When I was growing up I often spent time with a relative who had a subscription to The New Yorker magazine. She had traveled to that metropolis many times and wanted to keep up with what was happening there. I was too young to appreciate anything in the magazine except the cartoons and the colorful covers. I didn't understand what a literary treasure trove it was.
I have come to see the error of my ways. I am especially fond of and fascinated with the early history of The New Yorker when it was lorded over by its founder Harold Ross. The first issue came out in 1925 and Mr. Ross remained the magazine's editor until his death in 1951.
Mr. Ross and his crew - James Thurber, E.B. White, fiction editor Katharine White, theater critic Wolcott Gibbs, and others - are the shining stars in Thomas Vinciguerra's Cast of Characters. I discovered this book in the new non-fiction display at the library the other day and snatched it up. As Mr. Thurber and Mr. White are two of my favorite writers, I couldn't resist.
And it is great to find a book about the magazine that features so much information about Katharine White whose intelligence and clear thinking kept the bombastic Mr. Ross in line. (If you haven't read Onward and Upward in the Garden, a collection of her columns, I can surely recommend that you do.)
I have only read the first two chapters of this tale and am already in thrall of the talent that came together in the editorial offices of the magazine. There is brief background information on each writer and editor and generous examples of their work - which of course is the best part - all held together by Mr. Vinciguerra's fine prose.
I am looking forward to spending the weekend in the company of this erudite, witty, and charming cast of characters.