Some Times in America

Alexander Chancellor, Author
Alexander Chancellor, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0710-2
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-7475-4337-4
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Chancellor, a veteran British editor and journalist (he has been editor of the Spectator, among other publications), has done several stints in the U.S., most recently in 1992-1993 as editor of the New Yorker's Talk of the Town section under Tina Brown. This lighthearted and rather lightweight account revolves not only around the magazine but around Chancellor's social gallivanting and his glosses on American life, clearly targeted toward a British audience-for instance, ""The point of most religion in the United States is that, like liquor, it should make you feel good."" (And Mr. Chancellor has enjoyed his liquor: one of his adventures involved getting arrested on a DUI charge while covering the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta. America, he says, has ""ridiculously low speed limits."") We learn how he sublet a lovely furnished flat from the writer Gregor von Rezzori, how he lunched at the prestigious Century Club, how he attended dinner parties given by the very rich Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman and, in a more unpleasant New York experience, how he got mugged. He also tells of how he rented a picturesque cottage in the Hudson Valley during the summer and invited his pal Michael Kinsley and others up for barbecues. Of working with Tina Brown, we learn that, during the early part of her editorship of the New Yorker, she lived in fear of press judgments after the extremely negative reaction to her appointment as editor: ""Despite [owner] Si Newhouse's obvious admiration for her, she never behaved as if she felt secure in her job."" In brief, this is a collection of anecdotes that is very New Yorker-ish--charming, urbane, witty--but slight. (Feb.)
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