From the Newsstand

New Books Noted in the New Yorker

By posted at 7:54 pm on February 20, 2007 4

coverJust finished up the recent New Yorker double issue and a couple of items caught my eye. First, I noticed in the capsule book reviews that there is a new book by Andrea Levy out. I had no idea, and it’s a shame because a new book by Levy should be big news. Her novel Small Island was one of the best books of the last five years (I read it in 2005.) This new book is called Fruit of the Lemon and it looks once again at Jamaican immigrants in England. While Small Island focused on the World War II era, however, in Fruit of the Lemon the action occurs in the 1970s, though racial tensions between the former colonizers and formerly colonized remain a major theme. This one is going on my list.

Secondly, the New Yorker’s master essayist Louis Menand digs into a book I mentioned here a few months back, The Yale Book of Quotations. The more I hear about this book the more I want it. It sounds like one of those essential reference books that is both useful and endlessly entertaining. Here’s a tidbit from Menand’s review:

It is extremely interesting to know, for instance, that the phrase “Shit happens” was introduced to print by one Connie Eble, in a publication identified as “UNC-CH Slang” (presumably the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), in 1983. “Life’s a bitch, and then you die,” a closely related reflection, dates from 1982, the year it appeared in the Washington Post. “Been there, done that” entered the public discourse in 1983, via the Union Recorder, a publication out of the University of Sydney. “Get a life”: the Washington Post, 1983. (What is it about the nineteen-eighties, anyway?) “Size doesn’t matter,” a phrase, or at least a hope, that would seem to have been around since the Pleistocene, did not see print until 1989, rather late in the history of the species, when it appeared in the Boston Globe.

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4 Responses to “New Books Noted in the New Yorker”

  1. Corey V.
    at 7:05 am on February 21, 2007

    My wife loved Small Island, and I've been trying to make room in order to fit it into my reading queue. Now, I have another reason to – I'd hate to be TWO books behind in the Andrea Levy library.

  2. Bryan Catherman
    at 9:05 am on February 21, 2007

    You've got to love the New Yorker. They just know books.

  3. Gwenda
    at 8:55 am on February 22, 2007

    Tayari Jones reviewed this one for the WashPost today.

  4. Gwenda
    at 11:43 am on February 27, 2007

    Oh, and sort of tangentially related, I just learned from Trivial Pursuit last night that the phrase "good 'ol boys" was coined by Tom Wolfe. I'd assumed that was way older too.

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