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War Weary

June 2024
1min read

In its September 11 “Talk of the Town” section The New Yorker noted the effect of the war on book advertising: some worthy literary titles that would once have been called “first-rate” or “highly acclaimed” were now “imperative” reading, at least in the words of the Council on Books in Wartime. “We think ‘imperative’ is a funnier word than ‘directive’ or ‘flak,’ ” concluded the magazine. “Certain books … have been pronounced ‘imperative’ by the Council, with all the straight-faced solemnity of a priest blessing a pack of hounds. Americans, although rather cocky about some things, like to be commanded in their reading and welcome any publishing promotion which gives them a new title with an air of finality.” The magazine’s writers—obviously straining under not only the war’s relentless horrors but the pluckiness required of all who wrote about it—made a search and determined that the last day that “warlike tidings” hadn’t spoiled the New York Times ’s front page had been November 9, 1938, when the urgent stories were the New York gubernatorial election, the Dionne quintuplets’ planned tonsillectomies, and, in Georgia, a man’s marriage to his eleven-year-old first cousin.

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