The 40s: The Story of a Decade

The 40s: The Story of a Decade

The New Yorker, David Remnick, J. D. Salinger, E. B. White, Zadie Smith

Language: English

Pages: 618

ISBN: 2:00236780

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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ten. She comes from Bountiful—Bountiful, Utah.” “Hope it won’t rain for the parade tomorrow,” said the gentleman. “It don’t look too promising,” observed the policeman. Miss Nalepa and her chaperone turned up, and I went inside with them. The contestants were standing in an uneven line, looking unhappily at each other, before a table presided over by a middle-aged woman with a Southern accent. She was Miss Lenora Slaughter, the executive director of the Pageant. The atmosphere was hushed and

curtain of builder’s sheets. “Where are the stairs?” I said. “What have you done with the stairs?” I was at the laughing age. A mild, trim voice spoke above our heads. “Ah, I know that laugh,” the voice said sweetly and archly. There was Miss Richards, or, I should say, my father’s second wife, standing behind a builder’s rope on what used to be the landing, which now stuck out precariously without banisters, like the portion of a ship’s deck. The floor appeared to have been sawed off. She used

if, artlessly, she were showing us the leg first. And she was; she was a plain woman, and her legs (she used to say) were her “nicest thing.” This was the only coquetry she had. She looked like one of those insects that try the air around them with their feelers before they move. I was surprised that my father (who had always been formally attentive to my mother, especially when he was angry, and had almost bowed to me when he met me at the station and helped me in and out of the car) did not go

Some of the men stared at the island. Others remarked that the wind was running in our favor, from the northwest, and that the sea was calmer than it had been, though still difficult. Many could think of nothing but the immediate necessity of climbing the slick, flaccid web of rope down the ship’s side without looking silly or getting killed. Even young Marines have been killed on these descents when the sea has been rough, and for those over thirty-five the endless sequence of nets, Jacob’s

single cut or scratch. Mrs. Nakamura took the children out into the street. They had nothing on but underpants, and although the day was very hot, she worried rather confusedly about their being cold, so she went back into the wreckage and burrowed underneath and found a bundle of clothes she had packed for an emergency, and she dressed them in pants, blouses, shoes, padded-cotton air-raid helmets called bokuzuki, and even, irrationally, overcoats. The children were silent, except for the

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