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Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker
     

Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker

by Wolcott Gibbs, Thomas Vinciguerra (Editor), P. J. O'Rourke (Foreword by)
 

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"Maybe he doesn't like anything, but he can do everything," New Yorker editor Harold Ross once said of the magazine's brilliantly sardonic theater critic Wolcott Gibbs. And, for over thirty years at the magazine, Gibbs did do just about everything. He turned out fiction and nonfiction, profiles and parodies, filled columns in "The Talk of the Town" and

Overview

"Maybe he doesn't like anything, but he can do everything," New Yorker editor Harold Ross once said of the magazine's brilliantly sardonic theater critic Wolcott Gibbs. And, for over thirty years at the magazine, Gibbs did do just about everything. He turned out fiction and nonfiction, profiles and parodies, filled columns in "The Talk of the Town" and "Notes and Comment," covered books, movies, nightlife, and, of course, the theater. A friend of the Algonquin Round Table, Gibbs was renowned for his humor. (Perhaps his most enduring line is from a profile of Henry Luce, parodying Time magazine's house style: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind.")

In his day, Gibbs was equal in stature to E. B. White and James Thurber, but he is little read today. In Backward Ran Sentences, journalist Thomas Vinciguerra provides a biographical sketch of Gibbs and gathers a generous sampling of his finest work across an impressive range of genres, bringing a brilliant, multitalented writer of incomparable wit to a new age of readers.

Praise for Wolcott Gibbs:

"His style had brilliance that was never flashy, he was self-critical as well as critical, and he had absolute pitch, which enabled him to become a parodist of the first rank."-E. B. White, New Yorker, 1958

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
He may be obscure now, but Wolcott Gibbs was a New Yorker giant who held sway in the magazine's glory years with the likes of E.B. White, James Thurber, and Dorothy Parker. Gibbs's 1958 death made the New York Times's front page. Freelance journalist Vinciguerra offers a hefty sampling of Gibbs's versatile and voluminous oeuvre, the best-remembered his 1936 profile of publisher Henry Luce that doubled as a spoof of Time magazine and contained his famous quip on Time's weirdly inverted syntax: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind." In the wake of merciless profiles of presidential candidate Thomas Dewey, and of New Yorker contributor Alexander Woollcott, Dewey impounded Gibbs's bank account and Woollcott severed his relationship with the magazine. In his 18 years as the New Yorker's chief drama critic, Gibbs panned Beckett and Sartre, found My Fair Lady "highly intelligent and tremendously engaging," and arrived intoxicated at The Crucible's opening. Although probably too dated to draw a general audience, this book may revive some interest in Gibbs, especially among journalists, critics, and wordsmiths who will appreciate his dry, sharp wit, keen observational skills, elegant condescension, and take-no-prisoners attitude. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Now the rest of Gibbs -- or a very generous sampling -- is finally back in print. It's delicious stuff. You'll find Talk of the Town stories, profiles, pitch-perfect parodies (the one of Ernest Hemingway is especially wicked), and reviews... Gibbs wasn't always right, and he didn't go out of his way to be nice. But he was always sharp, and every one of these pieces could be a primer on everything that magazine articles should be (but very seldom are).” —Very Short List

“If you're gripped with the feeling that they don't write 'em like they used to, we refer you to Backward Ran Sentences, probably [James Wolcott's] only competition this season in the categories of wit, wordplay and all-around insouciance.” —New York Observer

“Readers who enjoy the style and wit of The New Yorker will love this collection. It is easy to dip into for the perfect piece, and the large selection will satisfy.” —Library Journal

“In its range and virtuosity, Backward Ran Sentences reminds the reader that what Gibbs wrote about Benchley could just as easily have been written about himself: 'He was sure, wonderfully resourceful, and his style... would have been admirable applied to anything.'” —Barnes & Noble Review

“He may be obscure now, but Wolcott Gibbs was a New Yorker giant who held sway in the magazine's glory years with the likes of E.B. White, James Thurber, and Dorothy Parker...Vinciguerra offers a hefty sampling of Gibbs's versatile and voluminous oeuvre...Journalists, critics, and wordsmiths...will appreciate his dry, sharp wit, keen observational skills, elegant condescension, and take-no-prisoners attitude.” —Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
Fans of The New Yorker will welcome this collection of pieces written by Gibbs spanning the late 1920s through the early 1950s. New York Times contributor Vinciguerra intends to rescue Gibbs from growing obscurity with his introductory biographical essay and careful selection of articles. Gibbs was versatile, serving as an editor in addition to contributing to "The Talk of the Town" and writing profiles, parodies, short stories, and theater criticism. Profiles include the obscure, like Miss Rita Ross, the eccentric cat lady who collected stray cats to deliver to the SPCA, as well as the more famous, such as presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. Gibbs's wit shines through in the parodies, including one of "Yes, Virginia...," in which he portrays Santa Claus as a communist. In a foreword, P.J. O'Rourke provides his own parody of Gibbs. VERDICT Readers who enjoy the style and wit of The New Yorker will love this collection. It is easy to dip into for the perfect piece, and the large selection will satisfy.—Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.
Jonathan Yardley
…in his time there was scarcely anyone more skilled than Gibbs in the construction of English sentences. He was a master…He wrote with grace, wit and punch, and he wrote about almost everything…Gibbs's theater reviews alone are worth the price of this fat collection. He had the good fortune to be covering Broadway during what in retrospect looks for all the world like its Golden Age…His judgments…made on the run and under the gun, invariably are fair, astute and hold up very well after all these years. So does he.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608195503
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Pages:
688
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.90(d)

Meet the Author

Wolcott Gibbs, born in 1902, began working at the New Yorker in 1927. A supremely gifted writer and editor, he had, by his mid-thirties, published more than a million words in the magazine, covering every section, although he was best known, in his later years, as a sharp theater critic. Gibbs died at the age of 56 on Fire Island.
Tom Vinciguerra is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, and former deputy editor of The Week.

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