Jeremy Lewis

Plumped Pages

The New Yorker Book of the 50s: Story of a Decade


William Heinemann 764pp £25 order from our bookshop

Boxers loom large in the early pages of this magnificent anthology from the years in which the New Yorker became more profitable, better established and fatter than ever before – at one stage, it was necessary to limit the pages in a weekly issue to 248 – without compromising the standards set by its fabled first editor, Harold Ross. The book and the decade get off to a flying start with an account of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ star player, working part-time in a hardware store in Queens, selling TV sets, fridges and washing machines to Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, and signing baseballs for admiring fans. ‘Business booming like wildfire since Jackie came,’ the shop’s manager told the New Yorker. A few pages later, A J Liebling, one of the magazine’s star writers and its resident gourmet, provides a vivid account of the heavy-weight fight at Madison Square Garden between the ‘cerebral’ Archie Moore and Rocky Marciano, ‘a kind, quiet, imperturbable fellow’. As they shook hands Liebling ‘could see Mr Moore’s eyebrows rising like storm clouds over the Sea of Azov’. After the fight was over, Liebling found himself sitting ‘between two young policemen who were talking about why Walt Disney has never attempted a screen version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis’, but ‘did not feel qualified to join in that one’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,