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Infused with intelligence and charm, Back Then is an elegant reflection on transformative years in the lives of two young people and New York City. Marked by their youthful passion, this double memoir marries the authors' distinct literary styles with a riveting narrative that captures the density and texture of private, social, and working life in the 1950s.
Novelist Anne Bernays, born in 1930, and biographer Justin Kaplan, born in 1925, both natives of New York, came of age in the 1950s, when the pent-up energies of the Depression years and World War II were at flood tide. Back Then, written in two separate voices, is the candid, anecdotal account of two children of privilege, one from New York's East Side, the other from the West Side, pursuing careers in publishing and eventually leaving to write their own books. They both sought self-knowledge and realization through years of psychoanalysis. They brushed shoulders with celebrities like William Faulkner, Somerset Maugham, Marlene Dietrich, and Anatole Broyard.
Before Bernays and Kaplan met and married, each had enjoyed the sexual and social freedom that, along with the dark shadow of McCarthyism and the Cold War, was among the distinguishing marks of the 1950s. In many other respects, the story they tell could almost as well be about an earlier era.
This vibrant, balanced memoir offers an indelible portrait of postwar New York -- exhilarating, hospitable, and affordable. A striking collaboration by two prominent figures in American letters, Back Then surprises and delights as Bernays and Kaplan recall their youthful pursuits, the merging of their lives, and the city's underlying influence on them.