The founding editor of the New York Review of Books looks back on 50 years:
Danner: "I’m holding here the first issue, which declares, in a statement on the second page: 'This issue … does not pretend to cover all the books of the season or even all the important ones. Neither time nor space, however, have been spent on books which are trivial in their intentions or venal in their effects, except occasionally to reduce a temporarily inflated reputation, or to call attention to a fraud.' This is the only editorial statement that you’ve ever made."
Silvers: "That’s it! And that’s still what we try to do. We shouldn’t pretend to be comprehensive. There’s no point in reviewing a book if you can’t find someone whose mind you particularly respect. And even so, we have to turn down every month or so a piece we’d asked for. But I left one thing out of that editorial statement: the freedom of those people to reply at length, to make their case."
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6995 words)
I’ve got history with this guy. I’ve been losing money on Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for years. I am a phenomenal sucker who bets against Floyd every chance I get. I’ve never once believed that he will lose a fight, and on that score this upcoming bout with Victor Ortiz is no different. But I always hope he will lose. My reasons why are embarrassing and have nothing to do with boxing, this sport that I consider myself a fan of.
Floyd is a villain, a contemptible person. He changed his nickname from “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money Mayweather” and he takes great pride in flaunting his wealth. He burns hundred dollar bills. He belittles his opponents as homosexuals even long after he has beaten them. In the run-up to all of his fights he goes to great lengths to play the bad guy, and that’s truly what it is—playing. He is a promoter and an entertainer and admits as much. But I fall for it anyway. Despite the fact that Money Mayweather is as skilled a tactician in the ring as anyone fighting today I still root for his defeat. A sucker play, sure, but in betting with my heart and not my head, I am at least in good company.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 31, 2011
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3543 words)
From the moment Kael began as a film critic at The New Yorker, at the start of 1968, she presided over the movies in the manner of Béla Károlyi watching a gymnast on the balance beam—shouting directives, excoriating every flub, and cheering uncontrollably when a filmmaker stuck his landing. She spent much of her career chastening Hollywood’s excesses while brushing off complaints about immoderation on her own part. She did not regard this as a hypocritical endeavor. Kael wrote quickly and at length, regularly pulling all-nighters into her Tuesday deadlines with the help of cigarettes and bourbon (till she gave up both). Her kinetic passion, her chatty-seatmate prose, and her detail-heckling made her a pop-culture oracle in an era that desperately needed one.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2011
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5221 words)
Back in Washington, Mr. Panetta met with Mr. Obama and his most senior national security aides, including Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. The meeting was considered so secret that White House officials didn’t even list the topic in their alerts to each other. That day, Mr. Panetta spoke at length about Bin Laden and his presumed hiding place. “It was electric,” an administration official who attended the meeting said. “For so long, we’d been trying to get a handle on this guy. And all of a sudden, it was like, wow, there he is.”
PUBLISHED: May 3, 2011
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3060 words)
For the next two hours, Qaddafi lectured the men. He warned them not to encourage the kinds of protests that had overthrown one dictator in Tunisia and would soon topple another, Hosni Mubarak, in Egypt. “Take down your Facebook pages, your demands will be met,” Qaddafi said. At times, he muttered to himself at length, leaving the lawyers baffled and embarrassed. As he listened, Saih felt his fear giving way to a deep and unexpected reassurance. It was not Qaddafi’s drugged, monotone voice that soothed him. Nor was it the Leader’s seeming desperation or his promises of reform, which Saih did not believe. Instead, it was the mere sight of him up close, an old man with a wrinkled, sagging face.
PUBLISHED: March 30, 2011
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6572 words)
However much the book was revised, it should have been revised more. The opening may have been reworked, as Gedin says, but it still features an episode—somebody telling somebody else at length (twelve pages!) about a series of financial crimes peripheral to the main plot—that, by wide consensus, is staggeringly boring. Elsewhere, there are blatant violations of logic and consistency. Loose ends dangle. There are vast dumps of unnecessary detail. When Lisbeth goes to IKEA, we get a list of every single thing she buys. The jokes aren’t funny. The dialogue could not be worse. The phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 4, 2011
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4070 words)
[Fiction] An urban teen moves to Virginia and tries to stay out of trouble:
"When Marcus’s mother and her boyfriend and just about everybody they knew were put in jail for possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Marcus went to live with his aunt for a while. Marcus was sixteen, a hurdler and sprinter on the track team at Boys and Girls, a solid B student. A good boy, everyone said. Even as a baby, his mama liked to say, he wasn’t any trouble. He cried so little that she would forget all about him.
"His aunt Tiff was twenty-two and good-hearted, but no one could say that she was good. Ever since Marcus could remember, Tiff was always deciding between boyfriends, and the May when Marcus moved into her apartment was no exception."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2009
LENGTH: 57 minutes (14448 words)
On the 1988 presidential campaign:
"Among those who traveled regularly with the campaigns, in other words, it was taken for granted that these 'events' they were covering, and on which they were in fact filing, were not merely meaningless but deliberately so: occasions on which film could be shot and no mistakes made ('They hope he won’t make any big mistakes,' the NBC correspondent covering George Bush kept saying the evening of the September 25 debate at Wake Forest University, and, an hour and a half later, 'He didn’t make any big mistakes'), events designed only to provide settings for those unpaid television spots which in this case were appearing, even as we spoke, on the local news in California’s three major media markets. 'On the fishing trip, there was no way for television crews to get videotapes out,' the Los Angeles Times noted a few weeks later in a piece about how 'poorly designed and executed' events had interfered with coverage of a Bush campaign 'environmental' swing through the Pacific Northwest. 'At the lumber mill, Bush’s advance team arranged camera angles so poorly that in one set-up only his legs could get on camera.' A Bush adviser had been quoted: 'There is no reason for camera angles not being provided for. We’re going to sit down and talk about these things at length.'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 27, 1988
LENGTH: 39 minutes (9980 words)