Infused with intelligence and charm, Back Then is an elegant reflection on transformative years in the lives of two young people and New York City. Marked by their youthful passion, this double memoir marries the authors' distinct literary styles with a riveting narrative that captures the density and texture of private, social, and working life in the 1950s.
Novelist Anne Bernays, born in 1930, and biographer Justin Kaplan, born in 1925, both natives of New York, came of age in the 1950s, when the pent-up energies of the Depression years and World War II were at flood tide. Back Then, written in two separate voices, is the candid, anecdotal account of two children of privilege, one from New York's East Side, the other from the West Side, pursuing careers in publishing and eventually leaving to write their own books. They both sought self-knowledge and realization through years of psychoanalysis. They brushed shoulders with celebrities like William Faulkner, Somerset Maugham, Marlene Dietrich, and Anatole Broyard.
Before Bernays and Kaplan met and married, each had enjoyed the sexual and social freedom that, along with the dark shadow of McCarthyism and the Cold War, was among the distinguishing marks of the 1950s. In many other respects, the story they tell could almost as well be about an earlier era.
This vibrant, balanced memoir offers an indelible portrait of postwar New York -- exhilarating, hospitable, and affordable. A striking collaboration by two prominent figures in American letters, Back Then surprises and delights as Bernays and Kaplan recall their youthful pursuits, the merging of their lives, and the city's underlying influence on them.
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Anne Bernays, a novelist and writing teacher, is the author of eight novels, including Professor Romeo and Growing Up Rich, as well as two works of nonfiction, including The Language of Names written with Justin Kaplan and What If? written with Pamela Painter. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous major publications, among them The Nation, the New York Times, Town & Country, and Sports Illustrated. She lives in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts with her husband, Justin Kaplan. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.
Justin Kaplan is also the author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He is general editor of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is married to the novelist Anne Bernays. They have three daughters and six grandchildren, and live in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts.From Publishers Weekly:
Bernays's first date with Kaplan was over lunch. Glancing at the menu, Kaplan recommended the calf's brains and Bernays made a split-second decision: I could never marry a man who ate brains for lunch or, as far as that went, for any other meal. But the not-yet-prestigious writers (he went on to win a Pulitzer for Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain; she has written eight well-received novels) did marry, and they have collaborated on this double memoir recounting their remarkably parallel lives in 1950s New York City. Both grew up in well-to-do Jewish families, she on Manhattan's Upper East Side, he on the Upper West Side; both went away to college, majored in English and returned to New York to work in publishing. What makes this book successful is the way both writers capture the diverse sounds and sense of various subcultures in the city: bohemian, literary, Jewish, upper-crust, etc. They alternate chapters, and both writers have entirely distinct voices and styles of writing: Bernays's chapters are narrative driven, personal and filled with anecdote, while Kaplan maintains a certain distance from the subject at hand (that is, himself), offering character sketches of his colleagues and associates. Though the couple eventually leaves New York, the book serves as a hymn to the city of their youth: Still relatively restrained in style, and with as yet only a subdominant glitter, chic, and Babylonian arrogance. Well written and thoughtful, this memoir gives a nice flavor of urban cultural life in the 1950s. B&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0060198559
Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110060198559
Book Description William Morrow. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0060198559 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0008524