Monday, December 11, 2006

New Bio Offers Brief History of TIME

I think that I can say with near dead certainty that you have never heard of Briton Hadden (1898-1929). As revealed in Isaiah Wilner's new biography of Hadden, The Man Time Forgot, that is precisely the way that Hadden's business partner and supposed best friend, Henry R. Luce, wanted it.
So, who was Briton Hadden? None other than the founder of TIME magazine. "Wait," you're saying to yourself if you believe that you know anything at all about the magazine's history, "Wasn't Henry Luce the founder of TIME?" The truth is that Hadden and Luce together founded the newsmagazine in 1923. However, as Wilner takes great pains to emphasize, the original idea, as well as the magazine's tone and signature prose style, came from Hadden, who first dreamed of creating such a publication as early as 1913.
It was mainly Luce, Wilner suggests, who viewed his relationship with Hadden as a rivalry; a rivalry in which Luce inevitably came in second. Yet when, in 1929, just as TIME was emerging as one of the most popular and influential magazines in the nation, the 31 year old Hadden died of a mysterious infection exacerbated by his playboy lifestyle, Luce seemed finally to have come out on top. Immediately following his partner's demise, Luce had Hadden's name removed from TIME's masthead and began to take credit, or, at the very least, fail to reject any credit given to him, for TIME's founding and editorial outlook.
Though The Man Time Forgot is no hagiograhy, Wilner's admiration for his subject comes through on every page, and he lets pass no opportunity to remind the reader that Hadden, not Luce, was TIME magazine's true father. The portrait that emerges through his narrative is of a complicated, troubled genius unfairly denied the place in history that should rightly be his for his part in changing, Wilner contends, the very face of American journalism.
Wilner's judgment upon Luce is equally clear. "But the essence of a man's character," Wilner concludes, "is tested only when it conflicts with his self-interest. Luce failed that test..."
The Man Time Forgot is invaluable not only as a noble and long overdue attempt to set straight the historical record, but as a glimpse into the early days of what is now the world's largest media conglomerate and a portrait of the complex, fascinating, and, unfortunately, nearly forgotten man who started it all.

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