The third installment in the esteemed magazine’s superb decades series.
As current New Yorker editor David Remnick astutely notes in his introduction, the tenor of the 1960s didn’t necessarily jibe with the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, whose “voice was barely a whisper in a raucous time.” However, Shawn was “determined to change” the publication, and during the ’60s, it “became more politically engaged, more formally daring, more vivid, and more intellectually exciting than it had ever been or wished to be.” Those are bold words considering the outstanding work published in the New Yorker during the 1940s and ’50s, but the selections on display here certainly warrant the praise. As in previous volumes, the contributor list is an embarrassment of riches: Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Calvin Trillin, E.B. White, John Updike, Renata Adler, Sylvia Plath, and John McPhee, among other top names. The book is divided into sections such as “Reckonings,” “Farther Shores,” and “New Arrivals,” and each features an insightful introduction from a current New Yorker contributor (Kelefa Sanneh, Jill Lepore, George Packer, Evan Osnos et al.). For fans of the magazine (and long-form journalism fans in general), the majority of the collection will be highly engaging, and even the “Brief Encounters” offer sparks of excellence—e.g., Lillian Ross on Glenn Gould, Hendrik Hertzberg on The Who. There are also numerous pieces that have since become classics: Carson’s “Silent Spring,” Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” and Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood: The Corner,” which Remnick calls “the most sensational publication of the decade for the magazine,” one which “Shawn quietly came to regret” due to its “lurid” violence. And yes, even though, as Remnick rightly points out, the New Yorker has never been known for its rock journalism, there are solid pieces on Bob Dylan (Nat Hentoff), Woodstock (Ellen Willis), and the Newport Jazz Festival (Whitney Balliett).
The hits continue. Bring on the ’70s.