Archive for November, 2021

The Year in Books

This late-1921 article recapping the year in books predicted: “The average of fiction was but fair, and it is to be doubted if anything of lasting import appeared.” Well, now we know: nothing of lasting import appeared.

Looking at the Publishers Weekly list of the 10 bestselling novels of 1921, as of this writing, only four of them even have Wikipedia articles. (And Wikipedia seemingly has an article about everything.) The most famous of the 10 today is unquestionably #4, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton — but that was actually published the year prior, in 1920.

There were certainly novels of lasting fame published in other 1920s years: Ulysses in 1922, The Great Gatsby and The Trial and Mrs Dalloway in 1925, The Sun Also Rises in 1926, All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms and The Sound and the Fury in 1929.

In 1921, though, not so much.

 

The Year in Books (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 27, 1921

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Written by Jesse

November 28th, 2021 at 10:57 am

Posted in Books,Literature

The Child, the Book and the Movie

In 1921, as the nascent medium of film had recently soared in popularity, New York Times Magazine commissioned a debate: would movies decrease or increase children’s love of reading books?

Alexander Black predicted it would increase, though his argument was in no small based on how movies of the time required considerable reading with title cards and written dialogue, as the first “talkie” The Jazz Singer wouldn’t debut until 1927:

It may be significant that nine-tenths of the demonstrations in a movie audience are for the flashed words. The pictures may have prepared the way, but the words precipitate the emotion.

The author William Heyliger took the opposing view:

The movie is moving the boy away from good literature. He is getting his fictional entertainment in bald elementary action pictures. Once he develops the movie type of mind he will be lost to good books forever. The repose and repression, the atmosphere and background that are part of all good books, will bore him. His artistic perceptions and appreciations will become of the five-and-ten-cent-store kind, a counterfeit of the real thing.

Curious that he should dwell on boys specifically in that prediction. Over the summer, I visited the Book Barn in Niantic, CT and noticed that only girls were in the young adult section. Why? My theory is that the boys’ entertainment has been completely overtaken by video games.

Alas, Heyliger’s view largely seemed to win out, as this graphic from Pew Research Center (based on U.S. Department of Education data) demonstrates:

 

The Child, the Book and the Movie (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 13, 1921

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Written by Jesse

November 11th, 2021 at 1:05 pm

A regular season sports game as a NYT front page headline

Ostensibly, the focus of this website is to highlight the most interesting articles from the New York Times Magazine 100 years ago to the week. But when going back to the November 6, 1921 issue, something on the front page caught my eye. And since I determined it was more interesting than anything from that issue’s actual magazine, I’m going to take a one-installment-only break from tradition to focus on that front page instead.

The upper-left headline was about a sports game. Not the World Series. Not the Super Bowl, which wouldn’t even occur until 1967. Not the World Cup, which wouldn’t occur until 1930. Rather, it was a Princeton vs. Harvard college football game… and a regular season game, at that.

Sure, the game had a bit of a narrative: Princeton avenging their 1911 loss, which was apparently a legendary game at the time, though it’s little remembered today. And the 50,000 attendance at the 1921 rematch was surely quite high for a college football game at the time. Today, though, the largest college football stadium by capacity is University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium at 107,601.

The Princeton football headline even appeared a bit higher than another seemingly-more-important headline: the Senate’s vote on a proposal to pay bonuses to World War I veterans, which was rejected by 28-38.

The New York Times of today would never put a sports story as their upper-left headline. I’m having trouble locating it at the moment, but I seem to recall that the release of the official report determining that Lance Armstrong had indeed cheated during his Tour de France victories made the Times front page, though I believe in the bottom half (“below the fold”) if memory serves? But having a sports headline as essentially their top headline would just be unfathomable for the publication in the 21st century.

 

 

Princeton Victor Over Harvard in Thrilling Struggle (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 6, 1921

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Written by Jesse

November 7th, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Sports