50 Years


Literary Journalism: A Discussion

Sikelia Productions

On April 3, 2013 The New York Review of Books and the Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library presented a panel discussion celebrating the Review’s 50th anniversary. Five regular contributors discussed their careers, their experience writing for editors Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein, and their predictions and hopes for the future of literary journalism. We are pleased to present the excerpts below from this program.

Poetry and Criticism: Helen Vendler

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University News Office

We conclude our National Poetry Month celebration with work by the critic Helen Vendler, who has contributed over fifty pieces in The New York Review, from her 1975 consideration of the poems of William Carlos Williams to her essays in the past year on Edward Thomas and Robert Hass.

A Poet of Consciousness: Wisława Szymborska

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Joanna Helander

For the fourth week of our National Poetry Month celebration, we will be focused on the work of Wisława Szymborska. Szymborska was born in 1923 in Bnin, a small town in western Poland, and from early childhood lived in Kraków. She worked on the editorial staff of the cultural weekly Życie Literackie (Literary Life) from 1952 to 1981. Szymborska wrote some twenty books of poetry, was a distinguished translator of French poetry into Polish, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996, “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” She died in February 2012.

It Was 1975…

Shelley Wanger

Dominique Nabokov

In the morning, it was usually rather quiet until Bob dashed in—a tornado of energy—around 10 or 10:30, having already been up at dawn calling Europe from home or pulling an all-nighter on some review not in good shape. He, of course, had a thousand ideas and out of his suit pockets fished a matchbook cover or some other scrap with the crucial contact, writer’s name, or the title of a book—little leads from the day before at the Council on Foreign Relations or maybe a dinner party that night—which we were meant to pursue immediately. “Immediately” being the favored mode of operation—how else could he get that story, or that writer?

Approaching Ashbery

Dominique Nabokov

For the third week of our National Poetry Month celebration, we will be focused on the work of John Ashbery. Ashbery was born in 1927 in Rochester, New York. After studying at Harvard and Columbia, he spent several years in Paris in the 1950s on a Fulbright scholarship, and later as an art critic for the Paris Herald Tribune. His first collection, Some Trees (1956), was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series. From 1966 to 1972 he was the executive editor of ArtNews. His collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. From 1990 until 2008 Ashbery was the Charles P. Stevenson, Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. His latest collection, published last year, is Quick Question.

A Part of Speech’: Reading Joseph Brodsky

Bettmann/Corbis

Joseph Brodsky (1940–1996) was a Russian poet and essayist. Born in Leningrad, he moved to the United States in 1972 following his expulsion from the Soviet Union. His poetry collections include A Part of Speech (1980) and To Urania (1988); his essay collections include Less Than One (1986) and Watermark (1992). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 and served as US Poet Laureate in 1991–1992.

National Poetry Month: W.H. Auden

To celebrate National Poetry Month, The New York Review throughout April will be posting poems and articles by poets and critics whose work in the magazine has spanned a period of years or decades. We’ll be focusing on one poet or critic at a time, presenting a selection of his or her work from our archive on this blog.

We begin with W.H. Auden (1907–1973), whose contributions to the Review go back to its first issue of February 1, 1963. Auden was an English poet, playwright, and essayist who lived and worked in the United States for much of the second half of his life. His work represents one of the major achievements of twentieth-century literature.

In the Kingdom of the First Person

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Nancy Crampton

At the Review’s fiftieth anniversary celebration at Town Hall on February 5, 2013, Darryl Pinckney spoke about his lifelong engagement with the writing of James Baldwin. You can read his lecture in the April 4 issue or listen to a recording of it here. In this post we excerpt from several pieces in the Review mentioned in Pinckney’s remarks.

Podcast: Readings and Reflections

Beowulf Sheehan

On February 5, 2013, The New York Review celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an evening of readings and reflections at Town Hall in New York City. Seven regular contributors to the Review read from their work and spoke about their relationship with the magazine. We are glad to provide the following record of the occasion.

Ralph Ellison’s Birthday

Ralph Ellison
National Archives

Reviewing LeRoi Jones’s Blues People in The New York Review in 1964, Ralph Ellison wrote:

Perhaps more than any other people, Americans have been locked in a deadly struggle with time, with history. We’ve fled the past and trained ourselves to suppress, if not forget, troublesome details of the national memory, and a great part of our optimism, like our progress, has been bought at the cost of ignoring the processes through which we’ve arrived at any given moment in our national existence.

Ellison’s own work, from his celebrated 1952 novel Invisible Man to his stories, essays, and the unfinished novel published posthumously as Juneteenth, sought to record those troublesome details and question our national memory. “Ellison incessantly pondered the ways that race pervaded America and he wrote about them with originality and eloquence,” Robert Stone wrote in these pages in 1999. “But above all he was an artist.”

To celebrate the hundredth anniversary—or perhaps the ninety-ninth; accounts vary—of Ralph Ellison’s birth, we present a selection of pieces by him and about his work from the Review‘s archives.