Including contributions by W. H. Auden • Elizabeth Bishop • John Cheever • Janet Flanner • John Hersey • Langston Hughes • Shirley Jackson • A. J. Liebling • William Maxwell • Carson McCullers • Joseph Mitchell • Vladimir Nabokov • Ogden Nash • John O’Hara • George Orwell • V. S. Pritchett • Lillian Ross • Stephen Spender • Lionel Trilling • Rebecca West • E. B. White • Williams Carlos Williams • Edmund Wilson
And featuring new perspectives by Joan Acocella • Hilton Als • Dan Chiasson • David Denby • Jill Lepore • Louis Menand • Susan Orlean • George Packer • David Remnick • Alex Ross • Peter Schjeldahl • Zadie Smith • Judith Thurman
The 1940s are the watershed decade of the twentieth century, a time of trauma and upheaval but also of innovation and profound and lasting cultural change. This is the era of Fat Man and Little Boy, of FDR and Stalin, but also of Casablanca and Citizen Kane, zoot suits and Christian Dior, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf.
The 1940s were when The New Yorker came of age. A magazine that was best known for its humor and wry social observation would extend itself, offering the first in-depth reporting from Hiroshima and introducing American readers to the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. In this enthralling book, masterly contributions from the pantheon of great writers who graced The New Yorker’s pages throughout the decade are placed in history by the magazine’s current writers.
Included in this volume are seminal profiles of the decade’s most fascinating figures: Albert Einstein, Marshal Pétain, Thomas Mann, Le Corbusier, Walt Disney, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Here are classics in reporting: John Hersey’s account of the heroism of a young naval lieutenant named John F. Kennedy; A. J. Liebling’s unforgettable depictions of the Fall of France and D Day; Rebecca West’s harrowing visit to a lynching trial in South Carolina; Lillian Ross’s sly, funny dispatch on the Miss America Pageant; and Joseph Mitchell’s imperishable portrait of New York’s foremost dive bar, McSorley’s.
This volume also provides vital, seldom-reprinted criticism. Once again, we are able to witness the era’s major figures wrestling with one another’s work as it appeared—George Orwell on Graham Greene, W. H. Auden on T. S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling on Orwell. Here are The New Yorker’s original takes on The Great Dictator and The Grapes of Wrath, and opening-night reviews of Death of a Salesman and South Pacific.
Perhaps no contribution the magazine made to 1940s American culture was more lasting than its fiction and poetry. Included here is an extraordinary selection of short stories by such writers as Shirley Jackson (whose masterpiece “The Lottery” stirred outrage when it appeared in the magazine in 1948) and John Cheever (of whose now-classic story “The Enormous Radio” New Yorker editor Harold Ross said: “It will turn out to be a memorable one, or I am a fish.”) Also represented are the great poets of the decade, from Louise Bogan and William Carlos Williams to Theodore Roethke and Langston Hughes.
To complete the panorama, today’s New Yorker staff, including David Remnick, George Packer, and Alex Ross, look back on the decade through contemporary eyes. Whether it’s Louis Menand on postwar cosmopolitanism or Zadie Smith on the decade’s breakthroughs in fiction, these new contributions are illuminating, learned, and, above all, entertaining.
About David Remnick
David Remnick has been the editor of The New Yorker since 1998. A staff writer for the magazine from 1992 to 1998, he was previously The Washington Post's correspondent in the Soviet Union. The author of several books, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award for his 1994 book Lenin's Tomb. He lives in New York with his wife and children.
About E.B. White
E. B. White, the author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. E.B. White authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973. In addition to writing children's books, E. B. White also wrote books for adults, as well as writing poems and essays, and drawing sketches for The New Yorker magazine. Funnily enough for such a famous writer, he always said that he found writing difficult and bad for one's disposition but he kept at it!
Mr. White has won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which commended him for making “a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”
He died on October 1, 1985, and is survived by his son and three grandchildren.
About Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith was born in northwest London in 1975. The Autograph Man is her second novel. Her first, White Teeth, was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and the Commonweatlh Writers First Book Prize. She is currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Advance praise for The 40s: The Story of a Decade
“A book to be read, reread and savored . . . an absolute treat . . . This is the soul of The New Yorker.”—Kirkus Reviews