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Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable
Fifty Years of New York Magazine
Table of Contents
About The Book
New York, the city. New York, the magazine. A celebration.
The great story of New York City in the past half-century has been its near collapse and miraculous rebirth. A battered town left for dead, one that almost a million people abandoned and where those who remained had to live behind triple deadbolt locks, was reinvigorated by the twinned energies of starving artists and financial white knights. Over the next generation, the city was utterly transformed. It again became the capital of wealth and innovation, an engine of cultural vibrancy, a magnet for immigrants, and a city of endless possibility. It was the place to be—if you could afford it.
Since its founding in 1968, New York Magazine has told the story of that city’s constant morphing, week after week. Covering culture high and low, the drama and scandal of politics and finance, through jubilant moments and immense tragedies, the magazine has hit readers where they live, with a sensibility as fast and funny and urbane as New York itself. From its early days publishing writers like Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, and Gloria Steinem to its modern incarnation as a laboratory of inventive magazine-making, New York has had an extraordinary knack for catching the Zeitgeist and getting it on the page. It was among the originators of the New Journalism, publishing legendary stories whose authors infiltrated a Black Panther party in Leonard Bernstein’s apartment, introduced us to the mother-daughter hermits living in the dilapidated estate known as Grey Gardens, launched Ms. Magazine, branded a group of up-and-coming teen stars “the Brat Pack,” and effectively ended the career of Roger Ailes. Again and again, it introduced new words into the conversation—from “foodie” to “normcore”—and spotted fresh talent before just about anyone.
Along the way, those writers and their colleagues revealed what was most interesting at the forward edge of American culture—from the old Brooklyn of Saturday Night Fever to the new Brooklyn of artisanal food trucks, from the Wall Street crashes to the hedge-fund spoils, from The Godfather to Girls—in ways that were knowing, witty, sometimes weird, occasionally vulgar, and often unforgettable. On “The Approval Matrix,” the magazine’s beloved back-page feature, New York itself would fall at the crossroads of highbrow and lowbrow, and more brilliant than despicable. (Most of the time.)
Marking the magazine’s fiftieth birthday, Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York draws from all that coverage to present an enormous, sweeping, idiosyncratic picture of a half-century at the center of the world. Through stories and images of power and money, movies and food, crises and family life, it constitutes an unparalleled history of that city’s transformation, and of a New York City institution as well. It is packed with behind-the-scenes stories from New York’s writers, editors, designers, and journalistic subjects—and frequently overflows its own pages onto spectacular foldouts. It’s a big book for a big town.
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 7, 2017)
- Length: 432 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501166846
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Raves and Reviews
“With irreverence and spunk, New York magazine has been around for half a century now. This very big book includes an oral history of the publication and a wide look at its greatest moments.”
—New York Times Book Review
“When New York magazine began in 1968, it was unique: a brash conglomeration of ingenious writers, editors, and graphic designers who generated narrative journalism that was so classic it became new again. . . . Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York encapsulates those five convulsive decades in lavish illustrations, vivid oral histories, and evocative recreations by, among others, Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Nora Ephron, Nicholas Pileggi, Julie Baumgold and Gael Greene from the magazine’s more than 2,300 issues.”
—Sam Roberts, The New York Times
“A delicious compendium of the magazine’s coverage from the half-century of its existence, this is the kind of book that incites nostalgia even for the moments you didn’t live though (there’s the original Tom Wolfe “Radical Chic” cover!) and reminds us of the things that haven’t changed (an essay by a wife titled “I Need a Wife,” timely now and forever).”
“Oversized, overstuffed . . . A great magazine is commemorated with an equally top-flight anthology. . . . The editors reproduce material that speaks not just to passing moments and fashions, but also to constant editorial emphases, such as high-quality artwork and portraiture. . . . History, local and global, unfolds in this fine gathering that represents a half-century and more than 2,300 issues.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“We tend to fetishize The New Yorker, but New York magazine has always been the publication that saw the city for what it is: big, brazen, and blustery. This oversized, beautifully-designed, 420-page book is barely big enough to contain its subject.”
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