Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: November 2015
Duration: 13 hours 31 minutes
The professional and personal lives of the pioneers of an enduring magazine, the New Yorker
From its birth in 1925 to the early days of the Cold War, the New Yorker slowly but surely took hold as the country's most prestigious, entertaining, and informative general-interest periodical. In Cast of Characters, Thomas Vinciguerra paints a portrait of the magazine's cadre of charming, wisecracking, driven, troubled, and brilliant, writers and editors.
He introduces us to Wolcott Gibbs, theater critic, all-around wit, and author of an infamous 1936 parody of Time magazine. We meet the demanding and eccentric founding editor Harold Ross, who would routinely tell his underlings, "I'm firing you because you are not a genius," and who once mailed a pair of his underwear to Walter Winchell, who had accused him of preferring to go bare-bottomed under his slacks. Joining the cast are the mercurial, blind James Thurber, a brilliant cartoonist and wildly inventive fabulist; and the enigmatic E. B. White-an incomparable prose stylist and Ross' favorite son-who married the New Yorker's formidable fiction editor, Katharine Angell. Then there is the dashing St. Clair McKelway, who was married five times and claimed to have no fewer than twelve personalities, but was nonetheless a superb reporter and managing editor alike. Many of these characters became legends in their own right, but Vinciguerra also shows how, as a group, the New Yorker's inner circle brought forth a profound transformation in how life was perceived, interpreted, written about, and published in America.
Cast of Characters may be the most revealing?and entertaining?book yet about the unique personalities who built what Ross called not a magazine but a "movement."
"I wanted to bestow an encomium on Cast of Characters but the Bible beat me to it. 'There were giants in the earth in those days mighty men which were of old, men (and, as Thomas Vinciguerra points out, women) of renown.' Vinciguerra takes us back to those days and lets us visit with the giants and see them at work, home, and play. It's a beautiful book and a sad book, as the flood of time and modernity rises before the Cast of Characters can walk in pairs to the ark."-P. J. O'Rourke, New York Times bestselling author of All the Trouble in the World