Ably captures the antic spirit of the New Yorker’s first heyday.



A fresh view of the much-chronicled magazine, focused on the three writers/editors who, with founder Harold Ross, shaped its sophisticated stance in the years between the world wars.

“Elegant arrogance” is how The Week magazine founding editor Vinciguerra (editor: Backward Ran the Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker, 2011, etc.) aptly describes the magazine’s rigorous distaste for what editor-in-chief Ross called “bunk.” Yet the author follows his generally positive assessment of Ross and company’s merciless skewering of sloppy writing and thinking with a quote from humorist Frank Sullivan warning that this was “the attitude of a couple of callow sub-editors from the Harvard Lampoon.” This book is admiring without airbrushing the magazine’s limitations and eccentricities. Wolcott Gibbs, feared drama critic and peerless parodist, was a depressive misanthrope who seemed rarely to have a happy moment. James Thurber, whose editing gave “Talk of the Town” its crisp, smart tone, was a misogynist far nastier than his cartoons chronicling the war between the sexes. E.B. White, who dominated the “Comment” section with his urbane yet down-to-earth pieces, was the least neurotic (and least alcoholic) of the triumvirate, but he was devoted to Gibbs and Thurber and vice versa. With the micromanaging Ross looking over their shoulders, they gave the magazine its voice and its panache, nicely conveyed by Vinciguerra in judicious excerpts from emblematic articles and juicy anecdotes involving many talented, turbulent contributors. The advent of World War II began to transform the New Yorker into a less lighthearted periodical, more consistently devoted to serious long-form journalism. Ross’ death in 1950, its 25th anniversary year, marked the end of an era; by the time of Gibbs’ demise in 1958 from a combination of booze and pills, he, Thurber, and White were making only occasional appearances in the magazine. It would thrive under William Shawn but as a very different animal.

Ably captures the antic spirit of the New Yorker’s first heyday.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0393240030

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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