The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. It is published by Conde Nast. Started as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is now published 47 times annually, with five of these issues covering two-week spans.
Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside of New York. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copyediting, its journalism on politics and social issues, and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.
The New Yorker debuted on February 21, 1925. It was founded by Harold Ross and his wife, Jane Grant, a New York Times reporter. Ross wanted to create a sophisticated humor magazine that would be different from perceivably “corny” humor publications such as Judge, where he had worked, or Life. Ross partnered with entrepreneur Raoul H. Fleischmann (who founded the General Baking Company) to establish the F-R Publishing Company and established the magazine’s first offices at 25 West 45th Street in Manhattan. Ross edited the magazine until his death in 1951. During the early, occasionally precarious years of its existence, the magazine prided itself on its cosmopolitan sophistication. Ross famously declared in a 1925 prospectus for the magazine: “It has announced that it is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque.”
Although the magazine never lost its touches of humor, it soon established itself as a pre-eminent forum for serious fiction literature and journalism. Shortly after the end of World War II, John Hersey’s essay Hiroshima filled an entire issue. In subsequent decades the magazine published short stories by many of the most respected writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Ann Beattie, Mavis Gallant, John Cheever, Roald Dahl, Geoffrey Hellman, Joseph Mitchell, John McNulty, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, John O’Hara, Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger, Irwin Shaw, James Thurber, John Updike, Eudora Welty, E.B. White and Truman Capote. Publication of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” drew more mail than any other story in the magazine’s history.
In its early decades, the magazine sometimes published two or even three short stories a week, but in recent years the pace has remained steady at one story per issue. While some styles and themes recur more often than others in its fiction, the stories are marked less by uniformity than by variety. Writers like Kurt Vonnegut said that The New Yorker has been an effective institution for getting a large audience through the learning process required for appreciating modern literature.
The non-fiction feature articles (which usually make up the bulk of the magazine’s content) cover an eclectic array of topics.
The magazine is notable for its editorial traditions. Under the rubric Profiles, it publishes articles about notable people such as Ernest Hemingway, Henry R. Luce and Marlon Brando, Hollywood restaurateur Michael Romanoff, magician Ricky Jay and mathematicians David and Gregory Chudnovsky. Other enduring features have been “Goings on About Town”, a listing of cultural and entertainment events in New York, and “The Talk of the Town”, a miscellany of brief pieces—frequently humorous, whimsical or eccentric vignettes of life in New York—written in a breezily light style, or feuilleton, although in recent years the section often begins with a serious commentary. For many years, newspaper snippets containing amusing errors, unintended meanings or badly mixed metaphors (“Block That Metaphor”) have been used as filler items, accompanied by a witty retort. There is no masthead listing the editors and staff. And despite some changes, the magazine has kept much of its traditional appearance over the decades in typography, layout, covers and artwork. The magazine was acquired by Advance Publications, the media company owned by Samuel Irving Newhouse, Jr., in 1985.
Since the late 1990s, The New Yorker has used the Internet to publish current and archived material. It maintains a website with some content from the current issue (plus exclusive web-only content). Subscribers have access to the full current issue online, as well as a complete archive of back issues viewable as they were originally printed. In addition, The New Yorker’s cartoons are available for purchase online. A digital archive of back issues from 1925 to April 2008 (representing more than 4,000 issues and half a million pages) has also been issued on DVD-ROMs and on a small portable hard drive. More recently, an iPad version of the current issue of the magazine has been released.
In its November 1, 2004 issue, the magazine for the first time endorsed a presidential candidate, choosing to endorse John Kerry over George W. Bush. This was continued in 2008 when the magazine endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain, and in 2012 when it endorsed Obama over Mitt Romney.
The New Yorker has featured cartoons (usually gag cartoons) since it began publication in 1925. The cartoon editor of The New Yorker for years was Lee Lorenz, who first began cartooning in 1956 and became a New Yorker contract contributor in 1958. After serving as the magazine’s art editor from 1973 to 1993, he continued in the position of cartoon editor until 1998. His book, The Art of the New Yorker: 1925–1995 (Knopf, 1995), was the first comprehensive survey of all aspects of the magazine’s graphics. In 1998, Robert Mankoff took over as cartoon editor, and since then Mankoff has edited at least 14 collections of New Yorker cartoons. In addition, Mankoff usually contributes a short article to each book, describing some aspect of the cartooning process or the methods used to select cartoons for the magazine.
The New Yorker’s stable of cartoonists has included many important talents in American humor, including Charles Addams, Peter Arno, Charles Barsotti, George Booth, Roz Chast, Tom Cheney, Sam Cobean, Leo Cullum, Richard Decker, Helen E. Hokinson, Ed Koren, Reginald Marsh, Mary Petty, George Price, Charles Saxon, David Snell, Otto Soglow, Saul Steinberg, William Steig, Richard Taylor, James Thurber, Pete Holmes, Barney Tobey and Gahan Wilson.
Many early New Yorker cartoonists did not caption their own cartoons. In his book The Years with Ross, Thurber describes the newspaper’s weekly art meeting, where cartoons submitted over the previous week would be brought up from the mail room to be gone over by Ross, the editorial department and a number of staff writers. Cartoons would often be rejected or sent back to artists with requested amendments, while others would be accepted and captions written for them. Some artists hired their own writers; Helen Hokinson hired James Reid Parker in 1931. (Brendan Gill relates in his book Here at The New Yorker that at one point in the early 1940s, the quality of the artwork submitted to the magazine seemed to improve. It was later found out that the office boy (a teenaged Truman Capote) had been acting as a volunteer art editor, dropping pieces he didn’t like down the far edge of his desk.)
Over seven decades, many hardcover compilations of cartoons from The New Yorker have been published, and in 2004, Mankoff edited The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, a 656-page collection with 2004 of the magazine’s best cartoons published during 80 years, plus a double CD set with all 68,647 cartoons ever published in the magazine. The newer group of cartoonists in recent years includes Pat Byrnes, Frank Cotham, Michael Crawford, Joe Dator, Drew Dernavich, J.C. Duffy, Carolita Johnson, Zachary Kanin, Farley Katz, Robert Leighton , Glen Le Lievre, Michael Maslin, Ariel Molvig, Paul Noth, Barbara Smaller, David Sipress, Mick Stevens, Julia Suits, Christopher Weyant, P.C. Vey, and Jack Ziegler.
The magazine’s first cover illustration, a dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle, was drawn by Rea Irvin, the magazine’s first art editor, based on an 1834 caricature of the then Count d’Orsay which appeared as an illustration in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The gentleman on the original cover, now referred to as “Eustace Tilley”, is a character created by Corey Ford for The New Yorker. His top hat was of a newer style, without the curved brim. He wore a morning coat and striped trousers.
The character has become a kind of mascot for The New Yorker, frequently appearing in its pages and on promotional materials. Traditionally, Rea Irvin’s original Tilley cover illustration is used every year on the issue closest to the anniversary date of February 21, though on several occasions a newly drawn variation has been substituted.
Saul Steinberg created 85 covers and 642 internal drawings and illustrations for the magazine. His most famous work is probably its March 29, 1976 cover, an illustration most often referred to as “View of the World from 9th Avenue”, sometimes referred to as “A Parochial New Yorker’s View of the World” or “A New Yorker’s View of the World”, which depicts a map of the world as seen by self-absorbed New Yorkers.
The illustration is split in two, with the bottom half of the image showing Manhattan’s 9th Avenue, 10th Avenue, and the Hudson River (appropriately labeled), and the top half depicting the rest of the world. The rest of the United States is the size of the three New York City blocks and is drawn as a square.
The illustration—humorously depicting New Yorkers’ self-image of their place in the world, or perhaps outsiders’ view of New Yorkers’ self-image—inspired many similar works.
The cover was later satirized by Barry Blitt for the cover of The New Yorker on October 6, 2008. The cover featured Sarah Palin looking out of her window seeing only Alaska, with Russia in the far background.
The March 21, 2009 cover of The Economist, “How China sees the World”, is also an homage to the original image, but depicting the viewpoint from Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue instead of Manhattan.
Hired by Tina Brown in 1992, Art Spiegelman worked for The New Yorker for ten years but resigned a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The cover created by Françoise Mouly and Spiegelman for the September 24, 2001 issue of The New Yorker received wide acclaim and was voted in the top ten of magazine covers of the past 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
At first glance, the cover appears to be totally black, but upon close examination it reveals the silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers in a slightly darker shade of black. In some situations, the ghost images only become visible when the magazine is tilted toward a light source.