I confess to a weakness for The New Yorker – for years, I subscribed to that magazine, looking forward every week to its beautiful cover and urbane, witty, informative, far-ranging content. In recent years, this enjoyment was progressively dampened by the persistent left-wing bias of its political reporting, and I haven’t held a live copy in my hands for quite some time now (although I do look at the website occasionally).
But truly, the history of this unique magazine is one of many marvelous essays, cartoons, poems, short stories, and criticism, with names such as John Updike, Pauline Kael, Herbert Warren Wind, Susan Orlean and many, many others standing out in my mind.Others, such as Joseph Mitchell or Robert Benchley, were a little before my time but representative of the golden age of the magazine.
Deservedly or not, one name that is largely forgotten today is that of Wolcott Gibbs. A brilliant writer and editor, humorist and parodist, he worked at The New Yorker from 1927 to his death in 1958. He was working on his book More in Sorrow at the time of his death, and the following piece on Calvin Coolidge, originally published in slightly different form in 1929 (note to self: find the original on my full set of The New Yorker on CD-Rom), is taken from this compilation. Honesty compels me to admit that I found this item on a left-wing blog that I link to only in the spirit of proper attribution. While Gibbs’ account of Coolidge as a comedian in the Chaplin or Harry Langdon mode obviously differs much from the approach this blog takes, it nonetheless is quite funny on its own terms. And frankly: what would we rather have, the president as existential comedian, or as larger-than-life action hero? Me, I’d prefer the former.
(Read the text of “Glorious Calvin” after the cut)