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Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm'd Manhattan?" marveled the excitable Walt Whitman in 1865. The skinny island and its four sister boroughs have continued to fascinate writers ever since, and it would be hard to find a better record of that fascination than Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker. As David Remnick explains in his foreword, the fledgling magazine paid relatively little heed to the nuts and bolts of metropolitan life, and in his original prospectus, Harold Ross didn't even mention fiction. But in the following decades, Ross and his successors published so many classic New York stories that the real challenge, according to Remnick, was whittling down the selection: "As there is barely enough room in this city to contain all of its busy, funny, angry, joyful, carping, and canny inhabitants, there was barely enough room to contain the wide range of stories we agreed upon."

So what made the grade? There are treasures from John Cheever ("The Five-Forty-Eight"), James Thurber ("The Catbird Seat"), Maeve Brennan ("I See You, Bianca"), Isaac Bashevis Singer ("The Cafeteria"), Jamaica Kincaid ("Poor Visitor"), and many others. The uptown neighborhoods appear to be more generously represented--a token, perhaps, of the magazine's well-heeled, fur-bearing readership--but from early Updike to middle-period Tama Janowitz, there are plenty of excursions south of Fourteenth Street. It's not, however, a simple matter of geography, but a kind of urban metaphysics at work. There are numerous and overlapping New Yorks represented in this collection: you'll find John Cheever's postwar paradise cheek-by-jowl with Ann Beattie's yuppie stomping ground. Then there's James Stevenson's vision of a flooded Gotham:

We are on the roof now. I have no idea what time it is, but it is daylight. The lower buildings have been submerged, the tall office buildings stand like tombstones above the heaving waves. There are whitecaps toward Central Park. An ocean liner stood by the Pan Am building for a while, then moved out to sea.... The water is swirling around the skylights now. The wind shifts. The waves are coming straight in from the Atlantic.
Even in this postapocalyptic setting, New York stubbornly remains itself. A wonderful town indeed--and a wonderful collection to celebrate it. --Anita Urquhart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of The New Yorker, one of America's most popular and enduring magazines, Random House is bringing out these complementary anthologies that reprint the work of prominent New Yorker contributors. Selected by Remnick, the magazine's current editor, the pieces provide a retrospective of the magazine's journalistic history. Life Stories includes biographical sketches of such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Isadora Duncan, Johnny Carson, and Floyd Patterson. Well known for profiling famous people of the day, The New Yorker has created an intriguing record of those individuals considered important to the 20th century. Organized around the same theme of life in New York City, Wonderful Town contains works by some of the true masters of the short story genre, among them John Updike, Dorothy Parker, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. With so many talented writers aboard, the venerable New Yorker should enjoy at least another 75 years of success. Both titles are recommended for public library collections.
Ellen Sullivan, Ferguson Lib., Stamford, CT
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Random House; New edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037575752X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757525
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Richard LeComte VINE VOICE on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This collection of New York stories shows both why writers have been fascinated with the Big Apple for so long and also why The New Yorker has been the hallmark of short fiction. The collection begins with Cheever and ends with Perlman, which pretty much sums up the golden years of the magazine. The pleasures here range from a story of lingering urban dread by William Maxwell to a hilarious tale of an intellectual loser by Jonathan Franzen. Updike's story both paints a true picture of New York in the snow and returns to his favorite theme -- infidelity. Philip Roth has a hilarious entry about a famous writer hounded by a game show contestant -- even funnier if you've seen "Quiz Show." The collection made me homesick for New York. It's one of the best books I read in 2000.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on August 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Cheever, Woody Allen, and Bernard Malamud wrote my favorite stories in this wonderful collection about life in New York City. Three quick thoughts: (1) While the dynamic captured by some authors seems a little dated (Dorothy Parker), most of the stories resonate with characters, experiences, and social groups that are common today in New York. (2) The collection offers 44 stories and 44 authors. This helps a reader see how these authors are great in different ways. (3) This collection ends, once and for all, the impression that all stories in The New Yorker are the same. Buy this book!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Levens on October 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is not only a good anthology to read for entertainment, but also a necessity for anyone who wants to write literary fiction. The New Yorker is the cornerstone of American contemporary literature, and this book captures a good sampling of the stories which have appeared in its pages the last 50 years or so. I particularly liked DEisenberg's story, and the fact that JCheever's story appears first. I think the book should have had a few more lighter pieces, and wonder why McInerney was skipped over.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The opening author is John Cheever. A corporate man and a corporate secretary meet at her place for a drink. He is estranged from his wife, the father of a friend of his son, and, finally, the woman, who manages to humiliate him.

There is a story by Roth about a fictitious quiz show contestant. Tales by John O'Hara, Laurie Colwin, Jonathan Franzen, and Frank Conroy appear. The Franzen entry was used as a chapter or at least an incident in CORRECTIONS.

A character in a Nabokov story has referential mania. Jamaica Kincaid in her account of an overseas visitor speaks of day old food stored in a refrigerator. John McNulty writes of a bar, of course, and Hortense Calisher of Greenwich Village.

J.D. Salinger's contribution is a story featuring Holden Caulfield and Pencey Prep. Renata Adler writes in stylish fashion using a fictional "I" of life in a brownstone. Isaac Bashevis Singer comes along with yiddish-speaking cafeteria goers. Veronica Geng has a take on conspicuous consumption.

Susan Sontag provides a surprisingly buoyant account of chronic illness. The narrator of Julie Hecht's story believes that buildings in New York should be built to the specifications of Prince Charles. "Mentocrats" by Edward Newhouse concerns schoolboys promoting the idea of a mental aristocracy. Daniel Menaker has a character say that the banality of evil is outstripped by the banality of anxiety neurosis. The psychiatrist in the story tells the first character he doesn't have the courage of his own contempt.

In eliminating some regrets you create others according to Jeffrey Eugenides. Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, Elizabeth Hardwick, Bernard Malamud, and Saul Bellow are all present in this collection of stories. Bellow's story gives rise to the thought that everyone has burdens. Remnick's selections are a joy.
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By Jeffrey Swystun on March 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Remnick's introduction contains a short piece from The New Yorker's first issue with each line beginning with 'New York is...'. Of course, New York is many things: a host of contradictions, a furious experiment, a melting pot, a city that never sleeps (I couldn't help it), and often a stereotype that needs to be more fully examined. This collection of stories from the magazine assists that examination. Commencing with Cheever's The Five-Forty-Eight we know to expect a raw New York. This particular tale reminded me of his contemporary, Yates' Revolutionary Road.

Other notables include Shaw's Sailor Off the Bremen which shows that in 1939, New Yorkers were well aware of Nazi activities, Taylor's A Sentimental Journey demonstrates that there is no need to rush manhood, Benson's Apartment Hotel warns not to switch your routine, and Thurber's The Catbird Seat has a comedic Mr. Ripley as the main character. I have to reserve some major praise for Salinger's Slight Rebellion Off Madison which shows us a bit more of Holden Morrisey Caulfield whose angst has him railing against "guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks". The Cafeteria by Singer was also a standout that lingers long after the last line.

Overall, a tremendous collection from a magazine that has played such an incredible role through the decades of finding and remaining loyal to authors who challenge and enrich their readers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This great collection of New Yorker short stories gives some of the thrills of being in New York, at least the New Yorker's version of it. It leads one to hope for another collection of great stories about our favorite city.
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