The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century

In This Review

The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century
By Alan Brinkley
Knopf, 2010
560 pp. $35.00

“Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind,” ran the old New Yorker parody of Time magazine’s brash style. Brinkley’s sentences generally run in the ordinary direction, and his well organized, fluently written biography of the founder of Time and Life magazines comes at an opportune time. With Time’s old archrival Newsweek being sold for less than a six-pack of beer, and with the influence of the “mainstream media” everywhere under attack, this long look at the career of a dynamic American media mogul offers useful insights into the ways the American media landscape adapts to technological and social change. As Luce and his Yale classmate and rival Briton Hadden envisioned it, Time magazine was originally what might now be called a news aggregator, alerting readers to important stories from a wide range of printed sources. Like, Time sold itself to readers as a convenient way to keep up with a volume of otherwise indigestible and scattered information. Brinkley manages to tell the story of Luce’s (generally sad and frustrated) life while alerting readers to ways in which rapid technological change continually reshaped the business environment in which his magazines had to succeed. This is an outstanding book about an extraordinary man; one hopes it finds the wide readership it deserves.

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