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THE FUN OF IT: Stories from the New Yorker's The Talk of the Town

Lillian Ross, Editor, David Remnick, Introduction by
Lillian Ross, Editor, David Remnick, Introduction by , intro. by David Remnick. Modern Library $14.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-375-75649-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0972-4
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Since its inception, witty journalistic pieces of under 1,000 words ("talk stories," as they are referred to by staff) have appeared in the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" column. Ross (Here but Not Here), a contributor for 45 years, has collected the best of these essays, spanning the entire 75-year history of the magazine. Until the 1990s, stories were never signed, so it is a pleasant revelation to discover how many of the most engrossing were penned by well-known and respected writers. Under the editorship of Howard Ross, the focus was—and is now again—on New York City. There is a humorous profile by E.B. White of a scholar at the Brooklyn Public Library who sent noted authors unsolicited critiques of their works (1930). Among other gems are James Thurber's impression of artist Diego Rivera (1931) and author Gertrude Stein (1934) when they were in Manhattan, he to prepare for an exhibit of his work at MoMA and she to autograph books at Brentano's. It wasn't until WWII, when male reporters became scarce, that women, including Andy Logan, were hired for the column. Logan interviewed Tennessee Williams (1945), and Lillian Ross herself spoke with a 25-year-old Norman Mailer (1948). Although there are many enjoyable articles from more recent decades by gifted writers like Susan Orlean, John McPhee and Julian Barnes, it is the earlier selections that appeared under the editorial stewardship of Howard Ross and his successor William Shawn that evoke the deepest nostalgic pleasure. (May 8)

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