Cover image for About town : The New Yorker and the world it made
About town : The New Yorker and the world it made
Yagoda, Ben.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [2000]

Physical Description:
478 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN4900.N35 Y34 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Published to coincide with The New Yorker's 75th anniversary, this major work of cultural history draws on never-before-seen archives and offers a comprehensive look at this revered magazine's fascinating evolution. 40 cartoons. 40 photos.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Without doubt, the New Yorker is a very influential cultural magazine, and many books have been and will be, as this page attests, written about it. Yagoda delivers an incisive history of the magazine from its founding by its first editor, Harold Ross, to its present operation by media mogul Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., whose father had once been described in the New Yorker by A. J. Liebling as a "rag-picker of second-class newspapers" with "no political ideas, just economic convictions." To S. I. Newhouse did the magazine fall and out with the old and in with Ms. Tina Brown. Yagoda has thoroughly researched the New Yorker archives, opened to the public in 1994, to bring readers the day-to-day operation of the magazine that published such literary classics as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and John Hersey's Hiroshima. Set in the trademark New Yorker font, illustrated further with photographs, cartoons, correspondence and memos from Harold Ross, the book is dressed for success. --Bonnie Smothers

Publisher's Weekly Review

Based on the recently opened New Yorker archives, Yagoda's compelling if slow-moving volume follows the workings and fortunes of the famous weekly magazine. Yagoda begins in 1924, just before the New Yorker's start as a humor journal. Founder Harold Ross's stylistic conservatism, his meticulous editing and his ability to delegate authority helped build up the magazine, creating what Yagoda considers its Golden Age in the late 1930s. WWII gave it new reach and seriousness. William Shawn's ascent to editor-in-chief in 1951 brought, at first, a prosperous complacency; his devotion to serious, long essays, and editor Roger Angell's eye for new fiction, created in the '70s, Yagoda argues, the magazine's second great period. But Shawn's eccentric secretiveness, his odd financial arrangements with writers and his unwillingness to allot power laid the grounds for the New Yorker's latter-day troubles. (A brief epilogue covers events after 1987, the year of the 79-year-old Shawn's dismissal.) "Whole new graphic and literary genres"--the long profile, John O'Hara's short stories, James Thurber's humor, Roz Chast's cartoons--"would not have come to be without the New Yorker"; Yagoda shows why and how they arose. Rich details illuminate the careers of essayists, humorists, critics and journalists, short story writers and cartoonists. Combining anecdote, biography, literary history and a serious look at the business side of the magazine, Yagoda (Will Rogers: A Biography) explores "the New Yorker as an institution," its "effect on the creative artists linked to it" and the way the magazine came to epitomize "the educated American middle and upper-middle classes"; all three stories emerge and shine. 8 pages illus. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

First Ved Mehta's Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker, then Lillian Ross's Here but Not Here: A Love Story, then Renata Adler's Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker (coming this December), and now English professor/ journalist Yagoda's take on the magazine. Refreshingly, his will be an outsider's account, drawn from The New Yorker's archives. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

New Yorker books keep on coming, but this is possibly the best of the lot. Having had total access to the archives of the magazine, Yagoda (Univ. of Delaware) concocts a rich feast with quotes, letters, memos, cartoons, excerpts, notes, editorial suggestions, writers' complaints about editing, miniprofiles, and photographs. He emphasizes that, from its beginning, the periodical was open to genius (skimming the names in the index shows just how much so), with both male and female writers equally encouraged to contribute. Yagoda resurrects Harold Ross, the "New York outsider," and William Shawn, the "idea man." Much of the material in the book is familiar, but Yagoda presents it with a sweep that provides the reader with a new appreciation for this cultural icon. About Town is not the hero worship of Ved Mehta's Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker (CH, Jul'98) nor the nostalgia of Renata Adler's Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker (1999). It stands alone. All collections supporting the study of US literary and cultural history. S. W. Whyte; Montgomery County Community College