From the Editors
September’s special Style & Design issue ushered in a new look for the magazine. Some readers were underwhelmed. “Not at all fond of it,” said Robin Grose. But most comments were positive. “Simply stunning!” wrote Asuncion Lavrin. “Keep the new and modern design!” Mary Benham was “delighted,” adding: “The graphic design is appealing and—most important—the major articles are engaging without being superficial.”
Elements of Style
I disagree with the presentation of Steve Jobs as a genius whose design talents revolutionized technology and changed the world ["Keep it Simple”]. He had an eye for a good thing and pulled together teams of very talented people who then designed and built what he wanted. He was a businessman, not a deity or design guru.
Jobs had an extraordinary aesthetic sensibility of form and function. He and his team were able to transform the computer, music, motion picture, phone and tablet industries. He was a visionary, artist and innovator who cared about producing great products with a first-rate user experience.
Thorpe the Great
In the case of Jim Thorpe [“The All-American,” July-August], errors have been repeated so frequently they now have a life of their own. I would like to see full recognition for this great athlete, but the first step is to set the record straight. The story that he was the Carlisle record-holder in the high jump wearing overalls and hickory work shirt in 1907 is apocryphal. He won the class contest high jump on April 20, and competed in two other meets that spring, winning neither. In the dual meet against Lafayette in 1912, Thorpe did win the six events mentioned, but could not have scored enough points to win the meet single-handedly; Carlisle had 13 athletes compete and score that day. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe did not win the 100-meter event, and his time of 11.2 seconds was equaled (or bettered) by decathletes a dozen times leading up to 1948. Thorpe’s 1,500-meter time was bettered 45 times in Olympic decathlons between 1924 and 1968. (See my book Decathlon: A Colorful History of Track and Field’s Most Challenging Event.) And there is no evidence that the Stockholm decathlon was conducted in the rain. The IOC’s decision to strip Thorpe’s medal and strike his records came in 1913. It is my belief that the photo on page 64 was not taken at the 1912 Games but in Long Island City as Thorpe competed in a post-Olympic event, the American All-Around.
Author Sally Jenkins responds:
Frank Zarnowski is an extraordinary authority on decathlon records, and I regret any numerical errors in my piece. Other details, however, have multiple sources. The story of the high jump in the hickory work shirt comes directly from Pop Warner and Jim Thorpe, who both included it in their recollections of Carlisle. There is also a similar account from Albert Exendine, one of Thorpe’s Carlisle teammates, who was interviewed extensively about Thorpe. Just because Thorpe didn’t own the official school mark that year doesn’t mean he didn’t out-jump the varsity in an informal practice. The whole point of the anecdote is that he wasn’t on the team yet. As for the rain in Stockholm, Thorpe’s biographer Kate Buford describes it in detail from contemporary accounts.