Cover image for Wonderful town : New York stories from The New Yorker
Wonderful town : New York stories from The New Yorker
Remnick, David.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 480 pages ; 25 cm
The five-forty-eight / John Cheever -- Distant music / Ann Beattie -- Sailor off the Bremen / Irwin Shaw -- Physics / Tama Janowitz -- The whore of Mensa / Woody Allen -- What it was like, seeing Chris / Deborah Eisenberg -- Drawing Room B / John O'Hara -- A sentimental journey / Peter Taylor -- The balloon / Donald Barthelme -- Smart money / Philip Roth -- Another marvellous thing / Laurie Colwin -- The failure / Jonathan Franzen -- Apartment hotel / Sally Benson -- Midair / Frank Conroy -- The catbird seat / James Thurber -- Snowing in Greenwich Village / John Updike -- I see you, Bianca / Maeve Brennan -- You're ugly, too / Lorrie Moore -- Symbols and signs / Vladimir Nabokov -- Poor visitor / Jamaica Kincaid -- In Greenwich, there are many gravelled walks / Hortense Calisher -- Some nights when nothing happens are the best nights in this place / John McNulty -- Slight rebellion off Madison / J.D. Salinger -- Brownstone / Renata Adler -- The cafeteria / Isaac Bashevis Singer -- Partners / Veronica Geng -- The evolution of knowledge / Niccolo Tucci -- The way we live now / Susan Sontag -- Do the windows open? / Julie Hecht -- The Mentocrats / Edward Newhouse -- The treatment / Daniel Menaker -- Arrangement in black and white / Dorothy Parker -- Carlyle tries polygamy / William Melvin Kelley -- Children are bored on Sunday / Jean Stafford -- Notes from a bottle / James Stevenson -- Man in the middle of the ocean / Daniel Fuchs -- Mespoulets of the splendide / Ludwig Bemelmans -- Over by the river / William Maxwell -- Baster / Jeffrey Eugenides -- The second tree from the corner / E.B. White -- Rembrandt's hat / Bernard Malamud -- Shot : a New York story / Elizabeth Hardwick -- A father-to-be / Saul Bellow -- Farewell, my lovely appetizer / S.J. Perelman.
Added Uniform Title:
New Yorker (New York, N.Y. : 1925)
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS549.N5 W58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS549.N5 W58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS549.N5 W58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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New York City is not only The New Yorker magazine's place of origin and its sensibility's lifeblood, it is the heart of American literary culture. Wonderful Town, an anthology of superb short fiction by many of the magazine's most accomplished contributors, celebrates the seventy-five-year marriage between a preeminent publication and its preeminent context with this collection of  forty-four of its best stories from (so to speak) home.         East Side? Philip Roth's chronically tormented alter ego Nathan Zuckerman has just moved there, in "Smart Money." West Side? Isaac Bashevis Singer's narrator mingles with the customers in "The Cafeteria" (who debate politics and culture in four or five different languages) and becomes embroiled in an obsessional romance. And downtown, John Updike's Maples have begun their courtship of marital disaster, in "Snowing in Greenwich Village." John Cheever, John O'Hara, Lorrie Moore, Irwin Shaw, Woody Allen, Laurie Colwin, Saul Bellow, J. D. Salinger, Jean Stafford, Vladimir Nabokov--they and many other stellar literary guides to the city will be found in these pages. Wonderful Town touches on some of the city's famous places and stops at some of its more obscure corners, but the real guidebook in and between its lines is to the hearts and the minds of those who populate the metropolis built by its pages. Like all good fiction, these stories take particular places, particular people, and particular events and turn them into dramas of universal enlightenment and emotional impact. The five boroughs are the five continents. New York is every great and ordinary place. Each life in it, and each life in Wonderful Town, is the life of us all.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With the New Yorker's seventy-fifth anniversary just around the corner, Remnick, the current magazine's editor, has compiled two anthologies to celebrate the event. Life Stories is a collection of profiles of notable people. In the introduction, Remnick describes the profile as "sidelong and ironical . . . priz[ing] intimacy and wit over biographical completeness or . . . unabashed hero worship." The selection that follows manages to stay true to this ideal, and yet each piece is distinctive and individual. The profiles range from straightforward (Nancy Franklin's tribute to New Yorker editor Katharine White and Joan Acocella's profile of dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov) to humorous (Wolcott Gibbs' biting profile of magazine mogul Henry Robinson Luce). Always insightful, the profiles often reveal as much about the author as they do about the subject. It is also interesting to observe the evolution of the form itself, from the earlier, simpler profiles, to the more complex and involved later ones. Overall, this is a fascinating and diverse collection, with subjects ranging from Ernest Hemingway and Marlon Brando to a fake prince, a pair of eccentric mathematicians, and Biff the show dog. Wonderful Town is a collection of short stories that share New York as a setting. At first the scope might seem limiting, but this collection is anything but narrow. In some of the stories, the city is an important force, while in others, it is merely a backdrop. The collection includes such notable writers as John Cheever, Ann Beattie, Tama Janowitz, Woody Allen, John Updike, James Thurber, Lorrie Moore, J. D. Salinger, and Dorothy Parker. The stories themselves show the many different sides of New York: the haughty art society, the sophisticated apartments, the trains, the bars, and the parks. This fabulous collection is an excellent introduction not just to New York but to many of the finest writers of this century. --Kristine Huntley

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From the moment Harold Ross published the first issue of The New Yorker, seventy-five years ago (cover price: fifteen cents), the magazine has been a thing of its place, a magazine of the city. And yet the first issue is a curiosity, a thin slice of the city's life, considering all that came after. Dated February 21, 1925, it offers only a hint of the boldness and depth to come, just a whisper of the range of response to its place of origin. What was certainly there from the start, however, was a determinedly sophisticated lightness, a silvery urbane tone of the pre-Crash era that was true to its moment (in some neighborhoods) and which also became the magazine's signature. Of the issue's thirty-two pages, nearly all are taken up with jokes, light verse, anecdotes, squib-length reviews, abbreviated accounts of this or that incident, and harmless gossip about metropolitan life. With Rea Irvin's Eustace Tilley peering through his monocle at a butterfly on the cover, with its cartoons and drawings of uptown flappers, Fifth Avenue dowagers, and Wall Street men with their mistresses out on the town, with its very name, the magazine announced its identity--or at least the earliest version of it. There was a column called "In Our Midst" that delivered one-sentence news briefs on the city's forgotten and barely remembered ("Crosby Gaige, of here and Peekskill, is leaving for Miami next week to join the pleasure seekers in the sunny southland"); there was "Jottings About Town" by Busybody ("A newstand where periodicals, books and candy may be procured is now to be found at Pennsylvania Station"); there were reports of overheard talk on "Fifth Avenue at 3 p.m.," musical notes by "Con Brio," and theater notes by "Last Night." With an advisory board of editors that included Irvin, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woolcott, Ross's first issue had the feel of an amusement put together by an in-crowd of amused, and amusing, New York friends. One of the squibs, called "From the Opinions of a New Yorker," is typical of the throwaway, unearthshaking tone of that first issue: New York is noisy. New York is overcrowded. New York is ugly. New York is unhealthy. New York is outrageously expensive. New York is bitterly cold in winter. New York is steaming hot in summer. I wouldn't live outside New York for anything in the world. It was essentially impossible to see what a various and ambitious publications The New Yorker would become. In his original prospectus for the magazine, Ross said he intended to publish "prose and verse, short and long, humorous, satirical and miscellaneous." No mention of fiction. The literary side of things did not initially strike Ross as right for him or even worth the struggle. For one thing, the competition for fiction seemed forbidding: Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post, fat with advertisements, were publishing such authors as Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Lewis and Dos Passos, and paying them handsomely. Often enough they wrote their novels for art, their stories to live. Ross would later admit that he didn't pursue Hemingway "because we didn't pay anything." And as Thomas Kunkel, Ross's wonderful biographer, points out, Ross's preferences ran to humorous sketches and commentary--"casuals." Any trace of seriousness made him jumpy. Fiction eventually became an essential part of the magazine for two reasons. When Ross hired Katharine White, in 1927, he was bringing into the magazine someone of enormous literary sophistication, someone who adored him but was willing to argue with him--and able to win. Her singular victory was the establishment of fiction as a regular component of The New Yorker. The second reason for the rise of fiction in the magazine was the American mood. With the Crash of the stock market, in 1929, the magazine's chronically bemused tone suddenly seemed out of step and out of tune. More and more, Katharine White succeeded in getting short stories--and short stories of a deeper sort--into the magazine. But what kinds of stories? There have been many essays, some critical, some rather too defensive, describing a species of fiction known as "the New Yorker story"--a quiet, modest thing that tends to track the quiet desperation of a rather mild character and ends in some gentle apercu of recognition or dismay--or dismayed recognition. Or some such. The minor key, that was the essential matter. Somerset Maugham once described it a s "those wonderful New Yorker stories which always end when the hero goes away, but he doesn't really go away, does he?" Even White herself despaired of the "slight, tiny, mood story." And while it is true that a certain kind of wan tone infects the lesser stories of the period, White, as well as her successor Gustave Lobrano, were remarkably successful in finding new young writers--often enough New York writers--who gave the magazine an original kind of vitality and its readers something mysterious and lasting to hold on to as the weekly issues came and went. Among the first great New York writers that Katharine White began to publish was John Cheever, a shy young man then, in 1935, barely surviving and writing stories in his three-dollar-a-week apartment in the Village. Rather than pant after the established writers that it could not yet afford, White's fiction department established writers that it could not yet afford, White's fiction department established a strong personal bond with Cheever, as it did with many other newcomers, and his name and voice became as much a part of the magazine's as E.B. White's and James Thurber's, A.J. Liebling's and Joseph Mitchell's. This was The New Yorker at its best, and the impact of new arrivals continues to energize the magazine. It's not hard to imagine that these new voices will speak to different readers in different ways. When I was a student, Knopf published that great read volume, The Stories of John Cheever. Cheever was far from obscure--readers of The New Yorker had come to celebrate him as the most original of the fifties story writers--but my generation knew him far less well, not half as well as we knew Updike, Roth, and the emerging Raymond Carver, to say nothing of younger names like Richard Ford and Lorrie Moore. The reviews for the Cheever book were extraordinary and the word of mouth even better, and so it reached us. Read straight through, the earlier Cheever stories especially evoked an era as distant and as compelling to my generation as the loping steps of Joe DiMaggio or the tom-tom drums of Gene Krupa. "These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat," Cheever wrote in his preface. "Here is the last of that generation of chain-smokers who woke the world in the morning with their coughing, who used to get stoned at cocktail parties and perform obsolete dance steps like 'the Cleveland Chicken,' sail for Europe on ships, who were truly nostalgic for love and happiness, and whose gods were as ancient as yours and mine, whoever you are." The secondary effect of that book was to drive me and many of my friends toward The New Yorker. And here we came upon writers as various as Ann Beattie and Donald Barthelme, Harold Brodkey and Max Frisch, Veronica Geng and Jamaica Kincaid. Cheever's evocation of "his" New York is resonant for everyone, but even he was writing his earliest stories, he was evoking just one of a multitude of possible New Yorks. That diversity is a New York constant and a constant of The New Yorker. So it seemed a natural idea to gather some of the best examples of the magazine's city fiction and -as a celebration of the authors, the city, and the magazine--put them together in this book. The stories here reflect the city's moods and crises over seventy-five years, from the highlife so artfully implied in Ludwig Bemelmans's "Mespoulets of the Splendide" to the AIDS catastrophe in Susan Sontag's "The Way We Live Now." It's true that the table of contents is less complete than one might wish. James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, William Burroughs, Oscar Hijuelos, Claude Brown, Richard Price--all these writers, and many more, have been underrepresented in, or absent from, the magazine. It's also true, by the way, that some of the grittiest stories we are publishing now are not set in New York. Junot Diaz, one of the magazine's most distinguished recent discoveries, writes of urban New Jersey, just across the Hudson. Still, what the magazine did publish, and the writers it did discover and nurture, are legion, and they have helped to create a powerful and complex portrait of New York--one tat we hope will be well represented by this anthology. The main criterion for inclusion in Wonderful Town was the quality of endurance. Which of our New York stories seemed to Last? The New Yorker famously published Thomas Wolfe's "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn," but as much as one wants to include Wolfe, his dialect story doesn't seem to have it anymore. Similarly, as a great fan of "The Golden Spur" and other novels, I wish Dawn Powell's half-dozen efforts for The New Yorker in the late thirties were up to her standard; they aren't, really. Some chestnuts, such as Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses," stood up just fine but perhaps not quite so well as the others that have been less often anthologized--in Shaw's case, "The Sailor off the Bremen." But where the chestnut also seemed supreme--Jean Stafford's "Children Are Bored on Sunday" is a prime example--there seemed no sense in exacting a perverse penalty of exclusion. As with any anthology, this one will draw complaints. Where's Peter DeVries? (Well, his best stories are in the suburbs.) Where's Harold Brodkey? (In St. Louis, mainly.) And with such a wealth of writers to draw on, even a thousand pages would not have the trick entirely. As there is barely enough room in this city to contain all of its busy, funny, angry, joyful, carping, and canny inhabitants, there was barely enough room to contain the wide range of stories we agreed upon. Argument is half the fun. After all, it was argument--the fierce and loving debate between Harold Ross and Katharine White way back when--that set The New Yorker's fictional vessel on its course. --David Remnick Excerpted from Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.