NEW YORK DAYS by Willie Morris


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 Morris (The Courting of Marcus Dupree, 1983, etc.), Mississippi-born, was barely 30 when, in 1963, he took the helm of Harper's magazine and changed it from a genteel and respectable cultural warhorse into a writer-driven journalistic whiz-bang, publishing Mailer and Halberstam and everyone else who was pushing journalism into more plastic realms. Morris became the toast of the intellectual town--until he was forced out in 1971 by the Cowles family ownership. What he's written here is more a continuation of his first autobiographical book (North Toward Home, 1967) than a portrait of the 60's city the title describes--of being in the thick of literary politics, the political edges that flashed around like knives, the camaraderie at Elaine's and Bobby Van's: the whirl, in other words. An orotund and now-and-again infelicitous stylist (``The first time I met James Jones was in the city at the party the evening he told Ted Kennedy I was not the bartender''), Morris falls back too much on nearly year-by-year recapitulations of what his magazine published (something that adds an odd poignancy, in a way: that Morris had become subsumed in his identity as Harper's editor to the point that his works were his days). Portraiture here is at a minimum; mostly there are names and more names. That all of these are names culturally significant to the era gives the book its interest--but finally even they can't quite help it see much beyond its own bumped and bruised nose. Morris's pride, hurt and otherwise, is on every page--but disappointingly little of the cautionary tale of literary power that shades his whole story breaks free and takes over, or is allowed to be fascinating. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-316-58421-5
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


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