Books: The Doldrums

"Do what we can," sighed Ralph Waldo Emerson, "summer will have its flies." In 1945, summer was having its perennial drought in readable books. "Along about every July," cracked Random House's bubbling Bennett Cerf, "publishers start crying into their $6 lunches at the Colony and $2 mint juleps at the Ritz Bar that business is awful. But by September 10, they're again screaming that they're in the 90% income tax bracket."

1945's drought was intensified by stringent wartime paper rationing and the absence, on military service, of a generation of would-be writers. Publishers...

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