Friends talking in the night: sixty years of writing for the New Yorker
From a writer of astonishing versatility, this wonderfully rich collection of pieces is both a memoir of Philip Hamburger's writing life and a vivid and various record of the world he has lived in. Hamburger first went to work for The New Yorker in 1939, under the aegis of Harold Ross, and he is still there--six decades and four editors later. He has wandered all over its pages as Our Man Stanley or Reporter at Large, doing Talk of the Town, Casuals, and Notes & Comment, writing Profiles, and more. And he has wandered all over the map, unearthing the secret souls of some fifty-five American towns and cities (from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Butte, Montana) and bearing witness to the horrors of war and fascism (from Mussolini's bloody corpse hanging upside down in a Milan public square, to the hungry, hollow-eyed marchers bearing pro-Tito posters through the wrecked streets of Belgrade after the war). An old-fashioned liberal--and proud of it-- Hamburger has witnessed almost every inauguration since 1933 (at Roosevelt's first he was perched on the icy branch of a tree), has spied shamelessly on a succession of New York City mayors (he used to live conveniently across from Gracie Mansion), and has constantly championed the voices of liberty (Judge Learned Hand, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Judge William Henry Hastie, Edward R. Murrow). Insatiably curious, Hamburger strikes for the heart of whatever subject he approaches--whether it's the famous (Truman, Toscanini, Evita Perón, Eleanor Roosevelt, Vartan Gregorian) or the unsung hero (a waiter who single-handedly sold four million dollars' worth of war bonds). Hitler's aerie in Berchtesgaden is as fascinating to him as the twisting ramps of Macy's package delivery tunnels. Hamburger never balked at donning a different hat; he quite literally put on a black homburg as The New Yorker's music critic for a year. He took on movies and was the first to venture into the minefield of television, conjuring up brilliantly the wonders and abominations of what he saw in the 1950s on the flickering black-and-white screen. All these adventures, and many more, are here in this treasure of a book--the work of a New Yorker writer who wrote what he pleased, went where he wanted, and took as much time as he needed. With wit and insight and extraordinary scrupulousness, Philip Hamburger penetrates the darkness and reveals for us the many pleasures he has had talking to these friends in the night.
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