The first issue of the New Yorker was published in February 1925, and though it soon established itself as the ultimate in sophistication and well-informed urbanity, its founder and editorial dynamo, Harold Ross, was only too aware of his modest Midwestern origins and his lack of formal education. This gave him, in the words of David Remnick, the current editor of the magazine, ‘a mystical obsession with grammatical punctilio and syntactical clarity’. As this marvellous anthology makes clear, ‘he prized shoe-leather reporting, vivid observation, absolute clarity and conversational tone’ and, to his credit, ‘he feared pretension and self-importance almost as much as he feared a dropped comma’.
The New Yorker was, in essence, a metropolitan magazine, paying little attention to events outside the great city or the wider world and virtually ignoring the effects of the Depression. But, in Remnick’s words, ‘the war made the New Yorker’. Ross reluctantly, but very successfully, turned the magazine’s attention to