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NEW YORK DAYS by Willie Morris

NEW YORK DAYS

By Willie Morris

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-316-58421-5
Publisher: Little, Brown

 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)