FRIENDS TALKING IN THE NIGHT by Philip Hamburger

FRIENDS TALKING IN THE NIGHT

Sixty Years of Writing for The New Yorker
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mainstay of the New Yorker staff since 1939, Hamburger has written everything from —Talk of the Town— entries to casuals and profiles; he even served as music critic and movie reviewer. Dozens of pieces are collected here, arranged chronologically within each category. The few comments provided by Hamburger are helpful: A “Stanley” essay was written, for example, to explore “small, little-known islands in the East River and New York Harbor,” and was authored by none other than the self-styled —Our Man Stanley.— Much of the material is dated; some of Hamburger’s observations appear comically off the mark. For instance, in 1950 he became the first New Yorker writer to venture into the “cultural minefield” of television. He describes the early Candid Camera TV series as “sadistic, poisonous, anti-human, and sneaky”; he dismisses Frank Sinatra and his singing on the October 1951 debut of his show as being either “asleep or else . . . quite ill.” Hamburger fared a bit better as an —amateur” music critic in the late 1940s, although Toscanini demanded that he be fired. Hamburger wrote many fine profiles over the years, with the best a 1986 piece on Vartan Gregorian. His parodic profile of then-popular J.P. Marquand may be lost on many readers today. A 1944 profile of Louie the Waiter at the Sixth Avenue Delicatessen—a man noted not only for his service-oriented doggerel, but for selling $4 million worth of war bonds—is a prime example of New Yorker writing at its finest. Uneven, but what writer’s 60-year output wouldn’t be? There’s great stuff here, representative of a kind of writing and reportage that, sadly, is passing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-679-43883-1
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1998