The 1940s were a pivotal decade in American history: at its start, America’s isolationists were wary of further involvement in Europe’s war even as Hitler overran Europe. By decade’s end, America was on its way to becoming the “World’s policeman” abroad and searching out Communists on the home front. Reporters from The New Yorker covered the war abroad and its aftermath (D Day, Hiroshima, the Nuremberg trials, the Monuments Men, the Berlin Airlift) and life at home (Miss America pageant, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Disney) and its darker side (a lynching trial in South Carolina).
The collection highlights critics’ views of Hemingway, Orwell, Orson Wells and Charlie Chaplin. Movies, theatre, architecture, music and even fashion-all get their due.
My favorite piece was about the Berlin Airlift. The mechanics of keeping West Berlin going during the Russian blockade was astounding. American and British planes averaged a delivery of 8,000 tons of cargo every 24 hours, 7 days a week from June 1948 to May 1949. Coal for heating and industry accounted for almost two-thirds of the freight, food almost one-third. Dried food weighed less but was equally nutritious so that was delivered.
A selection of New Yorker poetry and fiction are included in the anthology as well.
This isn’t a book to read at all at once, but to enjoy over time. I read a few of the short stories, but I didn’t want to hurry over the poetry so I’ll check it out again at a later date.