This engrossing anthology assembles classic New Yorker pieces from a complex era enshrined in the popular imagination as the decade of poodle skirts and Cold War paranoia—featuring contributions from Philip Roth, John Updike, Nadine Gordimer, and Adrienne Rich, along with fresh analysis of the 1950s by some of today’s finest writers.
The New Yorker was there in real time, chronicling the tensions and innovations that lay beneath the era’s placid surface. In this thrilling volume, classic works of reportage, criticism, and fiction are complemented by new contributions from the magazine’s present all-star lineup of writers. The magazine’s commitment to overseas reporting flourished in the 1950s, leading to important dispatches from East Berlin, the Gaza Strip, and Cuba during the rise of Castro. Closer to home, the fight to break barriers and establish a new American identity led to both illuminating coverage, as in a portrait of Thurgood Marshall at an NAACP meeting in Atlanta, and trenchant commentary, as in E. B. White’s blistering critique of Senator Joe McCarthy. The arts scene is recalled in critical writing rarely reprinted, including Wolcott Gibbs on My Fair Lady, Anthony West on Invisible Man, and Philip Hamburger on Candid Camera. Also featured are great early works from Philip Roth and Nadine Gordimer, as well as startling poems by Theodore Roethke and Anne Sexton, among others. Completing the panoply are insightful and entertaining new pieces by present-day New Yorker contributors examining the 1950s through contemporary eyes. The result is a vital portrait of American culture as only one magazine in the world could do it.
Including contributions by Elizabeth Bishop • Truman Capote • John Cheever • Roald Dahl • Janet Flanner • Nadine Gordimer • A. J. Liebling • Dwight Macdonald • Joseph Mitchell • Marianne Moore • Vladimir Nabokov • Sylvia Plath • V. S. Pritchett • Adrienne Rich • Lillian Ross • Philip Roth • Anne Sexton • James Thurber • John Updike • Eudora Welty • E. B. White • Edmund Wilson
And featuring new perspectives by Jonathan Franzen • Malcolm Gladwell • Adam Gopnik • Elizabeth Kolbert • Jill Lepore • Rebecca Mead • Paul Muldoon • Evan Osnos • David Remnick
Praise for The 50s
“Superb: a gift that keeps on giving.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] magnificent anthology.”—Literary Review