Roots: The Saga of an American Family

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I Want to Be a Book: On Becoming A Writer

The author, his father Lindsay Barrett, and his brother Boma, circa 1982. 1. In a cool, shaded bedroom in the southern city of Port Harcourt, my mother is lying on her back on the rumpled bed, a book held open over her face, her eyes burning into it. I’m three years old and I want her to love me. I want her to look at me right this moment -- to tell me all the time how much I mean to her. I have been perched at the bed’s edge for some time, waiting to be noticed, watching the play of expressions on her face. When she quivers again with laughter I can’t hold back my curiosity any longer, and I ask, “Why are you laughing, Mama?” No answer. I cannot understand what she finds so fascinating in that bundle of paper. I raise my voice. “Mama! Tell me why you’re laughing.” My cry works: it draws her eyes to me. But they are bright with an emotion I know isn’t for me. “Go and play with Boma,” she says. And then she mutters under her breath: “You’ll understand why I’m laughing when you can read.” Boma, my younger brother, is a baby. He cries all the time. Right now he is in my father’s arms in the parlor -- I can hear him wailing for attention, as usual. When he arrived he took away a chunk of the affection that I thought was only mine, and now this thing, this book that brightens my mother’s eyes and makes her giggle, is stealing what’s left. I want to be a book. I want my mother to look at me all the time. I decide to learn to read. 2. My mother and my father quarrelled over me yesterday. My father is teaching me to read, I asked him to, but yesterday he grew annoyed at my slow progress over the letter X and he smacked my bottom until I screamed for my mother. My mother took me in her arms, she said I was too young and he should go easy on me, that I was learning faster than many my age. He’s old enough -- he shouldn’t have asked if he wasn’t ready, my father said before he slammed his study door. I’m old enough. Tomorrow I will try to be ready. In a few weeks I will be four. 3. Crouched in a closed dark wardrobe, my heart pounding, I’m listening to the sound of feet outside. The footfalls sneak closer, stop in front of the wardrobe, and I strain my ears. I wait fearfully to be caught. I’m six years old and I have no friends. Everybody loves Boma. He’s playful, friendly, and he’s not afraid of cats. He laughs all the time: a deep rolling laugh that sounds like a toy version of my father’s. He looks like my father too. Everybody says so. Then they ask me whom I resemble, why am I so quiet, why am I such a bookworm? That’s what Priye asked: “Why are you such a bookworm?” “Because books are exciting, stupid!” I snap at her. Then I feel sorry. Girls must always be treated nicely, my mother says. Priye always comes over to play with Boma. She is the daughter of Uncle Sam, our next-door neighbor and my father’s best friend on the street. My father and Uncle Sam are chatting in the study, laughing out loud, and Priye is in my bedroom searching for me. Boma is hiding—we are playing hide-and-seek. I was reading The Snow Queen when Priye came, but after she asked me to join her and Boma in their game, I dropped my book. The Snow Queen makes me cold and sad and lonely. And no one ever asks me to play. Now I’m crouched in the wardrobe, hoping to be found so I can return to my book. 4. Boma and I are on holidays with my father in a big empty house in the mid-western city of Benin. I miss my mother, who is back at home in Port Harcourt, and I hope she’s missing me too. My father has taken Boma out shopping, and I’m alone at home. I’m being punished for throwing a crying tantrum. Because my younger brother ran off with my book and I couldn’t catch him. I’m nine years old and I’m afraid that my parents don’t love each other anymore. Now I’m lying on my belly in my father’s bed. I’m reading The Old Man and the Sea. I want to be a fisherman when I grow up. O to roam the seas with a book and a hook! 5. My mother refuses to buy me trousers. She prefers small shorts in bright colours: pink, lime green, powder blue. When I walk down my street the other boys tease me about the books I’m always carrying. They call me a girl because I read too much, because of my bright shorts and my smooth soft legs, and because I look like a girl. My mother tells me they are unruly little bullies. But still she refuses to buy me trousers. “Nobody bullies Boma,” she always says when I complain. But that’s because Boma never walks around with books. And he can fight. But I don’t say this. I’m almost 10 and it’s a sin to rat on a brother. I want to be a pirate when I grow up. 6. I’m in a classroom of boys and girls all shrieking with abandon. The teacher has stepped outside, and while my classmates rush about I remain seated at my desk. I’m reading a novel: Roots. The series runs every night on national TV. My mother’s friend, Aunty Gloria, lent me the book when I told her how much I feared for Kunta Kinte, how disappointed I was that the bad men were winning the good ones. I couldn’t wait to see the good men begin to win. In the fairytales the good men always win. “Read the book,” Aunty Gloria said. “You’re old enough to learn how the world really is.” I’m 10 years old. A strong wind now blows the scent of sunlight through the open windows of the classroom, and it riffles the book’s pages. Then a shadow looms, the wind is blocked, and I look up. Gogo is standing beside my desk and frowning down at me. I’m worried, threatened by his presence, but I’m not surprised to see him. Gogo has been trying to pick a fight with me for the past few weeks, ever since I scored the highest in the English Language test. He hasn’t succeeded only because he’s the strongest boy in the class and it’s not considered cowardly to run from him. All this time I have been a running target, but now I’m a sitting duck. And I know that he knows it. I lower my eyes from his, and I hear him say, “What are you reading?” “Roots,” I answer. Then I hurry to explain, my voice soft, trembling, ingratiating. “They show it every night on NTA. It’s the Kunta Kinte film.” “Give it to me,” he says, and extends his hand. I don’t like sharing my books, but I hand it to him anyway. Maybe he likes books like me. No, he doesn’t. He closes the book and flings it across the classroom. It flaps through the open window and falls in the sand outside. Then he bends over my desk and laughs ha ha ha into my face. I feel like crying -- I borrowed that book. You must take good care of books, my mother always says. The class falls silent as I rise slowly to my feet. My face is burning and I feel like peeing. I know Gogo wants me to cry so he can laugh a real laugh, and this knowledge gives me the strength to fight back my tears. I step out of my desk and walk towards the window. “Stop there!” Gogo yells, and though I flinch at his shout, I don’t stop. I can now hear him coming behind me -- he is banging on desktops to frighten me. I reach the window, and then turn around, and he stops five desks away. His face is really, really angry. “Did you hear me say stop?” I don’t answer. I hold his gaze. “Are you looking at me with bad eye? Do you think you can fight me, you son of a--?” I am shocked. Gogo has called me a dirty word that means my mother does dirty things. I am angry too. Bitterness rises inside my mouth, and my hands are cold, my knees tremble, my chest is tight, but my fear is beginning to harden. I did nothing to him and yet he threw away my book and now he has abused my mother. I must say what I must say. I must spit out this bitter taste. “You unruly little bully,” I say to Gogo. But he isn’t, not really, not little. He’s much taller than me, and he has muscles on his calves, his chest, his arms -- the veins in his arms are like the ones in my father’s, it seems to me. Gogo looks exactly like I want to be someday: strong. But right now, for the first time in my life, I’m ready to fight someone who isn’t Boma -- all because of a book. I will be beaten, disgraced, and I know it, Gogo knows I know it, the whole class knows it, they are chanting, cheering me on, goading Gogo, and he lets out a kung-fu howl and charges at me. O Mama! But my book, my mother -- I can’t run. I hold my ground until my teeth chatter, until I can almost feel his breath on me, and then my instincts revolt. I leap out his path and raise my hands to shield my face, but nothing, no blows, only a crash of glass and a child’s wail, and when I look up I see Gogo squirming in pain on the sand outside. He has run himself into the window and through the louver glasses. I feel a rush of fear, and then relief, a deep satisfaction. The bad boy has lost. My faith in the world’s order is now restored. I’m ready to go back to reading Roots. And so I climb out the window and pick up my book, shake off the glass, and go back in to meet the cheers of my classmates, boys and girls, who gather around and pat my back, stare at me with admiration. My head swells with pride. Behind me, I can still hear Gogo crying. 7. On a quiet Port Harcourt afternoon, I’m rereading Lorna Doone for the seventh time when I hear a shout. It is Boma. I’m in our bedroom in my grandmother’s house, and there are adults outside so I don’t get out of bed, I don’t interrupt my reading, I hope Boma is fine. My mother is away in Ibadan studying for her university degree. I haven’t seen or heard from my father since he and my mother fought the last time in Benin City. Boma and my books are all that’s left of the home I’ve always known. I’m 12 years old and I want to be an aeronautical engineer when I grow up. Then the bedroom door flies open and Boma skips in with a two large shopping bags clutched in his hands. “Toys!” he cries excitedly. “The robot’s mine!” He dumps the bags on the floor, drops down beside them, upends one and spills out the toys. There’s only one father in the whole wide world who would buy so many toys. I tumble off the bed. In the second bag there are books -- a box set of The Hardy Boys, Burning Grass by Cyprian Ekwensi,

Reading and Race: On Slavery in Fiction

1. In my eighth-grade U.S. History class, each student read a novel written by an African-American writer, about African-Americans.  There were a few books to choose from, but the only ones I remember are Native Son by Richard Wright and Roots by Alex Haley.  Because the latter was so long, no one chose it.  No one but me, that is.  I had never heard of it, nor the adapted mini-series, but the book was big and intimidating, and I was nothing if not a nerd and a show-off.  In my certainly-revised memory,  I pick up a copy from the pile, and the class gasps with admiration and foreboding.  I carry it back to my desk, head held high. A little background.  I'm white (shocking, I know), and I went to a mostly white, public elementary school in Laurel Canyon, that rock 'n roll, bohemian enclave in Los Angeles with its bungalows and crumbling mountain-sides.  (In recent years,  it's gotten much fancier.)  Back then, I felt left out that my parents weren't British, or former addicts, or ostrich-owners (don't ask), or screenwriters.  If you think my name is odd--well, you didn't know Chantilly, or Swan, or America, or Ole, a kid who was only there for a few months before disappearing to who-knows-where.  In the sixth-grade, Spike Lee's X came out, and a couple of students wore those baseball caps with the letter X on the front--I'm not sure they knew what it meant.  A few had that shirt that read, "Love knows no color."   This was the same year as the L.A. riots.  Our graduation dance theme was "Rebuilding the Peace."  The teachers decorated the tables with tiny wooden hammers. Around that same time, my father got a subscription to The New Yorker.  (For the cartoons.  I'm serious.)  I remember one cover had something to do with Malcolm X, and there were these small illustrations of white faces on it, with the words "white devil" floating around them.  I saw this magazine in the bathroom a few times a day for a week, and it stung and confused me every time. I didn't understand it.  Why were they devils?  Was that even okay to say?   Was I a white devil?  What the hell did I do? The next year, I went to junior high in west L.A., a bigger and far more racially diverse school than the one I had graduated from. Because everyone was different at this school, because I was different, I began to truly understand what difference meant.  People sometimes identified me as "white girl" in the hallways, and it made sense.  After all, I was white.  Really white: I burned easily, I wore Converse and shorts from the Gap, and my parents listened to The Grateful Dead.   Twice I was asked, snickering, if my name was Becky.  I learned some Spanish slang.  I learned that some kids went to school on Saturday, to master their parents' native tongues.  A boy in English class pointed out that Black History month was the shortest month of the year--and that blew my mind. It had never occurred to me. It was at this school, with my sense of self and the world all shook up, that I read Roots.  Haley called his book "faction"--fiction mixed with fact, and later genealogists debunked his claim that the book told his actual family history.  None of that mattered to me then--or matters now.   My teacher had assigned it as a novel, and like all good fiction, it felt authentic. I devoured the book, and I couldn't get it off my mind.  I can still remember how I felt reading the section on the slave ship, Kunta Kinte packed in with hundreds of other slaves: the darkness, the suffering, the stench of bodies.  I had learned about the Middle Passage in school, but it wasn't until it was translated into narrative that it affected me so.  I was appalled and frightened by a history I already knew, for the story of  slavery is far more powerful than a "unit" on it. In the eighth grade, I began to understand that I, and every American, had inherited something shameful. I began to connect race to history to power, and it was all because of a book. 2. Reading narrative requires empathy.  The character's perspective becomes your own, and through this relationship you begin to feel as another person would.   As I read Roots, I felt what Kunta Kinte felt, saw what he saw, and by becoming him, I understood intimately the horrors of slavery.  It's why nonfiction slave narratives, like those of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass, were so important to the abolitionist movement, and why fictional slave narratives persist today. But stories also require complicity: the reader participates in the action of the story simply by imagining and interpreting it.  As Zadie Smith points out in this short interview: Fiction is like a hypothetical area in which to act. That's what Aristotle thought—that fictional narrative was a place to imagine what you would do in this, that, or the other situation. I believe that, and it's what I love most about fiction. I agree with Smith here, and it's why I don't like books that make that arena of ethics too simplistic. I don't need my characters to be heroic; in fact, I prefer them not to be.  Their choices should be difficult, their situations complicated, and if they emerge from events unaffected or unscathed, then they do not seem authentic.   They stop mattering to me. But what if a novel's "hypothetical area in which to act" is a historical landscape that places pressures on its characters that we haven't experienced ourselves?  What if that landscape is the antebellum South?  My empathy is immediately ignited by these stories, but so too is my complicity.   As a white reader, I'm simultaneously made to understand the experience of slavery, and I also must wrestle with how I'm implicated in that past.  For although I identify with the book's main characters, there's another part of my brain that knows I can't.  If this book were made into a movie, I think, I'd look more like the overseer's wife than the protagonist. I know I'm not the only one who's experienced that awful feeling.  On goodreads a few months ago, some dolt wrote that he hated books about slavery because, and I paraphrase: "I wasn't the one to rape your great, great, great grandmother!"  In other words, it wasn't his fault slavery happened, he didn't want to hear any more about it.  And that's the thing: slave narratives keep us hearing about it, they keep that chain between the past and the present alive.  For me, reading one can be complicated and uncomfortable business, and it's partly why I continue to seek them out. 3. But only partly.  In Victor La Valle's Year in Reading post, he wrote: I don’t know about you, but when I read that book takes place during slavery my defenses go up immediately. It’s going to be “serious” and “important” and “teach us something” and….oh, I’m sorry, I almost fell asleep. He's right--"serious" and "important" are sometimes just synonyms for "boring."  But good books about slavery are readable, very much so.  Is it wrong to say they're entertaining?  Well, they can be.  This isn't "tea towel" fiction, it's fiction where the stakes are high, and people's lives are at risk.  There are secrets.  There is real fear.  The power dynamics between characters are complicated and fascinating, or they should be.  People are fighting for a sliver of self that isn't owned and denigrated by another person, and that makes me care and keeps me turning the pages. One novel for which this is especially true is The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, the very book that LaValle recommended in his post.  James's novel takes place not in America, but Jamaica, at the turn of the 19th century.   Told in dialect, it's about a young female slave named Lilith who participates in a plot to overthrow her plantation master.   Though it takes some time to get used to this voice and particular syntax, it's wholly absorbing once you do, perhaps because the language is a kind of bridge into this past.  The prose pulls you into Lilith's consciousness, which reflects the violent and brutal world in which she lives. And let me tell you: The Book of Night Women is one of the most violent and brutal books I have ever read. One day I read it for four hours straight, and the world was all wobbly and terrible after I put it down. Its unflinching depiction of slavery reminded me of something from Wyatt Mason's profile of Edward P. Jones, whose novel The Known World, about black slaveholders in antebellum Virginia, explores the tangled, contradictory ways that slavery can involve and affect an entire community.  In that novel, which I (and many others) consider a masterpiece, Jones quotes census numbers and scholarly texts--all of them made up.  Mason writes: What research on the subject Jones undertook was, in fact, quickly derailed after he happened upon an account of a white slave owner who spent her days abusing one of her black slaves, a little girl, by beating her head against a wall. “If I had wanted to tell the whole story of slavery, Americans couldn’t have taken that,” Jones told an interviewer. “People want to think that there was slavery, and then we got beyond it. People don’t want to hear that a woman would take a child and bang her head against the wall day after day. It’s nice that I didn’t read all those books. What I would have had to put down is far, far harsher and bleaker. Marlon James, on the other hand, did seem to read all of those books, and his novel faces those harsh realities head on.  But Jones and James' books are similar in that their characters are multidimensional, no matter their race, and the smallest dramas are specific and deeply felt, which makes these historical backdrops all the more real for a contemporary reader. In the Book of Night Women, for instance, Lilith becomes romantically involved with her Irish overseer, Quinn.  He believes, as an Irishman, that he understands oppression as she does, but she knows that can't be (and we, as readers of this narrative, know it, too). Their relationship is tender and sexy at times, and weird and upsetting at others.  And usually it's all of those qualities simultaneously, and you feel at once turned on, repelled, skeptical, nervous, grateful and vulnerable. 4. Kindred by Octavia Butler asks the reader to feel myriad emotions, too, and it proves literally that a character cannot emerge from important events unscathed.  Butler's book is not only about slavery, it's about time travel.  That's right: its main character, a black woman named Dana (actually her full name is Edana--which I loved), is again and again sent against her will to nineteenth-century Maryland to keep her white ancestor, Rufus, safe.  If he dies too soon, she will never be born.  The book's premise reminds me of the comedian Louis CK's routine about being white.  ("Black people can't fuck with time machines!" he jokes.  "A black guy with a time machine is like, "Hey, nothing before 1980, thank you, I don't want to go.") Every time Dana returns from these trips as a slave, only a few minutes or a few hours have passed in her real life in 1970's L.A.  Nevertheless, she carries her experience of slavery on her body--she returns injured, scarred, and by the end of the book (it's also where the book opens), she returns to the present without an arm.  In other words, the past will always interfere with the present.  She can't fully understand this history without it damaging her. Dana's white husband Kevin is also taken into the past with her, and it's here that the book is most compelling and thought-provoking to me.  In Maryland, Dana and Kevin must play slave and master in order to spend the night together, and after Kevin's trapped in the past for years, he takes on the same speech patterns as the whites during that time.  The couple want to believe that their personal relationship can remain pure, that the political and social climate of slavery won't infect their interactions, but that's impossible.  The very first time Dana returns from Maryland, she momentarily mistakes Kevin for a white southerner, out to hurt her, and she is frightened of him.  The past  has already trespassed onto the present, where she is supposed to feel safe and equal. It happens quickly. With Kindred, I identified with Dana, even if, were I to time travel back to antebellum Maryland, my problems would probably be more similar to Kevin's.  But like Dana, I'm a woman who lives in Los Angeles.  Like Dana, I'm a writer.  And like Dana before she time travels, I've read about slavery, and so I can only approach it as a reader.  Because Dana is a modern woman, she is wearing pants when she is transported, and in antebellum Maryland, characters ask her why she's dressed as a man. They want to know why she talks as she does.  And how she learned to write.  They wonder aloud if she thinks she's white--she sure does carry herself that way.  Maybe Dana's belief in her own equality ties her more strongly to me, a contemporary female reader, than race ties her to the black slaves in antebellum Maryland.  Or it only does, until a point.  Or it does and it doesn't, at the same time.  Either way, Butler has performed a kind of identity magic trick with her novel.  By experiencing this world as Dana does, as any contemporary person would, I too must suffer at the hands of slavery. 5. When we're younger, it feels like the only books we're given about black people are about slavery, just as the only books we're given about Jewish people are about the holocaust.  There's a danger there, as we might be led to believe these are the only stories such writers are allowed to tell.  Not at all.  As many contemporary black authors have proven, there are a zillion ways to write the black experience, and using  slavery as a subject is just one of them.  But writers like Marlon James, Edward P. Jones and Octavia Butler (and others, like the inimitable Toni Morrison--my God, have you read A Mercy?) prove that the fact of slavery is still upon us, it still haunts us, and that it can be told and retold in powerful, surprising and evocative ways that engage a reader.  Or this reader, at least.

The Franzen Cover and a Brief History of Time

Jonathan Franzen occupies the cover of this week's Time, and, as the magazine will happily point out, he's the first novelist to do so in "more than a decade." The Franzen cover---and the Franzen headline: "Great American Novelist"---is a pretty transparent bit of attention-mongering. After all, Franzen's predecessor, Stephen King, got only one paragraph in his cover story, and Time profiled Franzen only four years ago. (Both Franzen stories include lots of bird watching and Lev Grossman.) Still, Time could use a boost as much as literature, and it's hard to fault the magazine. In fact, its choice of Franzen provides an opportunity to look back at Time's long history as literary arbiter and evangelist. In The Powers That Be, David Halberstam writes that Time impresario Henry Luce had a powerful sense of what people should read, what was good for them to read, and an essential belief worthy of the best journalist, that any subject of importance could be made interesting. Thus the cover story, the personalizing of issues so that a lay reader could become more interested and more involved in serious reading matter. This same impulse seems to be at work in Time's Franzen cover. (Under the headline it reads: "His characters don't solve mysteries, have magical powers or live in the future.") Franzen himself has remarked on it. In his famous Harper's essay "Perchance to Dream," he writes that "my father, who was not a reader, nevertheless had some acquaintance with James Baldwin and John Cheever, because Time magazine put them on its cover." Franzen ends up arguing that a shift in Time's cover choices—from James Joyce to Scott Turow—offers more proof of America's cultural decline. But just about every interaction between Time and a literary type has been characterized by a waffling between reaching out and selling out that, today, we'd describe as Franzean. Two favorite examples: When Bennett Cerf tried to convince William Faulkner to do a second Time cover, 15 years after his first, Faulkner asked for an estimate on how much it would add to Random House's bottom line so that he could simply reimburse the publisher. In The Prisoner of Sex, Norman Mailer---who seems to have married Jeanne Campbell, Luce's former mistress, for revenge as much as for love---recalls Time's offer of "a cover story on the author's reactions to the most prominent phenomenon of the summer season: the extraordinary surge of interest in Women's Liberation." Despite having a movie to promote, Mailer decides that "only a fool would throw serious remarks into the hopper at Time." In 1923, Joseph Conrad appeared on Time's first bookish cover and its sixth overall. The story began: 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 which it is hoped will last through May. And that's about it. Conrad's entire cover story ran only 425 words, a standard length for early Time articles, and this first batch of literary covers were mostly linked to reviews. Thanks to the magazine's short and punchy house style, these reviews always managed to include some biographical information. (The section on "The Author" came right after the one on "The Significance.") By the 1930s, though, you could see a formula beginning to set -- a personalized opening, a capsule biography, some detailed description (Willa Cather "looks and talks like a kindly, sensible Middle-Western housewife, stout, low-heeled, good at marketing and mending"), and, above all, a few kind words about the author's latest. Given Time's practice of deploying multiple reporters, these profiles were often the most thorough or invasive of their time. (The J. D. Salinger cover story is a good example of this.) Given Time's goal of reaching the broadest possible audience, these profiles also turned their subjects into rather flat characters: Cather the housewife, Hemingway the hunter, and so on. The other thing to say about Time's audience is that, from the beginning, the magazine has paid attention to lowbrow lit. Its cover story on E. Phillips Oppenheim praises his "light fiction" and opens with a mutually flattering comparison to Henry Ford, and this is one of many such examples. In fact, after surveying its literary history, I'm more surprised that Time hasn't put Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer on its cover than that Jonathan Franzen made the cut. (Time did put Harry Potter on its cover for what was essentially a profile of J. K. Rowling.) Below, you too can survey this history through links to the covers and cover stories for each of Time's literary stars. Read them to chuckle at the magazine's weakness for hype (Robinson Jeffers is someone "a considerable public now considers the most impressive poet the U. S. has yet produced"). Read them to get a contemporary perspective on some historical figures (though don't expect the best and the brightest: Lillian Ross's New Yorker profile of Hemingway, for example, is much better than Time's). Read them to marvel at Time's uncanny ability to feature the best writers' worst books. Most of all, read them to watch how this red-bordered cultural institution ferries between the high and the low. The Virginia Woolf cover story is especially good at this, but all of them do it to one degree or another. Even Jonathan Franzen's. Methods Time put 14 authors on its cover in the 1920s, 23 in the 1930s, seven in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s, 10 in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s, four in the 1980s, four in the 1990s, one in the 2000s, and, now, Franzen in 2010. That adds up to an objective-sounding 83, but I should explain my principles in compiling this list. While Time also likes to revive dead authors---Faulkner, for example, submitted to that second cover in 1964, two years after his death---I included only living authors who wrote primarily imaginative work: novels, plays, or poetry. These criteria still left room for some judgment calls---William Allen White did not make the list because he's better known for his politics and his newspapering (and because White's cover story focuses on his Kansas gubernatorial campaign), but I kept Upton Sinclair and the cover story on his California gubernatorial campaign. Feel free to dispute my choices or to add anyone I missed in the comments. Each entry includes the author's name and, where applicable, the name of the work that prompted the profile. There are also links to a print-friendly version of the cover story and to an image of the cover itself. In fact, thanks to Time's new paywall, the Franzen cover story is the only one you can't read online. The List 1920-1929 Joseph Conrad. "A Great Novelist to Visit the United States." April 7, 1923. Cover image. Israel Zangwill. "Imaginary Interviews: Israel Zangwill, Englishman of Letters." September 17, 1923. Cover image. George Bernard Shaw / Saint Joan. "Saint Joan." December 24, 1923. Cover image. Eugene O'Neill / All God's Chillun Got Wings. "All God's Chillun." March 17, 1924. Cover image. Amy Lowell / John Keats. "Miss Lowell Eulogizes, Analyzes, Forgives the Poet." March 2, 1925. Cover image. Booth Tarkington / Women. "Mr. Tarkington's Ladies." December 21, 1925. Cover image. H. G. Wells / The World of William Clissold. "Wells, Wells, Wells." September 20, 1926. Cover image. Rudyard Kipling / Debits and Credits. "Loud Kipling." September 27, 1926. Cover image. Sinclair Lewis / Elmer Gantry. "Bible Boar." March 14, 1927. Cover image. Michael Arlen / Young Men in Love. "Mayfairian." May 2, 1927. Cover image. E. Phillips Oppenheim / Miss Brown of X. Y. O.. "Number 100." September 12, 1927. Cover image. Eugene O'Neill / Strange Interlude. "New Plays in Manhattan." February 13, 1928. Cover image. Edgar Wallace / People. "Master of Mass." April 15, 1929. Cover image. Robert Bridges / The Testament of Beauty. "Laureate Testifies." December 2, 1929. Cover image. 1930-1939 Willa Cather / Shadows on the Rock. "Amen, Sinner." August 3, 1931. Cover image. Eugene O'Neill / Mourning Becomes Electra. "Greece in New England." November 2, 1931. Cover image. Philip Barry / The Animal Kingdom. "Angel Like Lindbergh." January 25, 1932. Cover image. Robinson Jeffers / Thurso's Landing and Other Poems. "Harrowed Marrow." April 4, 1932. Cover image. T. E. Lawrence / The Odyssey [trans.]. "Scholar-Warrior." November 28, 1932. Cover image. Noel Coward / Design for Living. "First Englishman." January 30, 1933. Cover image. Gertrude Stein / The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. "Stem's Way." September 11, 1933. Cover image. James Joyce / Ulysses. "Ulysses Lands." January 29, 1934. Cover image. Thomas Mann / Joseph and his Brothers. "Great Mann." June 11, 1934. Cover image. Upton Sinclair. "California Climax." October 24, 1934. Cover image. Maxwell Anderson / Valley Forge. "Washington, by Anderson." December 10, 1934. Cover image. Kathleen Norris / Woman in Love. "Golden Honeymoon." January 28, 1935. Cover image. John Buchan. "Canada's New Governor General." October 21, 1935. Cover image. George Santayana / The Last Puritan. "Philosophic Footballer." February 3, 1936. Cover image. John Dos Passos / U.S.A. trilogy. "Private Historian." August 10, 1936. Cover image. Virginia Woolf / The Years. "How Time Passes." April 12, 1937. Cover image. Sidney Howard. "Meat Show Meeting." June 7, 1937. Cover image. Ernest Hemingway / To Have and To Have Not. "All Stones End . . . ." October 18, 1937. Cover image. Holger Cahill. "In the Business District." September 5, 1938. Cover image. Andre Malraux / Man's Hope. "News From Spain." November 7, 1938. Cover image. William Faulkner / The Wild Palms. "When the Dam Breaks." January 23, 1939. Cover image. James Joyce / Finnegans Wake. "Night Thoughts." May 8, 1939. Cover image. Carl Sandburg / Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. "Your Obt. Servt." December 4, 1939. Cover image. 1940-1949 Kenneth Roberts / Oliver Wiswell. "Angry Man's Romance." November 25, 1940. Cover image. Sinclair Lewis / Cass Timberlane. "Laureate of the Booboisie." October 8, 1945. Cover image. Craig Rice. "Mulled Murder, with Spice." January 28, 1946. Cover image. Eugene O'Neill / The Iceman Cometh. "The Ordeal of Eugene O'Neill." October 21, 1946. Cover image. C. S. Lewis / The Screwtape Letters. "Don v. Devil." September 8, 1947. Cover image. Rebecca West / The Meaning of Treason. "Circles of Perdition." December 8, 1947. Cover image. John P. Marquand / Point of No Return. "Spruce Street Boy." March 7, 1949. Cover image. 1950-1959 T. S. Eliot / The Cocktail Party. "Mr. Eliot." March 6, 1950. Cover image. Robert Frost. "Pawky Poet." October 9, 1950. Cover image. James Thurber. "Priceless Gift of Laughter." July 9, 1951. Cover image. Graham Greene / The End of the Affair. "Shocker." October 29, 1951. Cover image. Joyce Carey / Prisoner of Grace. "Cheerful Protestant." October 20, 1952. Cover image. Thorton Wilder. "An Obliging Man." January 12, 1953. Cover image. Ernest Hemingway. "An American Storyteller." December 13, 1954. Cover image. Andre Malraux. "Man's Quest." July 18, 1955. Cover image. Herman Wouk / Marjorie Morningstar. "The Wouk Mutiny." September 5, 1955. Cover image. James Gould Cozzens / By Love Possessed. "The Hermit of Lambertville." September 2, 1957. Cover image. Boris Pasternak / Doctor Zhivago. "The Passion of Yurii Zhivago." December 15, 1958. Cover image. 1960-1969 J. D. Salinger / Franny and Zooey. "Sonny." September 15, 1961. Cover image. Tennessee Williams / The Night of the Iguana. "The Angel of the Odd." March 9, 1962. Cover image. Evgeny Evtushenko. "A Longing for Truth." April 13, 1962. Cover image. James Baldwin / The Fire Next Time. "The Root of the Negro Problem." May 7, 1963. Cover image. John Cheever / The Wapshot Scandal. "Ovid in Ossining." March 27, 1964. Cover image. Phyllis McGinley. "The Telltale Heart." June 18, 1965. Cover image. Robert Lowell. "The Second Chance." June 2, 1967. Cover image. John Updike / Couples. "View from the Catacombs." April 26, 1968. Cover image. Alexander Solzhenitsyn / In The First Circle. "The Writer as Russia's Conscience Headline." September 27, 1968. Cover image. Vladimir Nabokov / Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. "Prospero's Progress." May 23, 1969. Cover image. 1970-1979 Gunter Grass / Local Anaesthetic. "The Dentist's Chair as an Allegory in Life." April 13, 1970. Cover image. Richard Bach / Jonathan Livingston Seagull. "It's a Bird! It's a Dream! It's Supergull!" November 13, 1972. Cover image. Norman Mailer / Marilyn. "Two Myths Converge: NM Discovers MM." July 16, 1973. Cover image. Alexander Solzhenitsyn / The Gulag Archipelago. "An Artist Becomes an Exile." February 25, 1974. Cover image. Gore Vidal / 1876. "Laughing Cassandra." March 1, 1976. Cover image. Alex Haley / Roots. "Why 'Roots' Hit Home." February 14, 1977. Cover image. John Le Carre / The Honourable Schoolboy. "The Spy Who Came in for the Gold." October 3, 1977. Cover image. Mario Puzo / Fools Die. "Paperback Godfather." August 28, 1978. Cover image. 1980-1989 John Irving / The Hotel New Hampshire. "Life Into Art." August 31, 1981. Cover image. John Updike / Bech is Back. "Perennial Promises Kept." October 18, 1982. Cover image. Garrison Keillor / Lake Wobegon Days. "Lonesome Whistle Blowing." November 4, 1985. Cover image. Stephen King / It. "King of Horror." October 6, 1986. Cover image. 1990-1999 Scott Turow / Burden of Proof. "Burden of Success." June 11, 1990. Cover image. Michael Crichton / The Lost World. "Meet Mr. Wizard." September 25, 1995. Cover image. Toni Morrison / Paradise. "Paradise Found." January 19, 1998. Cover image. Tom Wolfe / A Man in Full. "Tom Wolfe Writes Again." November 2, 1998. Cover image. 2000-2009 Stephen King / "Riding the Bullet." "Everyone's A Star.com." March 27, 2000. Cover image. 2010 Jonathan Franzen / Freedom. "Great American Novelist." August 23, 2010. Cover image.
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