One Hundred Years Of Huck Finn

It was a difficult birth, but it looks as if the child will live forever

“BY AND BY,” Mark Twain wrote to William Dean Howells in 1875, “I shall take a boy of twelve and run him through life (in the first person) but not Tom Sawyer —he would not be a good character for it.” A month later he knew that the boy would be Huck, and he began work; by midsummer of 1876 Twain was well under way. But something went wrong. He gave up the notion of carrying Huck on into adulthood and told Howells of what he had written thus far: “I like it only tolerably well, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn the ms.Read more »

Avery

A gathering of little-known drawings from Columbia
University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library illuminates two centuries of American building

ONE OF THE WORLD’S most renowned architectural institutions is named for a virtually unknown architect who died at age thirty-eight, too young to have made more than a promising start in his own career. In 1890, the year of Henry Ogden Avery’s death, his parents founded the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University in New York City and donated two thousand books from their son’s professional library as well as the drawings from his brief career. Read more »

HEMINGWAY & FITZGERALD: THE COST OF BEING AMERICAN

The work of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald virtually defined what it meant to be American in the first half of this century

One of the last photographs of Hemingway shows him wandering a road in Idaho and kicking a can. It is an overcast day, and he is surrounded by snow-swept mountains. He looks morose, is evidently in his now usual state of exasperation, and he is all alone. The emptiness of Idaho is the only other presence in the picture. Read more »

A Tree Grows In America

Banished from public view in our cities, this two-hundred-year-old import is alive and well behind the scenes

“SHE LOOKED DOWN into the yard. The tree whose leaf umbrellas had curled around, under and over her fire escape had been cut down because the housewives had complained that wash on the lines got entangled in its branches. The landlord had sent two men and they had chopped it down.

“But the tree hadn’t died … it hadn’t died. Read more »

George Orwell’s America

The author of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ never set foot on our shores, but he had a clear and highly personal vision of what we were and what we had been

FOR A WHILE George Orwell thought of calling his novel about life in a totalitarian future The Last Man in Europe. But in the end that title didn’t quite satisfy him, and he chose another simply by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he finished the manuscript.Read more »

Benét And The Ensign From Alabama

THE BOOK reached me in Argentia, Newfoundland, where my squadron, VP-84, was on antisubmarine patrol. The inscription, “To Ev—this incontestable evidence of performance,” had a special impact, as my brother knew it would. Aircraft performance, along with flying ability and luck, are what a pilot lives by in war. But it was a different performance, the kind evident on every page of Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body , that my brother was referring to in his gift marking my twenty-sixth birthday.Read more »

Images Of A Lifetime

For almost four decades, Marshall Davidson, who pioneered a new genre of illustrated history, has worked with many thousands of pieces of American art. Out of them all he now selects fourteen images that have particularly enchanted him .

 

 

IN 1951 A BOOK appeared that dealt with American history in a new way—it told its story by fusing pictures and words so that each had equal weight and yet their sum was greater than the parts. Such an ambitious amalgam had never been attempted before, and Life in America by Marshall B. Davidson was an immediate success. Read more »

Mr. McClure And Willa

They could hardly have been more temperamentally incompatible, but the Midwestern writer Willa Cather and the crusading editor S. S. McClure enjoyed a splendid working relationship for six years and a lifetime of mutual respect

Willa Cather did not publish her first novel until she was almost forty. Then the cool, rich prose of such novels as My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, One of Ours (which won a Pulitzer Prize), A Lost Lady , and Lucy Gayheart established her reputation as one of America’s foremost literary figures. Read more »

Thoreau’s Vacation

EARLY IN THE afternoon of the last day of August 1839, Henry David Thoreau and his brother John put a homemade dory in the Concord River, not far above the bridge where the Minutemen had fired on British troops sixty-four years before. They traveled light. For food they took melons and potatoes grown in their own garden and a few other provisions. For shelter they had a tent, also made at home, and for warmth a pair of buffalo skins.Read more »

Ouija

In 1913 the Ouija board dictated a novel. Twenty years later it commanded a murder. It is most popular in times of national catastrophe, and it’s selling pretty briskly just now.

PARKER BROTHERS , who bought the rights to the Ouija in 1966, denies that it is more than a game. But over the past century millions of Americans have used it to speak with the dead, to answer life’s questions, and to make their decisions. Common sense says it merely reveals the user’s unconscious thoughts and is subject to overt manipulation as well, but some believers in the occult dread it as the devil’s oracle.Read more »