Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review – Yorkville Twins

Twins Grow Up In An Exciting, Post-WWII New York City

Yorkville twins coverIf there were more books like Yorkville Twins we would have a clearer picture and better understanding of what it was like for the everyday existence of ordinary people living in Manhattan in post-war New York City. Twins Joseph G. Gindele and John F. Gindele, weave funny, touching and poignant stories of growing up in Yorkville on the upper east side of Manhattan from 1944-1962 with their three siblings and immigrant parents.

Unlike many New York memoirs written by famous or infamous personages who lay their memories of privileged upbringings or Dickensian struggles in print, the Gindele’s recount the daily experiences of middle class family life in a New York that has now largely vanished. This is the New York of cobblestone paved streets where the milkman and the iceman made deliveries with horse drawn wagons. Pushcarts sold vegetables and kids played with erector and chemistry sets and took the time to cut out the backs of cereal boxes and  redeem them in the mail for prizes. Continue reading

The Devil’s Dictionary – Giving Words New Meanings

25 Definitions From The Devil’s Dictionary By Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce ph - Topham _ Cordon PressAmbrose Bierce (1842-1913?) was the cynic’s cynic. A writer and reporter of immense talent, Bierce served in the Union army during the American Civil War and was seriously wounded in the head. Bierce’s most famous work is the short war story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.”

Satiric and biting in his verse, Bierce first published The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906 which contained uninhibited definitions of words from A-L. The second half of the work containing words from M-Z was published as The Devil’s Dictionary in 1911, which was the title Bierce preferred. It has been in print now for over 100 years and many of it’s tongue-in-cheek definitions are still quoted today. It is now in the public domain, so the book is available online for free and worth reading.

Bierce traveled to Mexico in 1913 to witness the Mexican Civil War and vanished without a trace.

Here are 25 of the best definitions from The Devil’s Dictionary:

APOLOGIZE, v.i.  To lay the foundation for a future offence.
BELLADONNA, n.  In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly
poison.  A striking example of the essential identity of the two
tongues.
CAPITAL, n.  The seat of misgovernment.  That which provides the 
fire, the pot, the dinner, the table and the knife and fork for
the anarchist; the part of the repast that himself supplies is
the disgrace before meat.
CHRISTIAN, n.  One who believes that the New Testament is a 
divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of 
of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so  
far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
DIPLOMACY, n.  The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
FAITH, n.  Belief without evidence in what is told by one who
speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
FRIENDLESS, adj.  Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of 
fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
HAPPINESS, n.  An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating
the misery of another. Continue reading 

The Greatest TV Game Show Ever

What’s My Line 1950 – 1967

Whats-My-Line-Cast-Dorothy-Kilgallen-death-November-8-1965 cr

A few years ago my Tivo was tuned into the Game Show Network weeknights at 3:00 a.m., taping every episode of the greatest TV game show ever made, What’s My Line.

Let me state it was not just a great game show, but one of the best television shows ever.

Unfortunately the series is not being broadcast now, but many segments of the show are available on Youtube.

To describe the brilliance of the show better than I ever could, we will refer to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1948 – Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine 1988), an indispensable television reference book.

What’s My Line was the longest-running game show in the history of prime-time network television. It ran for 18 seasons, on alternate weeks from February to September 1950, then every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. for the next 17 years. The format was exceedingly simple. Contestants were asked simple yes-or-no questions by the panel members, who tried to determine what interesting or unusual occupation the contestant had. Each time the contestant could answer no to a question, he got $5, and a total of 10 no’s ended the game. The panel was forced to don blindfolds for the “mystery guest,” a celebrity who tried to avoid identification by disguising his voice.

That little game, by itself, hardly warranted an 18-year run, when other panel shows of the early 1950’s came and went every month. But What’s My Line was something special, both for the witty and engaging panel, and for a certain élan which few other shows ever captured. There were no flashy celebrities-of-the-moment or empty-headed pretty faces on this panel; they were obviously very intelligent people all, out to have some genteel fun with an amusing parlor game. Like (moderator) John Daly with his bow tie and perfect manners, it reeked of urbanity [“that’s three down and seven to go, Mr. Cerf?”]

The panelists who created this special atmosphere were an elite group. Continue reading

Prophetic Words About Lying Politicians From T. De Witt Talmage

Our 21st Century Dysfunctional Politicians Accurately Described

DeWitt TalmageHe described our lying politicians better than anyone today could have. And he did it 140 years ago.

T. De Witt Talmage (1832-1902) was a sanctimonious Brooklyn preacher who attained a huge following in the 19th century as an orator and prolific author. Overflow crowds attended his Sunday sermons at The Brooklyn Tabernacle.

Talamge's Brooklyn Tabernacle courtesy New York Public Library

Brooklyn Tabernacle

 

 

 

While many people were quite enthralled by Talmage, there were just as many critics who called him a “pulpit clown” and a “mountebank.”

As would be expected from any of the crusading Victorian holy rollers, Talmage railed against vice and crime in his writings and firebrand speeches. His verse contains the typical road to ruin warnings that make reading his books unbearable today. However, Talmage did manage to string together some words that still ring true. Especially about lying.

If you didn’t know any better, you would swear that Talmage is describing our modern day politicians. This short passage is from 1872.

LIES: WHITE AND BLACK.

Abominations of modern Society Talmage

There are ten thousand ways of telling a lie. A man’s entire life may be a falsehood, while with his lips he may not once directly falsify. There are those who state what is positively untrue, but afterwards say, “may be,” softly. These departures from the truth are called “white lies;” but there is really no such thing as a white lie. Continue reading

Part 5 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #5 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

As we complete our look at New York City books from 80+ years ago, some of these dust jackets incorporate photography into their covers which the other dust jackets we have featured do not. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Portrait of New YorkPortrait Of New York by Felix Riesenberg & Alexander Alland, New York: Macmillan, 1939 dj illustrator, Alexander Alland

Felix Riesnberg (1879-1939) was a civil engineer and master mariner. He was a polar explorer and wrote numerous books with nautical themes. Portrait of New York ventures among the populace and is an accurate description of the city and its people.

Alexander Alland (1902-1989) was a master photographer and the book shows a small sample of his immense talents. Continue reading

Part 4 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #4 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

Continuing our look at the those great New York City books from 80 years ago, here are more great dust jacket covers. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Hacking New YorkHacking New York by Robert Hazard, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930 dj illustrator, unknown

The first book of its kind – anecdotes of a New York taxi driver. Even back then the meter could be rigged and Hazard explains how it was done. The dust jacket is gorgeous and unfortunately the artist is unattributed. Continue reading

Part 3 Even More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #3 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

We continue with our look at vintage books about New York City with great dust jackets. (click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2)

Starting with a look at an all-time classic of deco design, New York Nights. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York NightsNew York Nights by Stephen Graham, New York: George H. Doran, 1927, dj illustrator, Kurt Wiese

A native of Scotland, author Stephen Graham (1884-1975) goes on a tour of  jazz age nightclubs, speakeasies and cabarets. Graham provides the grittier side of life in an up to the minute description of prohibition New York neighborhoods, establishments and people.

Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 books and later became an award-winning children’s book author. Besides the knockout jacket cover, Wiese drew all the illustrations contained in the book. This was the first American book he worked on. Continue reading

Part 2 More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #2 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30’s

We continue our look at some great New York City books from the 1920’s and 1930’s with exceptional artwork on their dust jackets. (click here to read part 1)

We begin with graphics on a dust jacket worthy of a large size poster from the quintessential art deco New York book. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York Paul MorandNew York by Paul Morand and Joaquin Vaquero Palacios. New York: Henry Holt, 1930, dj illustrator, Joaquin Vaquero Palacios.

A witty description of New York, via French writer Paul Morand, (1888-1976) from four visits he made to New York, none longer than a month, from between 1925-1929. Morand later became a supporter of the French Vichy regime.

Joaquin Vaquero (1900-1998) as he is credited in the book without the Palacios surname, was a Spanish architect and painter. His paintings are held in museums across the globe. Continue reading

Part 1 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #1 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20’s & 30’s

From the 1920’s until the 1940’s, book publishers put out some phenomenal books about New York. They also hired talented artists to design the book’s dust jackets.

The eye-catching art deco graphics were meant to attract potential buyers. Unfortunately, most people who purchased books 80 years ago would discard the dust jacket once they brought the book home with them.

Because of that, many of these books from that time are very scarce in their original dust jacket.

This is the first part of a five part series looking at the dust jackets of books about New York City, the artists that created the work and the authors.

Below are some fine examples of New York City books from the golden era of publishing.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York By QuexNew York by Quex.  New York: David McKay, 1928, dj illustrator, Dixon (possibly Arthur A. Dixon)

Quex was the pseudonym of reporter George H.F. Nichols (1881-1933) of The Evening News of London. Nichols was at the time of his death one of the highest paid reporters in the world. Nichols was the originator of articles written in the form of “the diary of the man about town.” Quex’s observations about about New York are well worth reading.

The dust jacket is classic New York, but I am unsure about the attribution to Arthur Dixon, so we will leave biographical information out until someone can provide a conclusive identification on the artist.

Continue reading

First Pneumatic Mail Delivery In New York 1897

The Pneumatic Mail Tubes And The “Age of Speed”

Pneumatic Tubes Produce Exchange Post Office 1897

Reading Howard Wallace Connelly’s highly entertaining 1931 autobiography Fifty-Six Years In The New York Post Office–  A Human Interest Story of Real Happenings in the Postal Service (self-published) the following anecdote begins Chapter VI:

When the pneumatic tubes were installed at the General Post Office, October 7, 1897, we Supervisors were given a fine treat after the ceremonies were over. A rough hastily constructed row of steps (circus show style) had been erected facing the tubes. Senator Chauncey M. Depew was Master of Ceremonies. Probably over a hundred friends and Post Office officials were spectators. The first tube contained only a large artificial peach. The roar of laughter that greeted it was heartily joined by the Senator. A Bowery audience that had attended a political meeting at which he was the principal speaker, instead of trying to break up the show, took quite a liking to the speaker and a loud voiced man yelled, “Chauncey, you’re a peach.” Hence the laugh when the first tube arrived. From the second tube, a cat was taken. How it could live after being shot at terrific speed from Station P in the Produce Exchange Building, making several turns before reaching Broadway and Park Row, I cannot conceive, but it did. It seemed to be dazed for a minute or two but started to run and was quickly secured and placed in a basket that had been provided for that purpose.  A suit of clothes was the third arrival and then came letters, papers, and other ordinary mail matter.

Hah-ha very funny. The postal officials must have had a ball putting a cat into the tubes. Can you imagine the public outcry if something like that was done now?

Connelly omits that the first parcel actually sent through the tubes was sent by Depew to the Produce Exchange Post Office which included Continue reading