Cover image for Pundits, poets, and wits : an omnibus of American newspaper columns
Pundits, poets, and wits : an omnibus of American newspaper columns
Meyer, Karl E. (Karl Ernest), 1937-
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xli, 458 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN4888.L47 M4 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Gilbert Seldes once called the newspaper column the most sophisticated of the popular American arts. It is that and more. It is a raft-ride through the white water of American opinion and thought. It is Mark Twain and Ring Lardner, Will Rogers and H.L. Mencken, Walter Lippmann and Joseph Alsop, Russell Baker and Calvin Trillin. It is nothing less than the American voice fortissimo--often blunt, occasionally eloquent, always opinionated, inspiring, infuriating, delightful.
In this wonderfully diverse anthology, New York Times editorial writer Karl Meyer brings together 72 of America's finest columnists, the first such collection ever published. The range of voices is remarkable, stretching from Ben Franklin (who, as Silence Dogood, castigates the evils of demon rum) to Anna Quindlen (who writes on the travails of being pregnant in New York City). H.L. Mencken lambasts Truman's 1948 presidential campaign as "unhampered by anything resembling a coherent body of ideas." Mary McGrory describes sitting in Judge Sirica's courtroom as the Watergate tapes are played on the "little Sony": how Haldeman slumps in his chair, how Mitchell turns faintly pink. Milt Gross renders a demented comic version of Pocohantas and Keptain John Smeet in American Yiddish dialect ("Hends opp!--odder we'll cot you off de scallop wid a tommyhuck!"). Heywood Broun offers a tongue-in-cheek explanation of "How I Became a Red." And I. F. Stone assails our collective guilt in Kennedy's assassination ("We all favor murder, when it reaches our own hated opponents").
To read these columns is to walk through American history and savor the views of some of our finest commentators, declaiming on everything from freedom of the press to yesterday's double-header.

Author Notes

About the Editor:
Karl E. Meyer, a member of The New York Times editorial board, is a Wisconsin-born third-generation journalist. He cubbed for The Milwaukee Journal and was an editorial writer and foreign correspondent for The Washington Post before joining The Times in 1979. His previous books include The Plundered Past, The Pleasures of Archaeology, The Art Museum, and The Cuban Invasion (with Tad Szulc).

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This is a book with a large common denominator of interest: it has something for everybody. It consists of representative samples of the writings of over 70 American newspaper columnists. Along with the familiar names--Thomas Paine, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Thompson, Langston Hughes, George Will, Erma Bombeck--are a number of lesser-known writers who have rarely, if ever, been included in an anthology before. The arrangement is chronological, and as we turn the pages, we see how far and in how many directions the newspaper column has traveled since it was naturalized in the 1700s. Not the least interesting part of the collection is the editor's introduction and biocritical notes. The book has no serious rival and is an indispensable single source for the study of newspaper column writing in America. --A.J. Anderson, Graduate Sch. of Library & Information Science, Simmons Coll., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- From Benjamin Franklin to Mark Twain, from sportswriter Jim Murray to Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman, Pundits provides a diverse and irreverent ride through American opinion and thought. This anthology of dozens of newspaper columns is an unending delight of wit and sarcasm from the left and right, a compendium of informed writing on affairs of high moment and trivia from the budding of the Republic until now. Meyer guides readers through subjects from southern accents, to the murder of John F. Kennedy, to voting rights and yesterday's baseball double-header. The words dance delightfully, perhaps best teaching strong-headed readers that there is often merit to the other side of an issue. It is lovely, tireless writing for tireless reading. --Margaret Carnes, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.