Neglected Holiday

Other than required high school reading, what do Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and E.B. White have in common? Each crafted some of their most celebrated essays (Capote’s “A House On the Heights” and White’s “Here Is New York” among them) for a largely forgotten magazine called Holiday, a travel rag that, during its heyday in the 50s and early 60s, ranked right up there with Life and Esquire. So why have so few people heard of it?

Measuring in at a hefty 11 by 14 inches, Holiday ran from 1946 through 1977 and, at its height in the 1950s and early 60s, drew more than one million subscribers each month. “The magazine, in effect, sold an idea of travel as enrichment, a literal path to intellectual and spiritual betterment,” Michael Callahan wrote recently in Vanity Fair. “What Vogue did for fashion, Holiday did for destinations.” Part of it was timing. Holiday came about just as World War II was winding down, and many Americans were eager to explore the globe. As Roger Angell explained to Callahan: “It was a peacetime world. And you could see that all of these places that we had become aware of in horrific circumstances were not peacetime places that you wanted to go.”

The magazine boasted one of the most dynamic editor/art director relationships of the 20th century, Patrick Henry and Frank Zachary. Henry provided the words: John Cheever, John O’Hara, and Joan Didion all contributed to its pages. Ray Bradbury wrote a mind-boggling story about how Disneyland’s childhood fantasies are better than adult’s revisionist histories, saying: “Disney liberates men to their better selves.” Stories like Didion’s “Notes from a Native Daughter” and Kerouac’s “Alone On a Mountaintop” are good examples of popular stories originally commissioned by Holiday editors that went on to go viral on their own.

For his part, Zachary’s art department — which included illustrator Ronald Searle and legendary photographers Arnold Newman and Slim Aarons — designed some of the most mind-blowing magazine covers known to man. Zachary’s goal, he said recently (he’s now 99 and living in Long Island), was simple. “I just wanted to make the finest magazine.”

Lane Koivu