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What Winthrop Sargeant Actually Said

For years, I've been carrying around in my head something that Winthrop Sargeant, late music critic at The New Yorker, wrote about Emmanuel Chabrier's Souvenirs de Munich. As I remembered it, he called it "the funniest piece of music." In fact, Sargeant put it (18 March 1972) rather more concisely.

Now, this bit, which is made up largely of quotations from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, given a music-hall touch by Chabrier, is one of the most hilarious musical satires ever written.

Every week, it seems, I am driven to consult The Complete New Yorker in order to clarify some dim recollection or revisit some once-important story. After all, I've been reading The New Yorker for nearly forty-five years. My brain has turned most of what I've read into a dense fog that now, at last, can here and there be cleared. I'm still surprised, well over a year and a half after the DVDs appeared, that it's possible to search the magazine's archives at home and without any special machinery. (Once, in college, I was moved to see what kind of coverage the Abdication of Edward VIII got, and for years I kept a printout of Janet Flanner's Letter from London on the subject. I do believe that this was the only time that I had anything to do with microfilm.) I used to keep boxes of clippings, although it was pointless to do so, because the morass of stapled pages was practically unsearchable. From time to time I'd throw everything out.

I still rip off and save the magazine's covers before chuting the rest. You can't print covers from The Complete New Yorker, no sir.


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There are two essential reading items for me : The NY Times and The New Yorker.

The New Yorker habit came from my Mother, who began reading it as soon as she moved to this country in 1937....and passed the habit on to me. So when she moved back home to Managua I sent her, every two weeks, the latest copies, which she then passed on to avid readers there. And when the mail was slow, which being Nicaragua it was something of a miracle mail ever got to the post office, she would ask "Darling, have you forgotten to send your old Mother her magazines?" It comforts me to think she is now chatting with Thurber and Shawn.

I treasure two letters from New Yorker contributors : one from Roger Angell, who wrote so brilliantly about the 1975 Word Series, generally acknowledged as one of the greatest. And one from Herbert Warren Wind, who I had written to when he retired to say 'thank you' for his wonderful, informative pieces, especially about golf and tennis. But they are just two of many that make it so memorable; Seymour Hirsch on Iraq, for instance, the letters from London, Paris etc, music criticism, Winthrop Sargeant...just an amazing magazine. This past weekend's article about the French election was a great read. And at times terribly funny....

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons adorns my icebox : an old fashioned classroom, prim teacher at her desk to the left, a very young young man standing in front of the class, reading. The caption reads : "My Summer Vacation : A Mystical Journey of Sexual Awakening."
It makes me laugh.......

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