Langston Hughes, Carson McCullers and William Maxwell.
An absolute treat. Hopefully, the New Yorker will continue to publish such anthologies on other decades.