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It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, But Didn't We Have Fun?: 'Esquire' in the Sixties

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It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, but Didn't We Have Fun?: Esquire in The Sixties

Current Status:
In Season
Carol Polsgrove
Nonfiction, Pop Culture

We gave it a B-

For a while there, every decade seemed to have its defining magazine: The ’40s had The New Yorker, the ’50s had Harper’s, the ’60s had Esquire. The ’90s, it appears, has books about magazines. New Yorker founder Harold Ross, for one, was recently profiled in hardcover form, and now Harold Hayes, Esquire‘s editor and chieftain during the magazine’s heyday — when it was consistently publishing the likes of Gay Talese, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Tom Wolfe, when Gore Vidal and William Buckley had it out in the pages of the magazine — is having his literary revival. Hayes, like the New Yorker‘s Ross, was a bit of a hayseed, and his outsider’s fascination with all that was urbane and cultural is postulated as one of his assets. He was also well served by an apparently limitless curiosity and willingness to stand firm on behalf of his writers and artists, particularly in the face of scandalized advertisers. Unfortunately, the wit and creativity that were so much a part of Hayes’ Esquire are not a part of Carol Polsgrove’s It Wasn’t Pretty, Folks, But Didn’t We Have Fun?: Esquire in the Sixties, and without them, Hayes (who died in 1989 of a brain tumor) seems about as exciting and immediately relevant as National Geographic. B-