Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Editor

What a hard week: the death of three irreplaceable voices and icons of the age, all in their late 80s.  And joined by a fourth: Robert Silver, who died on March 20 at age 88.

Silver was the surviving founding editor of the New York Review of Books, itself an irreplaceable element in global intellectual life as well as in domestic politics since it began in the 1960s, which is also when I started reading it.  I can add little to all the praise by those who knew him and were edited by him, except that I was and remain envious of the experience and the relationship.

He did email me once out of the blue--or had his assistant email me, since he didn't do it himself. He wrote about piece I did on NYRB, specifically on the articles in the then most recent issue. So my one and only communication from Robert Silver was this: "I was touched by what you said about the paper. During 46 years, I’ve never read a piece in which a writer said what was actually in an issue." 

I notice now that in several of the remembrances, writers note that Silvers always referred to the NYRB as "the paper." But at the time, I was astonished that no one had ever written about a specific issue before, as well as that he would write me about it.  Or even that he saw it--this was not even an article in the San Francisco Chronicle or other publication, but on Daily Kos (and here at the Daily of course.)  I assume the same assistants who handled his email found the online piece, and printed it out for him.

There are remembrances online at the NYRB site, and several others at the New Yorker site: here, here and here.  Read just a few and you'll see why Bob Silver was the paradigm of Editor.

I can only echo one of those quoted, famed editor and NYRB writer Robert Gottlieb: “The loss to all his writers is profound, and the loss to our poor imperiled world, incalculable.”

May he rest in peace.  The good he did lives on, and let's hope the example he set does, too.

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