Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writers on Time Magazine Covers

Joseph Conrad, 1923
The Committee Room looks at how literature has been treated by the mainstream American media as we take an accounting of the literary figures deemed notable enough for Time to put them on its cover.

Time was founded by two young Yale graduates -- bon vivant Briton Hadden and sober-minded Henry Luce -- with the aim of keeping the "busy man" well informed. Its first issue appeared on March 3, 1923. On the cover was elderly former Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, an Illinois Republican who was retiring from his Congressional seat after a record breaking number of years in office.

Time's first author cover came early on. The cover of its sixth issue, published on April 7, 1923, offered a sketch portrait of Joseph Conrad. The accompanying article -- a few paragraphs about Conrad making his first visit to the United States -- was without a byline since all Time articles were supposed to be a collaborative effort of the staff, a practice the magazine continued for many decades.

The Time staff wrote -- "Joseph Conrad, rover of the seven seas, has never set foot in the United States. Now he is coming. At about the end of this month the man who holds probably the most exalted position in contemporary English letters is to arrive here for a visit...Mr. Conrad's trip is undertaken for rest and change, but he looks forward to it in a spirit of adventure. Despite all the countries and seas of the world which he has made his own and presented to his readers, he has never come closer to this coast than on the first voyage of his sea-life in 1875, which took him through the Florida Channel to the West Indies. Seeking rest, it is not Mr. Conrad's wish to make a triumphal and formal tour of the country. It may not be the privilege of his many admirers here to see or hear him, but it will be their especial opportunity to respect his altogether reasonable desire for privacy."

Jonathan Franzen, 2010
As of this writing, the most recent Time cover author is Jonathan Franzen who appeared on the August 12, 2010 cover. Time book reviewer Lev Grossman interviewed Franzen in regard to his just released novel Freedom. The article reads almost like a press release with Grossman praising Franzen as the "Great American Novelist" and Freedom as a novel "told with extraordinary power and richness." Grossman notes that Franzen does not seem at ease in the interview --  "It's hard to say exactly what makes Franzen so uncomfortable. It could be me, or it could be the prospect of being on the cover of Time (a legitimately unsettling prospect that puts him in the company of Salinger, Nabokov, Morrison and, twice each, Joyce and Updike)."

In the almost ninety years since its founding, Time has put a novelist, poet, or dramatist on its cover eighty-seven times.

Playwright Eugene O'Neill has been on four Time covers, more than any other author. Time's interest in the theater has waned. Of its nineteen playwright or librettist covers, twelve appeared before World War II.  In the last fifty years, only two authors who wrote primarily for the theater have been on a Time cover -- Neil Simon in 1986 and Tennessee Williams in 1962.  

Toni Morrison, 1998
Nine writers mainly known as poets have made it to Time's cover, the most recent was Robert Lowell way back in 1967.

Time's interest in creative writing of any kind has diminished in recent decades. Of the eight-seven writer covers, the vast majority -- sixty-six out of eighty-seven -- were before 1970.

A hard to miss feature of Time's choice of cover authors is a continuing emphasis on Caucasian males. Only three of the eighty-seven cover authors are non-white -- Toni Morrison, 1998, Alex Haley, 1977, and James Baldwin, 1963. A meager nine cover authors are women and those nine are a wildly random assortment.  Along with Nobel-prize winning Morrison, there are other titanic figures -- Willa Cather, 1931, Gertrude Stein, 1933, Virginia Woolf, 1937, and Rebecca West, 1947 -- plus authors whose work is, justly or unjustly, little read today -- Jean Kerr, 1961, a playwright though probably best known for her collection of lighthearted essays on motherhood Please Don't Eat the Daisies; Craig Rice, 1946, a writer of quirky, humor-tinged mysteries; Kathleen Norris, 1935, a popular "women's story" novelist many of whose books were made into movies; and imagist poet Amy Lowell, 1925.

First issue People Magazine, 1974
Time co-founder Briton Hadden died of a strep infection in 1929. With Henry Luce alone at the helm Time took on a more serious tone though it preserved some features of the Hadden years including the trademark red border, begun in 1927, and the Man of the Year designation, inaugurated with Charles Lindbergh in January 1928. Over the decades a few women were named Man of the Year and the title was changed to Person of the Year in 1999.  No writer, poet, or dramatist has been Man or Person of the Year.

Time's "People" section, started in 1926, became so popular that it was eventually spun off into a separate magazine.  People's first issue appeared on March 4, 1974. On its cover was actress Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in a film version of The Great Gatsby.

Below are the rest of Time's writer covers --

Mark Twain, 2008.

Stephen King, 2000
Tom Wolfe, 1998
Toni Morrison, 1998
Michael Chichton, 1995
Scott Turow, 1990

Neil Simon, 1986
Stephen King, 1986
Garrison Keillor, 1985
George Orwell, 1983
John Updike, 1982
John Irving, 1981
Mario Puzo, 1978
John le Carre, 1977
Alex Haley, 1977
Gore Vidal, 1976
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1974
Norman Mailer, 1973
Richard Bach, 1972
Gunter Grass, 1970
Vladimir Nabokov, 1969
Alexander Solzhenitzyn, 1968
John Updike, 1968
Robert Lowell, 1967
William Faulkner, 1964
John Cheever, 1964
James Baldwin, 1963
Evgeny Evtushenko, 1962
Tennessee Williams, 1962
J.D. Salinger, 1961
Jean Kerr, 1961
Alan Jay Lerner (left) with F. Loewe, 1960
William Shakespeare, 1960
Boris Pasternak, 1958
James Gould Cozzens, 1957
Herman Wouk, 1955
Andre Malraux, 1955
Ernest Hemingway, 1954
Joyce Cary, 1952
Graham Greene, 1951
James Thurber, 1951
Christopher Fry, 1950
Robert Frost, 1950
T.S. Eliot, 1950
John P. Marquand, 1949
Rebecca West, 1947
C.S. Lewis, 1947
Eugene O'Neill, 1946
Craig Rice, 1946

Sinclair Lewis, 1945
Kenneth Roberts, 1940
Carl Sandberg, 1939
George S, Kaufman, 1939
James Joyce, 1939
William Faulkner, 1939
Andre Malraux,, 1938
Ernest Hemingway, 1937
Sidney Howard, 1937
Virginia Woolf, 1937
John Dos Passos, 1936
George Santayana, 1936
Kathleen Norris, 1935
Maxwell Anderson, 1934
Upton Sinclair, 1934
Thomas Mann, 1934
James Joyce, 1934

Gertrude Stein, 1933
Noel Coward, 1933

Robinson Jeffers, 1932
Philip Barry, 1932
Eugene O'Neill, 1931

Willa Cather, 1931
Robert Bridges, 1929

Eugene O'Neill, 1928
E. Phillips Oppenheim, 1927
Michael Arlen, 1927
Paul Claudel, 1927

Sinclair Lewis, 1927
Rudyard Kipling, 1926
H.G. Wells, 1926
Booth Tarkington, 1925
Amy Lowell, 1925
Eugene O'Neill, 1924
George Bernard Shaw, 1923
Israel Zangwill, 1923

Here's more information --

Time Magazine Archives (Thorough and well-designed database).

The Committee Room.  Interesting Articles for Interested Readers.


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