Putting It Together

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BY ITS VERY NATURE a magazine speaks for itself, but we don’t think it is only professional editors who are fascinated by the way a magazine comes together. Here’s how some major pieces in this particular issue happened:

Ed Sorel’s “Lost Pleasures” is a labor of love by the preeminent satirical illustrator of our time. Struck by the disappearance of some of the most common and satisfying customs of the recent past, Sorel and our staff exchanged ideas about those that would best suit themselves to commemoration. For a full year we exchanged reminiscences about such lost pleasures as luxurious passenger-train service, doctors who regularly made house calls, taxicabs a human being could sit up in. Between more lucrative commercial assignments, Sorel would, from time to time, drop off a new drawing. He still feels we didn’t pay him enough, but after all, someone must encourage art for its own sake.

We wanted a story about the history of bankers as professionals—their status in the hierarchy of social and political power and their image in popular culture. Martin Mayer, author of The Bankers , seemed to be the perfect choice for the assignment, but when he turned in his piece, we realized he had not focused on bankers at all but on the history of banking . The revolution in American banking had simply taken over his imagination and typewriter, and our idea had faded in his mind into the realm of the interesting but not urgent. The result is “The Banking Story,” which is both interesting and urgent.

Editorial assistant Mimi Wise was in England last summer when she saw a picture story about the raising of a little six-man submarine that sank in the English Channel in 1913. It was a sister ship of the U.S. Navy’s first submarine, the Holland , launched in 1897. When Mimi returned, she showed the clipping to the managing editor, who rates submarines among the more interesting of all American things. Another editor was en route to London and helped locate the photographer who had taken the pictures shown here in “The Holland Surfaces.”

“Hemingway & Fitzgerald: The Cost of Being American” is taken from a book we have been tracking for several years. The book, An American Procession , is Alfred Kazin’s culminating work on American literature, a journey which he began in 1942 with the publication of On Native Grounds when he was only twenty-seven. As a testament to the greatness of our literary heritage, Kazin’s accomplishment is unsurpassed. We read the book early in manuscript form and made a swift decision.

“Truman vs. MacArthur” is one of the great stories of the century, and we would not think of entrusting it to anyone but one of our best writers—Walter Karp, a political scientist who is a regular contributor to A MERICAN H ERITAGE .

“Good Neighbors” is the fifth story by David Davidson to appear here. His reminiscences of World War II and his experiences as a journalist are often recounted to us by his daughter, a senior editor of this magazine. Almost every time we hear one of Davidson’s stories, we say, “That’s great! Let’s get it!” And so we did and will do.