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Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – May 15, 2001
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The very next piece, Mark Singer's "Secrets of the Magus," is a prime example of what The New Yorker does best. In Ricky Jay, "perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive," Singer has hit on a quirky, eccentric, and fascinating subject--one that offers plenty of scope for writer and reader alike to dip into an arcane and little-known world of magicians, mountebanks, card handlers, and confidence men. Alva Johnston achieves similar success in "The Education of a Prince," his 1932 Profile of con man Harry F. Gerguson, who spent years masquerading as the lost Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obolensky Romanoff:
The Prince had a glittering career in New York, Boston, Newport, on Long Island, in high-caste settlements along the Hudson, and among the aristocracies of a dozen American cities. Twice he swept over Hollywood in a confetti shower of bad checks. He was repeatedly exposed, but exposure does not embarrass him greatly. He is widely admired today, not for his title but for his own sake. He has convinced a fairly large public that a good imposter is preferable to the average prince.Of course The New Yorker covered plenty of household names, as well, and Life Stories contains sketches of such celebrities as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando. The arts are well represented by pieces on Ernest Hemingway, Anatole Broyard, and David Salle, and even the contributors are stellar, including such well-known scribes as Henry Louis Gates Jr., Truman Capote, and John McPhee.
But where is that famous Profile of the sea by Rachel Carson, you ask? Pauline Kael's piece on Cary Grant or Janet Malcolm's controversial study of psychoanalyst Aaron Green? In his introduction Remnick acknowledges the many great Profiles that did not make it into this volume, explaining that he decided to publish pieces only in full. "I wanted the reader to get the real thing--no excerpts, no snippets," he writes. "As a result the reader will have to go elsewhere for a range of long or multipart Profiles." What's here is choice, though, and die-hard New Yorker aficionados who turn to the Profiles even before perusing the cartoons won't be disappointed by what they find. All in all, Life Stories makes a fine 75th anniversary bouquet for the magazine's many devoted readers. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
David Remnick makes thoughtful selections in this anthology. He has covered a time period from the `30s to the present, some very famous people and some you have never heard of, and the same is true for the authors of the Profiles. I fully intended to make a leisurely tour through the book, picking and choosing a Profile here and there for a short read. Once I read the very first one, Joe Mitchell's "Mr. Hunter's Grave," I was hooked and read the whole book from start to finish. So much for leisurely reading!
It is hopeless to attempt to select a favorite; all have their own merits. I was particularly fascinated by Truman Capote's insightful piece on Marlon Brando. Capote's flamboyant personality frequently overshadows his tremendous skills as an interpretive writer. Jean Acocella's study of Mikhail Baryshnikov is an excellent in-depth study of both the man and the artist. John Lahr's Profile on Roseanne is almost scary (or at least Roseanne is!) Joe Mitchell's, "Mr. Hunter's Grave" is so beautifully rendered you can understand why The New Yorker never took him off salary even after Joe suffered the granddaddy of all writer's blocks; he didn't submit an article for fourteen years! The New Yorker always said Joe had a "work in progress."
"Life Stories" is worth it at twice the price. Some of these profiles are unobtainable (unless you have a roomful of old New Yorkers). This is a book you will go back to again and again.
Not willing to arrange this "greatest hits" package chronologically, editor David Remnick structures the book to create pregnant dichotomous pairings. In some cases they are rather obvious, as Mikhail Baryshnikov follows Isadora Duncan. But in other cases, the order enhances both pieces: A dissection of a man passing himself off as a descendant of the Romanoff's is followed by one of Anatole Broyard, a black literary critic trying to pass himself off as white. These two pieces, which on their own didn't hold my attention, came into full view once I'd read both (furthermore, Broyard is followed by Floyd Patterson, much reviled by Muhammad Ali for being a black boxing champion easily digested by white audiences).
Connections are made in other ways. Roger Angell's piece on Pittsburgh Pirate Steve Blass is followed by a profile of legendary New Yorker editor Katherine White, Angell's mother. The outcome of the 2000 U.S. Presidential election is made more palatable -- in hindsight -- by back-to-back profiles on Bush and Gore, both done by Nicholas Lemann.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As with any anthology, there are articles/stories of great interest, some that are OK and some you stop reading after a few paragraphs. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Timothy Schum
The profile of Roseanne was worth the entire purchase price.Published 20 months ago by Glenda J. Talley
Biographical essays of 30 people, mostly American. The essays first appeared in The New Yorker magazine from 1920's up to 2000. Read morePublished on December 16, 2013 by Anne Mills
Fabulous book - so interesting, stories were well selected. Hated to finish it, seriously. Read this book and you will be happy.Published on December 2, 2013 by Brooke Harless
Very nice condition at a good price.Excellent compliation of note worthy peoples life stories. Handy copy to take with me.Published on November 11, 2013 by kitty Goodchild
These profiles are so great. Well written, insightful, on subjects both silly and profound, with lots of insight into human nature. Read morePublished on December 24, 2012 by Roger Angle
This is a non-fiction anthology about the rich, famous, celebrities, etc. I enjoy reading this book so much that it hard to put down and get to work on my own stuff. Read morePublished on November 6, 2012 by Bookworm2
I very much enjoy profiles of interesting people and had high hopes for this book, but it's awful. In fact, I gave up on about the fourth tape. Read morePublished on May 25, 2008 by Barbara B.