Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

What Do Newsweek and Twinkies Have in Common?

Htwinkies

The iconic Twinkies.

Food for the soul? No, that's not it. Unless you have spent the last few weeks hiding under a rock, you undoubtedly know that both will cease to exist as we have known them. Newsweek, the venerable weekly news magazine, was founded in 1933 as an alternative to Time. It has spent most of the past 80 years as number 2, but still a large circulation, successful alternative. However, the past few years have been rocky – declining circulation, sales to new ownership, and mergers dotting the way. Ultimately, they were but a delaying tactic. Newsweek's story is the same as that of so many other newspapers and magazines. Free, instant news from the internet stole their audience. Paper and ink could not compete with electronic impulses. Newsweek will continue in a different form. No more paper and ink, it will no longer appear on newsstands, no longer show up in your mailbox. It will, instead, become a website only. Why there is a need for a weekly review of the news website in a day when people want news the moment it happens is unclear, but we wish them well. Presumably, they will at least offer a more thorough presentation.

The end of Newsweek was a brief story. Most heard about it, but if anyone rushed out to the newsstand to pick up some last copies, it did not make the news wires. It was nice to have known you, goodbye. The Twinkies story was more momentous. People did fly to their grocers to pick up last available packages of these favorites, and the other snack cakes made by the dying Hostess Brands. Newsweek was respected, Twinkies are an icon.

The demise of Twinkies is a bit more complicated a story. They were invented three years before Newsweek, and they and the stable of Hostess cakes have filled grocers' shelves from coast to coast for generations. Changing tastes, and particularly more focus on healthy foods, hurt their popularity, but their parent bakery's bankruptcies - it is now on its second – costly reorganization, debts, Wall Street ownership, and an unwillingness by some workers to accept further wage cuts, signaled their end. They will not be replaced by digital versions, nor by carrots either, no matter what nutritionists tell us. Rights to their brands will likely be bought by someone else, who will then bake “new” Twinkies. Whether they will be the same is anyone's guess. Replicating the astonishing list of ingredients won't be easy.

It is that list of ingredients, along with the iconic name, that made Twinkies such a symbol of 20th century America. It is also what makes this story appropriate for a book website. Five years ago, I reviewed the book Twinkie, Deconstructed, by Steve Ettlinger, for this website. Click here for the review. The author tracked down the myriad of strange sounding ingredients and what role each played in creating a Twinkie. Suffice it to say, a single Twinkie has more ingredients then a typical seven-course dinner, and most of them are unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce.

The strange ingredients led to much bad press for the Twinkie. It may have been unfair. The ingredients in a Twinkie, like fresh fruits and vegetables, arise from the good earth. The only difference is, instead of being grown, they are mined. Some people are troubled by this.

While Twinkies were the star, Hostess provided many other varieties of snack cakes, and delicious as they were, I would only put Twinkies in the middle. Superior, in my estimation, were the Suzy Q's, with the greatest quantity of Hostess's chemically wondrous “creme” filling, their cupcakes with the squiggly lines on top (among the ingredients in those squiggly lines is pig fat), and greatest of all, nature's perfect food, the Sno Ball. An unscientific lifelong survey tells me that 90% of the public detests these pink and white round combinations of coconut, marshmallow, chocolate cake, and, of course, “creme.” For the other 10%, they are the most wonderful things ever created. Count me in the 10%.

Going down with the Hostess cakes is another classic American brand owned by its corporate parent – Wonder Bread. Probably every young person of my generation ate sandwiches made with Wonder Bread everyday for their entire youth, such was its popularity. Wonder Bread was the whitest of white breads, thoroughly bleached of anything that might conceivably be good for you. Somehow, it still “built strong bodies 12 ways,” but nutritionally certainly wasn't one of those twelve ways. I can't imagine what they were.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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