Clifton Fadiman

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Clifton Fadiman
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Clifton Paul Fadiman

May 15, 1904
DiedJune 20, 1999(1999-06-20) (aged 95)
Alma mater Columbia University
OccupationIntellectual, author, editor, radio and television personality
Years active1927–1998
EmployerSimon & Schuster, New Yorker
Known for Information, Please! (radio)
Notable work
Lifetime Reading Plan, The Mathematical Magpie , Fantasia Mathematica (Books)
Television This Is Show Business ), The Name's the Same
Spouse(s)Pauline Elizabeth Rush, Annalee Jacoby Fadiman
ChildrenJonathan Rush, Kim Fadiman, Anne Fadiman
Relatives Boris Sidis, William James Sidis
Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Clifton Paul "Kip" Fadiman (May 15, 1904 – June 20, 1999) was an American intellectual, author, editor, radio and television personality. He began his work with the radio, and switched to television later in his career.



Born in Brooklyn, [1] New York, Fadiman was a nephew of the famed 1887-emigree Russian psychologist Boris Sidis and a first cousin of the child prodigy William James Sidis. [2]

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Boris Sidis American psychiatrist

Boris Sidis was a Ukrainian-American psychologist, physician, psychiatrist, and philosopher of education. Sidis founded the New York State Psychopathic Institute and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. He was the father of child prodigy William James Sidis. Boris Sidis eventually opposed mainstream psychology and Sigmund Freud, and thereby died ostracized. He was married to a maternal aunt of Clifton Fadiman, the noted American intellectual.

Fadiman grew up in Brooklyn. His mother worked as a nurse; his father, Isadore, immigrated from Russia in 1892 and worked as a druggist. [3]

He attended Columbia College at Columbia University. One of his teachers was lifelong friend Mark Van Doren; his undergraduate contemporaries included Jacques Barzun, Mortimer Adler, Lionel Trilling, Herbert Solow, Arthur F. Burns, Frank S. Hogan, Louis Zukofsky and Whittaker Chambers. Though he entered with the Class of 1924, his graduation was delayed until 1925 because of financial constraints. [3] Chambers clearly includes Fadiman in a group of ernste Menschen ["serious people"], whose ability to attend Columbia he attributes to "a struggle with a warping poverty impossible for those who have not glimpsed it to imagine it." [4] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa. [1] Fadiman had ambitions to become a scholar, but at graduation, the chairman of the English Department told him, "We have room for only one Jew, and we have chosen Mr. Trilling." [5]

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Mark Van Doren American poet and literary critic

Mark Van Doren was an American poet, writer and critic. He was a scholar and a professor of English at Columbia University for nearly 40 years, where he inspired a generation of influential writers and thinkers including Thomas Merton, Robert Lax, John Berryman, Whittaker Chambers, and Beat Generation writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He was literary editor of The Nation, in New York City (1924–1928), and its film critic, 1935 to 1938.

Jacques Barzun French-American historian

Jacques Martin Barzun was a French-American historian known for his studies of the history of ideas and cultural history. He wrote about a wide range of subjects, including baseball, mystery novels, and classical music, and was also known as a philosopher of education. In the book Teacher in America (1945), Barzun influenced the training of schoolteachers in the United States.


After graduation from Columbia, Fadiman taught English at the Ethical Culture High School (now known as the "Fieldston School") in the Bronx from 1925 to 1927. [3]

Ethical Culture Fieldston School american school

Ethical Culture Fieldston School' (ECFS), known as just Fieldston, is a private independent school in New York City. The school is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. The school serves approximately 1700 students with 325 faculty and staff. Jessica L. Bagby has been the Head of School since June 2016. Kyle Wilkie-Glass is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Administrative Officer. The school consists of four divisions: Ethical Culture, Fieldston Lower, Fieldston Middle, and Fieldston Upper. Ethical Culture, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Fieldston Lower, located on the Fieldston campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, serve Pre-K through 5th Grade. The two lower schools feed into Fieldston Middle and Fieldston Upper —also located on the Fieldston campus in Riverdale. Ethical Culture is headed by Rob Cousins, Fieldston Lower is headed by Joe McAuley, Fieldston Middle is headed by Principal Chia-Chee Chiu, and Fieldston Upper is headed by Nigel Furlonge. Tuition and fees for ECFS were $48,645 for the 2017-18 school year.


Fadiman worked ten years for Simon & Schuster, ending as its chief editor. At his interview with Max Schuster (a fellow alumnus of Columbia), Fadiman pulled out a folder with a hundred ideas for books. Among Fadiman's original one hundred was to turn Robert Ripley's newspaper cartoon, Believe it or Not! into book form. The series has gone on to sell over 30 million copies. [6]

Simon & Schuster large English-language publisher

Simon & Schuster, Inc., a subsidiary of CBS Corporation, is an American publishing company founded in New York City in 1924 by Richard Simon and Max Schuster. As of 2016, Simon & Schuster was publishing 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints.

Max Lincoln Schuster was an American book publisher and the co-founder of the publishing company Simon & Schuster. Schuster was instrumental in the creation of Pocket Books, and the mass paperback industry, along with Richard L. Simon, Robert F. DeGraff and Leon Shimkin. Schuster published many famous works of history and philosophy including the Story of Civilization series of books by Will Durant and Ariel Durant.

Robert Ripley American cartoonist

LeRoy Robert Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist who is known for creating the Ripley's Believe It or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd facts from around the world.

While at Simon & Schuster, he started the translation career of Whittaker Chambers by having him translate Bambi from German:

My college friend, Clifton Fadiman, was then [circa 1927–1928] a reader at Simon and Schuster, the New York book publishers. He offered to let me try my hand at translating a little German book. It was about a deer named Bambi and was written by an Austrian, of whom I had never heard, named Felix Salten... Bambi was an instant success, and I suddenly found myself an established translator. [7]

Fadiman then took charge of The New Yorker's book review section, 1933–1943.

He became emcee for the National Book Award ceremonies in 1938 and 1939, at least, and again when those literary awards by the American book industry were re-inaugurated in 1950. [8] [9] (The awards were inaugurated May 1936, conferred annually through 1942 [publication years 1935 to 1941], and re-inaugurated March 1950 [publication year 1949].)

Fadiman became a judge for the Book of the Month Club in 1944.

In the 1970s he was also senior editor of Cricket Magazine, where he wrote the book review column for children, "Cricket's Bookshelf".


While still at the New Yorker, Fadiman became well-known on radio, where he hosted its most popular quiz show, Information, Please! from May 1938 to June 1948. A regular trio of pundits—Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran and Oscar Levant—plus one guest expert conducted each session with erudite charm and good-natured wordplay under Fadiman's nimble control. (Guest John Gunther's mention of the then-current Iranian potentate prompted Fadiman to ask, "Are you shah?," to which Gunther quipped, "Sultanly.")


In 1952, Information Please! was briefly revived for CBS Television as a 13-week summer replacement for the musical variety program The Fred Waring Show . During that June–September period, devoted fans of the departed radio program could finally not only hear, but also see Fadiman, Adams, and Kieran in action.

His longest-lasting TV program was This Is Show Business , which ran on CBS from July 15, 1949 to March 9, 1954. Called This Is Broadway during the first four months of its run, the show mixed song, dance, and other musical entertainment, with information. Host Fadiman, celebrity guest panelists, and regular raconteurs/intellectuals Kaufman, Abe Burrows, and Sam Levenson commented on the musical performers and chatted with them. In late September 1951, This Is Show Business became the first regular CBS Television series to be broadcast live from coast-to-coast. The continuing need in 1950s TV for summer series to replace live variety shows likewise brought this show back in 1956 for a 12-week period (June 26 – September 11). Fadiman and Burrows returned along with new panelists Walter Slezak and actress Jacqueline Susann, the future author of Valley of the Dolls . Susann's husband, TV executive Irving Mansfield, produced the 1956 revival for NBC television.

Fadiman was also the last master of ceremonies to host the ABC-TV game show The Name's the Same . After the departure of original host Robert Q. Lewis, who had presided for three years, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman hired different hosts for the final 39-episode cycle: Dennis James for 18 weeks, then Bob and Ray for 10 weeks, and then Fadiman for the remaining 11 weeks. The series, broadcast live, featured namesakes of celebrities and other "famous names". On August 16, 1955, when a woman contestant was discovered to be "Hope Diamond," Fadiman personally orchestrated an astounding surprise: he arranged for the real45 carats (9.0 g) Hope Diamond to be displayed to the amazed panelists and the national television audience. Such was Fadiman's reputation that the priceless jewel was entrusted to him.

Fadiman filled in for What's My Line? host John Charles Daly for two weeks in 1958 when Daly was on assignment in Tokyo.


Fadiman's witticisms and sayings were frequently printed in newspapers and magazines. "When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before, you see more in you than there was before," was one of the better known. Of Stendhal, Fadiman wrote, "He has no grace, little charm, less humor... [and] is not really a good storyteller..."

With the advent of TV, Fadiman gained in popularity, quickly establishing himself as an all-purpose, highly knowledgeable guest and host. At ease in front of the TV camera and experienced from his years in radio, he frequently appeared on talk shows and hosted a number of upscale quiz programs.

Fadiman became a prime example of the "witty intellectual" type popular on television in the 1950s. John Charles Daly, Bennett Cerf, George S. Kaufman, Alexander King, and a number of other television celebrities personified, along with Fadiman, the highly educated, elegant, patrician raconteurs and pundits regarded by TV executives of that era as appealing to the upper-class owners of expensive early TV sets.


Fadiman received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. [10]

Personal life

Fadiman's first marriage was in 1927 to Pauline Elizabeth Rush, with whom he had a son, Jonathan Rush. They divorced in 1949. His second marriage was in 1950 to Annalee Jacoby, aka Annalee Fadiman, an author, screenwriter for MGM and World War II foreign correspondent for Time and Life . As a widow, she later used the name Annalee Jacoby Fadiman. [11] She co-wrote Thunder Out of China with Theodore H. White (1946). Clifton and Annalee had a son, Kim Fadiman, and a daughter, writer Anne Fadiman. On February 5, 2002, Annalee committed suicide in Captiva, Florida, aged 85, after a long battle with breast cancer and Parkinson's disease. [1] [12]

Fadiman lost his eyesight when he was in his early 90s but continued to review manuscripts for the Book of the Month Club by listening to tapes of books recorded by his son Kim, after which Fadiman would dictate his impressions to his secretary. [1]


Fadiman died on June 20, 1999, of pancreatic cancer in Sanibel, Florida, at the age of 95 - he lived on nearby Captiva Island. In the year of his death, a fourth edition of Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan was published as The New Lifetime Reading Plan. [13]

In its obituary, the New York Times called Fadiman an "essayist, critic, editor and indefatigable anthologist whose encyclopedic knowledge made him a mainstay of Information Please and other popular radio programs in the late 1930's, 40's and 50's" and noted that he "also helped establish the Book-of-the-Month Club and served on its editorial board for more than 50 years." [14]


The catalog of the Library of Congress has more than 90 works associated with Fadiman's name. [15]

Translations from German


Children's collections and stories

Prefaces, introductions and/or editions or readers


The Library of Congress has many recordings of Fadiman, which include:


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    1. 1 2 3 4 "Clifton Fadiman papers, 1966–1970". Columbia University. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
    2. "My perspective of Amy Wallace's The Prodigy (1986)". Doug Renselle. September 1–16, 1998.
    3. 1 2 3 One of "Kip's" older brothers, Edwin, taught him how to read. Edwin later married Celeste Frankel and became the brother-in-law to Margaret Lefranc (Frankel), who was a future recipient of the Governor's Award for Painting. Cross, Timothy P. (September 1999). "Clifton Fadiman '25: An Erudite Guide to the Wisdom of Others". Columbia University. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
    4. Chambers, Whittaker (1964). Duncan Norton Taylor, ed. Cold Friday. New York: Random House. p. 125. ISBN   978-0-394-41969-5.
    5. Carolyn Heilbrun. When Men were the Only Models we Had. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002, p. 29.
    6. Silverman, Al (2008). The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Publishers, Their Editors and Authors. Truman Talley. ISBN   9780312350031.
    7. Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. pp. 56, 239. ISBN   978-0-89526-789-4.
    8. "Programs on the Air (Radio)". New York Times. March 16, 1950. p. 46.
    9. "Book Publishers Make 3 Awards: ... Gold Plaques". New York Times. March 17, 1950. p. 21.
    10. "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12. (With acceptance speech by Fadiman and introduction by Al Silverman.)
    11. "Clifton Fadiman to Wed; Gets License With Mrs. Jacoby, Widow of War Correspondent". New York Times. February 8, 1950. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
    12. "Milestones – TIME". Time. February 18, 2002.
    14. Severo, Richard (June 21, 1999). "Clifton Fadiman, a Wordsmith Known for His Encyclopedic Knowledge, Is Dead at 95". New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
    15. "Online Catalog". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 13, 2012.

    Further reading