Friday, October 20, 2017


But this semi-regular scavenger hunt, which treated this entire strange world as its playground, was not the greatest content called “Queries and Answers” in the New York Times. That distinction goes to the similarly named if far more specifically inclined section that ran weekly in the Book Review for over half a century. It was basically Shazam, but for poetryInstead of an app with terabytes of data at its beck and call, all it had was millions of Times readers, superheroes armed with a jumbled mass of verses memorized in the sixth-grade, and the ability to acquire an endless number of stamps. Readers would send in snippets they remembered from their school days or ran across in their day-to-day lives in the hopes that another fellow Times lover would return it to them whole a few weeks later. And amazingly, they often did. Dozens of people from all over the country would send an envelope to Manhattan with the lost bit of verse, creating a Shop Around the Corner in which the Timesacted as mediator, an epistolary romance in which those involved fell in love with literature instead of each other. Hazel Felleman took over the column in 1923, and continued doing so until her retirement in 1951. She was the first line in the Times’ literary Pinkerton agency, consulting the archives to see if a request had already been answered (If the quote was from “Evolution,” by Langdon Smith, it had already been answered dozens of times, please stop sending it in), if it could be found in her collection of reference books, or if a librarian or academic knew the answer. If those methods didn’t work, the quotation would appear in the paper under the headline “Appeals to Readers.” In 1936, she published a book titled, The Best Loved Poems of the American People, featuring the poems that readers kept writing in to find. 

Let The New York Times Google That For You

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