WW Norton & Company

Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin were two of the greatest architects of twentieth-century art music, each of them simultaneously an agent of continuity and disruption. The disruption is easy enough to chart: Schoenberg’s complete rewiring of tonality’s motherboard; Gershwin’s successful integration of jazz and symphonic music (more successful than the integration into American society of the greatest exponents of this same music). Although the continuity in each instance is slightly more nebulous, it is equally as compelling.

... (read more)

The tall, handsome, socially adept if emotionally reticent scion of a wealthy, well-connected family and the crumpled, physically unimpressive, excitable son of an alcoholic travelling salesman seem to be an unlikely pair to form a long-standing friendship. For both James Laughlin and Thomas Lanier ‘Tennessee’ Williams ...

... (read more)

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama declared that the story of American history is of countless people striving toward ‘a more perfect union’, that most utopian of goals enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. In These Truths, a one-volume account of the entirety of American history since European settlement ...

... (read more)

Lucky Shirley Temple! Film star biographies are usually made up of a chronology laced with doubtful studio publicity and salacious gossip. But The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is written by a reigning scholar of American culture, John F. Kasson. A professor of History and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kasson takes entertainment seriously. For more than forty years, beginning with Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (1971), he has uncovered the cultural significance of popular leisure-time activities, places, and personalities in a style that is both scholarly and entertaining. His Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America (2001) used three mini-biographies to explore the ‘masculinity crisis’ of the early twentieth century. In The Little Girl, he focuses on one icon to help us see how Americans survived the Great Depression.

... (read more)

One afternoon some three decades or more ago in a stuffy conference room at W.W. Norton & Company, the New York publishing firm where I then worked, the semi-annual sales conference was underway. Assembled were the national sales reps and the marketing team, members of the editorial board, the publicity director and senior publicists, and our president and chairman. A formidable array for editors to face – especially young ones, as I was then – as they presented their upcoming books on the next seasonal list.

One had about three to five minutes tops (though this was often honoured more in the breach, to the exasperation of the audience) to get across to the reps – a fairly jaded lot, but for the most part tolerant of newbies like me – an idea of a book’s content; its main sales points; a run-down of competing titles; any scintillating pre-pub blurbs one had been able to secure; and a conviction-filled guarantee that the author was an absolute certainty to be interviewed on the Today Show.

... (read more)

In a recent Prospect interview, distinguished Princeton and ANU scholar Philip Pettit described political philosophy as a conversation around various themes. Some voices focus on power or freedom, others on democracy or the nature of the state. The conversation should extend beyond the academy, argued Pettit, to embrace public intellectuals, journalists, commentators, political scientists, activists, and government.

... (read more)