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Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  43 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
"Maybe he doesn't like anything, but he can do everything," New Yorker editor Harold Ross once said of the magazine's brilliantly sardonic theater critic Wolcott Gibbs. And, for over thirty years at the magazine, Gibbs did do just about everything. He turned out fiction and nonfiction, profiles and parodies, filled columns in "The Talk of the Town" and "Notes and Comment," ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published September 27th 2011)
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Jun 20, 2012 Buck rated it liked it
I abhor whimsy. I abominate it. Sarcasm may be cheap, but whimsy is just plain lazy. It risks nothing. Like the prettiest girl at the prom, it just sort of stands there waiting to be admired. (If you’re not sure what I mean by whimsy—defined as 'quaint and fanciful humor'—just think of Dave Barry, whose desperate hamming is appallingly whimsical. A local example might be the GR meme of 'celebrity death matches', which many intelligent friends of mine seem to find irresistibly hilarious, but whic ...more
Oct 23, 2011 Kathy rated it really liked it
This unwieldy chunk of a book is the closest thing to a 5-star read I've picked up in the last three years. Its contents--celebrity profiles, literary parodies, Broadway reviews, family anecdotes disguised as fiction--prove there is a great deal of truth in the old saying that the best humor is written by deeply unhappy people.

Oliver Wolcott Gibbs' life (succinctly described in the introduction by editor Thomas Vinciguerra) was marked by alcoholism, poor spur-of-the-moment decisions, and the tra
Kelly Knapp
Oct 31, 2011 Kelly Knapp rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring journalist, current journalists
Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads Firstreads program
This book is an amazing example of what a journalist should aspire to be. His prose is smooth, articulate, educated, and thoughtful. This book spans a variety of subjects from various sections of the magazine. He was both critical of other writers and of himself. In style with his way of writing, I will keep this short and to the point. Backward Ran Sentences is an exceptional collection of writings from an exquisite writer.

If you are hesitant to choose this book because of its thickness, each s
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
»For more than three years we have been watching a very bothersome and heroic struggle in the publishing world—Life magazine trying to figure out a way to print a picture of a living, breathing woman with absolutely no clothes on. The especial problem of Life, of course, is that everything in it has to have the air of a respectable, high-minded commentary on America. Life, that is, can’t publish a picture of a woman undressed over the caption “Woman Undressed.” It has to Say Something. We are gl ...more
Lauren Albert
Feb 17, 2012 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
[on Thomas Dewey’s mustache] “It turned out to be a dream—bushy, dramatic, an italicized swearword in a dull sentence.” 165

Do I really need to say more to get you to read the book? I laughed through a lot of it. I didn't love his short stories and the parodies made no sense to me since I didn't know the originals he was parodying, but his essays were wonderful, particularly his profiles.

To add to this is the bonus that his theater reviews were spot-on. He liked all the serious drama that we now
Cynthia K
Oct 24, 2011 Cynthia K rated it did not like it
Shelves: won-in-giveaway
The forward to this book was absolutely essential. Without the back story, without someone explaining the context, this collection would have been meaningless to me. In fact, I'm having a rough time working my way through the book. It's not that Gibbs wasn't a good writer, it is more that I still lack an understanding of the time, place and circumstances in which he wrote. There are many references to people, places and happenings that I don't know about, so I feel like I'm missing the depths of ...more
May 03, 2012 Dave rated it liked it
Shelves: eventually
I'm liking this so far--good New Yorker writing--not as hilarious or skilled as Thurber or as elegant and rich as E.B White's, but quite nice. I very much like the "Notes and Comment" from the beginning of WWII. But the book is quite long--not in the mood to keep reading until I sicken of it. I'll get back to it.
Trish Graboske
Oct 04, 2012 Trish Graboske rated it it was ok
Not a likeable guy, and he references characters of the 1930s who now are mostly forgotten, but he can write! Slog toward the second half of the 667 pages, and the subjects get more interesting, including the Broadway reviews. And the parody of Hemingway is inspired.
Sep 23, 2011 Abc marked it as to-read
I won this book in a giveaway. Thank you.
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Oct 03, 2011 Louise Walsh rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
An okay book, not my kind of read, but still interesting.

*Won on GoodReads First reads*
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“As a footnote to the above, I would like to say that I am getting very tired of literary authorities, on both the stage and the screen, who advise young writers to deal only with those subjects that happen to be familiar to them personally. It is quite true that this theory probably produced "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," but the chances are it would have ruled out "Hamlet.” 2 likes
“The most successful critics are always scribbling things in their programs, largely because it gives them an important and industrious air. Also, it is interesting to try to figure out what you've written afterward. Last week, for instance, I made a very helpful note during the second act of a drama called "They Walk Alone." "Lanchstr get face stuck 1 these nights awful if," it seemed to say.” 0 likes
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