Talking About Books . . .

The 40s

The New Yorker is a worse madhouse than ever now on account of the departure of everybody for the wars, leaving only the senile, the psychoneurotic, the maimed, the halt, and the goofy to get out the magazine.”  E. B. White wrote those words to his older brother during World War II.  But as part of the writing staff of The New Yorker, he helped its founder and editor-in-chief Harold Ross to mold it into one of the great American magazines.  The story of the magazine during the 1940s – probably the most important decade of the last century – is told through articles, poems, and stories in a new 720 page book titled The 40s: The Story of a Decade.  Authors who contributed to The New Yorker during the 1940s include W. H. Auden, John Cheever, Janet Flanner, John Hersey, Langston Hughes, Shirley Jackson, A. J. Liebling, Carson McCullers, Vladimir Nabokov, Ogden Nash, John O’Hara, George Orwell, Lillian Ross, Lionel Trilling, and Rebecca West.  Each section is introduced by a notable author.  They include Hilton Als, Dan Chiasson, David Denby, Jill Lepore, Louis Menand, Susan Orlean, David Remnick, and Zadie Smith.  You can read the Introduction to the book here to get an idea of how important the magazine was during the 1940s.

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Kirkus Review gives their recommendations about just-published books here.  They not only recommend that we “buy it,” or “skip it,” but also have a third category – “borrow it.”  Note that you can find earlier book recommendations by going to the previous pages shown at the bottom of the first page.  You will find a grand total of 47 pages in this series of reviews.  You can simply read the thumb-nail review of each book or click on “Read full book review” to get a more in-depth evaluation.

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Not every author was as fortunate as Vladimir Nabokov.  His wife, Vera, was totally dedicated to making his life easier so he would have time to write.  She even licked his stamps and folded his umbrella for him when he came in from the rain.  She also edited his works and, in the case of Lolita, saved the manuscript from incineration when he became frustrated.  A few other authors – both male and female – have had the same luck, but most struggle to find time to write.

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Many writers thought they would go to Hollywood and show those morons how to write a great movie script.  Most of them, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway, failed miserably.  William Faulkner, however, was the exception.  During his years in Hollywood he wrote some great scripts, became good friends with director Howard Hawks and began a relationship with a woman who would love him for the rest of his life.  The fascinating story of Faulkner in Hollywood is told in Garden & Gun magazine.

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Who would have thought that Vladimir Putin would be such a puritan.  This Slavophile has just signed a law that will keep his people from being degraded by yet another vile Western habit – using vulgar language in books and movies.  What words will be targeted?  Well, nobody knows yet because it will be up to the Ministry of Culture to determine what is offensive and what isn’t.  In the future books containing offensive language will be sold in sealed packages with warning labels on them, and movies must be free of such words.  The new law will take effect on July 1, and scofflaws will be prosecuted.  It’s good to know that Mr. Putin is guarding the morals of his people.

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USA Today lists the 100 top selling books of 2014 in order of sales.  You can also click on the years 2007 to 2012 to see lists for those years as well.

In another USA Today article Jocelyn McClurg and Bob Minzesheimer comment on a few of the bestsellers from last year.

And a third USA Today article shows the covers of some of the books that have been number one in the USA Today polls over the last 20 years.  Place your pointer over a title that interests you to get some information about it.

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