Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Love (the) New York(er)

Eustace Tilley has owned a little piece of my heart for a good 20 years now. If you're a fan of The New Yorker, then you likely recognize the name of their monocled, top-hatted fop of a mascot. And if you're not a fan of The New Yorker, well, you've got 82 years of spectacular reading to catch up on...and trust me, it'll be worth it.

Few magazines, with the exception of Life and maybe Time, can bill themselves as legendary. The New Yorker has no problem with that title, though, because they've earned it. What else would you call a magazine that launched or expanded the writing careers of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, E.B. White, Woody Allen, David Sedaris, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, John Hersey, John O'Hara and dozens of other members of the "greatest American writers" club?

To me, The New Yorker works because it still feels fueled by the spirit of its founder, Harold Ross, and that's a good thing. A high school drop-out and itinerant journalist once described as resembling a "dishonest Abe Lincoln," Ross became one of America's finest editors and spotters of talent. He ignored the mockery of his friends who told him that a former Stars and Stripes editor like himself could never edit the type of "smart" magazine that was so popular in the 1920s. He held his ground, kept his sense of humor and in the process, changed the future of 20th century literature.

I will freely admit that I've had mad love for The New Yorker since childhood when I first discovered Thurber cartoons. I may have been the only twelve-year-old in my school to submit something to the magazine just so I could get a rejection letter...suitable for framing. In college, I forced my friends to sneak into the old New Yorker building late at night just so we could ride the same elevators our favorite writers used to ride. And yes, I own every book ever written on the magazine, including Harold Ross's collected letters, which includes a slightly bizarre invitation to the circus addressed to the First Couple of American Theatre, Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. I would have paid to see that adventure.

Best of all, except for a dark period of time when the magazine was edited by Tina Brown, The New Yorker has maintained its quality, running groundbreaking stories on everything from Hiroshima to Abu Ghraib. Given that the magazine has managed throughout its 82 year history to balance serious reporting, exceptional, oddball cartooning and the best in American humor writing, it's hard not to tip your hat to Eustace Tilley and all that The New Yorker has accomplished. Also, when it comes to monocled mascots, Tilley completely kicks Mr. Peanut's ass. Take that, legumes.

1 comment:

Alain Vaillancourt said...

Sometimes I'm still sore at Thurber for the way he mocked Ross, but by mocking him so he made me interested enough to read more on Ross.