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Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker

Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker

by David Remnick (Editor), Susan M. Choi (Editor)

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One of art's purest challenges is to translate a human being into words. The New Yorker magazine has met this challenge more often and more successfully--and more originally and more surprisingly--than any other modern American journal.

Starting with its light fantastic evocations of the glamorous and the idiosyncratic in the twenties and continuing to


One of art's purest challenges is to translate a human being into words. The New Yorker magazine has met this challenge more often and more successfully--and more originally and more surprisingly--than any other modern American journal.

Starting with its light fantastic evocations of the glamorous and the idiosyncratic in the twenties and continuing to the present, with complex pictures of such contemporaries as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Richard Pryor, The New Yorker's Profiles have presented readers with a vast and brilliant portrait gallery of our day and age. These literary-journalistic investigations into character and accomplishment, motive and madness, beauty and ugliness, are unrivaled in their range, variety of style, and embrace of humanity.

To help mark the occasion of The New Yorker's seventy-fifth anniversary, Life Stories puts into one volume, for the first time, some of the most outstanding examples of this exemplary tradition. Here you will find Wolcott Gibbs on Henry Luce, Lillian Ross on Ernest Hemingway, and Susan Orlean on show dog Biff Truesdale. And in some of the exhibit's many other rooms you will find startling likenesses of Marlon Brando by Truman Capote, magician Ricky Jay by Mark Singer, pitcher Steve Blass by Roger Angell, and Anatole Broyard by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

When they were first published in the magazine, these essential biographies brought insight, amusement, understanding, and, often, joy or sorrow to those who read them. Gathered together here, in Life Stories, they provide us with an album of our era, a rich and diverse appraisal of some of the most prominent members of an entire century's cast.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To long-time readers of the New Yorker, one of the reasons to welcome this excellent collection of 43 stories written over the past seven decades will be the recollection of their first encounters with some of the writers who were fresh new voices when their stories set in Manhattan first appeared. Such then-newcomers as Lorrie Moore, Jeffrey Eugenides, Deborah Eisenberg, Anne Beattie and Laurie Colwin portray New York in their distinctive voices. The literary Old Guard is here in solid phalanx too: stories by John Updike, Bernard Malamud, John O'Hara, Elizabeth Hardwick, John Cheever, Peter Taylor and William Maxwell define aspects of their decades with timeless clarity. Holden Morrisey Caulfield makes his debut in J. P. Salinger's "A Slight Rebellion Off Madison"(1946); Philip Roth's millionaire author Zuckerman is accosted on Second Avenue in "Smart Money"(1981); one of Isaac Bashevis Singer's innumerable group of displaced Jews and ardent lovers holds forth in "The Cafeteria" (1968) on the Lower East Side. At opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, two entries, Woody Allen's "The Whore of Mensa," (1974) and "Mid-Air" (1984), by Frank Conroy, have become classics. Published this year, Jonathan Franzen's "The Failure" defines the `90s in the city, yet Maeve Brennan's 1966 "I See You, Bianca," a quiet narrative about loss highlighted by "the struggle for space in Manhattan," could have been written today. If Dorothy Parker's wit now seems shrill ("Arrangement in Black and White," 1927 ), and Irwin Shaw's "Sailor Off the Bremen," from the same year, seems mannered, Jean Stafford's "Children Are Bored on Sunday"(1948), still resonates with a peculiarly New York atmosphere. Of course, there are tales from such New Yorker stalwarts as John McNulty, S. J. Perelman, E. B. White and James Thurber. Manhattan as geographical area and emotional landscape takes visible shape as haven and hell, locus of opportunity and of dead end lives. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of The New Yorker, one of America's most popular and enduring magazines, Random House is bringing out these complementary anthologies that reprint the work of prominent New Yorker contributors. Selected by Remnick, the magazine's current editor, the pieces provide a retrospective of the magazine's journalistic history. Life Stories includes biographical sketches of such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Isadora Duncan, Johnny Carson, and Floyd Patterson. Well known for profiling famous people of the day, The New Yorker has created an intriguing record of those individuals considered important to the 20th century. Organized around the same theme of life in New York City, Wonderful Town contains works by some of the true masters of the short story genre, among them John Updike, Dorothy Parker, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. With so many talented writers aboard, the venerable New Yorker should enjoy at least another 75 years of success. Both titles are recommended for public library collections.-Ellen Sullivan, Ferguson Lib., Stamford, CT
Whether scrutinizing the famous or infamous, this collection offers readers the opportunity to reak a selection of the writing that has made The New Yorker a literary institution.
Brill's Content
From the Publisher
"Eloquent witness to the magazine's remarkable content over the years.... It was the Profile a New Yorker staffer coined the term that the magazine really revolutionized. It's intoxicating to have these pieces all in one place."

"An anthology that makes] you remember why the magazine has long had a reputation for literary excellence."
Chicago Tribune

"Splendidly entertaining."
Houston Chronicle

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

In trying to assemble a collection of Profiles that would represent, to some degree, the form as it developed over the seventy -five-year history of the magazine, I needed at least a couple of guidelines to limit myself and the book.

After gathering suggestions from colleagues on the staff of The New Yorker and from contributors around the country, I discovered that, with the help of our library, I had amassed a box of photocopied Profiles larger than one's first refrigerator. Rule number one was that no writer could appear more than once. Even more painful, I decided to publish pieces only in full. I wanted the reader to get the real thing-no excerpts, no snippets. As a result the reader will have to go elsewhere for a range of long or multipart Profiles: Dwight MacDonald on The Ford Foundation; John Betjemen's self-Profile in verse; George W, S. Trow on Ahmet Ertegun: Arlene Croce on Edward Villella; Rachel Carson on the sea; Marshall Frady on Jesse Jackson; Liebling on Earl Long; Susan Sheehan on Carmen Santana; William Whitworth on Roger Miller; Jane Kramer on Allen Ginsberg; Alec Wilkinson on a bounty hunter; Hannah Arendt on Bertolt Brecht; Jervis Anderson on Ralph Ellison; Janet Malcolm on the psychoanalyst 'Aaron Green"; S. N. Behrman on Joseph Duveen; Lawrence Weschler on Robert Irwin; Brendan Gill on Tallulah Bankhead; John Bainbridge on Toots Shor; Connie Bruck on Hillary Clinton; St. Clair McKelway on Walter Winchell; Philip Hamburger on John P. Marquand; Richard Rovere on William E Howe and Abraham H. Hummell; Pauline Kael on Cary Grant; and Joseph Mitchell on Joe Gould. As you can see, the history is rich. Some of these, like Malcolm's "Psychoanalysis"or McPhee's many Profiles, are in print and fairly easy to come by in bookstores; some, like Mitchell's Joe Gould, have recently emerged in new editions; finding many of the others will depend on the industry of the reader, the local library, the serendipity of used-book stores, and the increasing quality and range of the various online websites for used books.

Beyond giving pride of place to Joseph Mitchell's "Mr. Hunter's Grave" (because I love it so), the rest of the pieces are arranged mainly to vary lengths and tone and, sometimes, to compare treatments of a similar theme, as with the two dance pieces and a few of the pieces about public success (Capote on Brando) and public failure (Angell on Blass). The truth, however, is that this is an anthology designed strictly for pleasure. There are no hidden lessons. Swim around in it as you like.

Meet the Author

David Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for Lenin's Tomb and is also the author of Resurrection and King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.

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