"Maybe he doesn't like anything, but he can do everything," "New Yorker" editor Harold Ross once said of the magazine's brilliantly sardonic theater critic Wolcott Gibbs. And, for over thirty years at the magazine, Gibbs did do just about everything. He turned out fiction and nonfiction, profiles and parodies, filled columns in "The Talk of the ...
"Maybe he doesn't like anything, but he can do everything," "New Yorker" editor Harold Ross once said of the magazine's brilliantly sardonic theater critic Wolcott Gibbs. And, for over thirty years at the magazine, Gibbs did do just about everything. He turned out fiction and nonfiction, profiles and parodies, filled columns in "The Talk of the Town" and "Notes and Comment," covered books, movies, nightlife, and, of course, the theater. A friend of the Algonquin Round Table, Gibbs was renowned for his humor. (Perhaps his most enduring line is from a profile of Henry Luce, parodying "Time" magazine's house style: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind.") In his day, Gibbs was equal in stature to E. B. White and James Thurber, but he is little read today. In "Backward Ran Sentences," journalist Thomas Vinciguerra provides a biographical sketch of Gibbs and gathers a generous sampling of his finest work across an impressive range of genres, bringing a brilliant, multitalented writer of incomparable wit to a new age of readers. Praise for Wolcott Gibbs: "His style had brilliance that was never flashy, he was self-critical as well as critical, and he had absolute pitch, which enabled him to become a parodist of the first rank."-E. B. White, "New Yorker," 1958
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Publishers Weekly, 2011-07-18 He may be obscure now, but Wolcott Gibbs was a New Yorker giant who held sway in the magazine's glory years with the likes of E.B. White, James Thurber, and Dorothy Parker. Gibbs's 1958 death made the New York Times's front page. Freelance journalist Vinciguerra offers a hefty sampling of Gibbs's versatile and voluminous oeuvre, the best-remembered his 1936 profile of publisher Henry Luce that doubled as a spoof of Time magazine and contained his famous quip on Time's weirdly inverted syntax: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind." In the wake of merciless profiles of presidential candidate Thomas Dewey, and of New Yorker contributor Alexander Woollcott, Dewey impounded Gibbs's bank account and Woollcott severed his relationship with the magazine. In his 18 years as the New Yorker's chief drama critic, Gibbs panned Beckett and Sartre, found My Fair Lady "highly intelligent and tremendously engaging," and arrived intoxicated at The Crucible's opening. Although probably too dated to draw a general audience, this book may revive some interest in Gibbs, especially among journalists, critics, and wordsmiths who will appreciate his dry, sharp wit, keen observational skills, elegant condescension, and take-no-prisoners attitude. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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