Tuesday, November 20, 2012

About the New Yorker and Me: A Sentimental Journal

1979, 1988 edition
E. J. Kahn, Jr.
About the New Yorker and Me: A Sentimental Journal
Original price $9.95, purchase price $3.98
Slightly worn paperback

As I noted in my review of Brendan Gill's Here at the New Yorker, Kahn and other contributors to the magazine were unhappy with Gill's version, especially his portrayal of founder Herbert Ross.  But more of Kahn's book deals with second publisher, William Shawn, whom Kahn even dreams about.  (As does his wife at one point.)  You might guess correctly from the subtitle that this is Kahn's diary, for the year 1977, so he talks about Andy Young, and Annie Hall, and a lot of sports figures.  Quite a bit of the book tells of Kahn's research and longer writing process for an article on Georgia.  There's also a lot of name-dropping, some of it blunted by time.  (Rita Gam may've been a frequent crossword puzzle answer then, but she's hardly a household name these days.)  And Kahn talks about his family quite a bit.

Given the format, this doesn't ramble as much as it could, although it's definitely anecdotal.  I found some of Kahn's sentences unnecessarily long (and I say that as someone who's given to parenthetical digressions), and I couldn't help wondering if the New Yorker editors couldn't break him of this habit.  (At least the book isn't typo-ridden like Gill's.)  I was also struck by how Kahn, as a 60-year-old liberal was trying to adapt to changing times, sharing household chores with his wife, and yet using that annoying form of "the John Smiths" (to describe John and Mary Smith, even if Mary is known by her maiden name).  Yet overall, it's an entertaining enough read, and I did laugh out loud a couple times.

Kahn published a sequel the same year this edition was released, the later book called Year of Change: More about the New Yorker and Me, which I haven't read, but the year in question seems to have been when the new owners of the magazine forced Shawn out.  Shawn died in 1992, Kahn two years later, and Gill, as I mentioned earlier, three years after that.

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