I recently finished reading a fascinating article by Nicholas Schmidle titled “Getting bin Laden. The article, which details the operation by Seal Team Six that we are all familiar with, is not only interesting in its eleven-page length, but also by placement in the magazine Mr. Schmidle decided to use to publish it: The New Yorker.
From its beginnings in 1925 the magazine has on a weekly basis provided a forum for journalism. Initially the core source was the Algonquin Round Table, which included Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woolcutt, and Robert Benchley. Through the years it has introduced journalists who would go on the be famous authors to include John Updike, Thornton Wilder, John Cheever, Roald Dahl, Vladimir Nabokov, John O'Hara, Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Eudora Welty.
Sixty years ago I read John Hersey’s article “Hiroshima”, which filled an entire issue and I also read Shirley Jackson’s powerful piece “The Lottery”. Aside from these famous authors, I have two favorites of lesser stature. One is Calvin Trillin, who wrote several pieces that drew me into buying and reading his great read, “Alice, Let’s Eat” and Berton Roueche who wrote several pieces about how epidemics start. These eventually became another book in my collection, The Medical Detectives.
The New Yorker’s” legacy for literature began with its founder and initial editor, Harold Ross, whose wife was a journalist for the New York Times. In addition to standard journalism the magazine has, from the beginning, supported poetry and, in fact, has its own Poetry Editor who reviews several hundred submissions a week.
The magazine is also famous for its cartoons, which have been a standard since 1925, launching the career of many cartoonists. It may have been the cartoon element that prompted one of my mother’s suitors to give the inaugural issue and a subscription to my mother for a wedding present. My father was convinced that it was rather a conscious effort to burden him with a renewal which continued until his death forty years later.
My mother continued the subscription and when she died, I dropped our subscription and continued hers since Mary is also Mrs. Don FitzGerald. That has produced some interesting opportunities.
Somewhere around 2005, The New Yorker decided to honor prominent and longtime subscribers with a champagne reception at South Coast Village, a tony Orange County Mall. Mrs. FitzGerald and guest received an invitation. There was a little surprise when Mrs. FitzGerald appeared to be younger than her expected eighty-one years. If they do a repeat it will be interesting to see the reaction to someone who, had she lived, would now be 107.
The timelessness of the magazine is perhaps best typified by how other features, changed through the years as different editors, such as Tina Brown led the staff. Features such as Goings on About Town and Talk of the Town. These are used by many, present company included to plan their visits. They prompt interest in choosing plays, which I will do today for our annual visit after Thanksgiving. Our interest is seemingly not unique, as I saw on my most recent visit to the Apps Store that one of the hot new Apps is Going On: The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/apps/
So, we are hopeful that we can see Follies in November, since it has a good review in The New Yorker and stars one of my favorites, Bernadette Peters. But, if not, there will be other reviews to read and never a lack of things to see and do in a New York, hopefully spared from the rigors of Hurricane Irene.
Parenthetically I am reminded that more than twenty years ago, my children purchased for me the personalized licensed plate that says DRDEKAY, rather fitting for a dentist named Dee. Of course that generous gift has continued to cost ME every time I renew it. Still, like my father and his subscription renewal, it is something I enjoy, and I am glad I received it.
Next Blog will mark a year of writing these and I’ll share with you what I have experienced and learned in writing almost 100 of these.