Tag Archives: New York Review of Books


Robert Silvers was a brilliant, demanding, funny, painstaking, and inspiring editor, a walking chronicle of postwar literary-political history, an intimidating sweetheart, and very dear to me. At the end of an editorial session, once he had identified all your piece’s weaknesses, evasions, and missed opportunities, he would close with a brusque, even peremptory, but always, somehow, hopeful, “See what can be done.” In the world according to Silvers, there was always something to be done. — Michael Chabon

The New York Review of Books was founded in 1963 by Barbara Epstein, Jason Epstein, and their West 67th Street neighbors Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell during an extended newspaper strike in New York City. They asked their friend Robert Silvers to edit the broadsheet—and he agreed, if Barbara would join him as co-editor.

The Review was an immediate success, and during first decades published Mary McCarthy on Vietnam, James Baldwin (“An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis”), Isaiah Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Richard Hofstadter, Edmund Wilson, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, I. F. Stone, W. H. Auden, and many more. Today, Zadie Smith, Yasmine El Rashidi, Zoë Heller, Janet Malcolm, Hilton Als, Darryl Pinckney, James Fenton, Colm Tóibín, and Daniel Mendelsohn continue the intellectual tradition.

Before Silvers died in 2017, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi filmed the editor in his domain. The resulting film—THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT, narrated by Michael Stahlbarg—documents the history of the paper with in-person interviews and a rich selection of clips. The film is available through HBO Max and is streaming free in September, courtesy of the Review.

See link below.


Directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi.

Now streaming.

From top: Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers in 1963 in their first office in the Fisk Building, New York City, photograph by Gert Berliner, courtesy and © the photographer and The New York Review of Books; David Moore, Mary McCarthy, New York, 1956, courtesy and © the photographer and the National Portrait Gallery, Australia; The New York Review of Books, May 25, 2017; Gore Vidal (center) with John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy; Nina Simone and James Baldwin, early 1960s, photograph by Bernard Gotfryd, courtesy and © the photographer’s estate and the Library of Congress Collection; Isaiah Berlin (left) and Silvers, photograph by Dominique Nabokov, courtesy and © the photographer; Darryl Pinckney in London, 1991, photograph by Nabokov; Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, The 50 Year Argument (2014), image courtesy and © HBO Documentary Films; W. H. Auden; Joan Didion, photograph by Jill Krementz, courtesy and © the photographer; Francine du Plessix Gray and Silvers, photograph by Nabokov, courtesy and © the photographer.


AIDS completely changed American culture. People always say “pop culture.” As if we have some high culture to distinguish it from. The effect of AIDS was like a war in a minute country. Like, in World War I, a whole generation of Englishmen died all at once. And with AIDS, a whole generation of gay men died practically all at once, within a couple of years. And especially the ones that I knew.

The first people who died of AIDS were artists. They were also the most interesting people. I know I’ve said this before, but the audience for the arts—whether it was for writing or films or ballet—also died and no longer exists in a real way. So all the judgment left at the same time that all this creativity left. And it allowed people who would be fifth-rate artists to come to the front of the line. It decimated not just artists but knowledge. Knowledge of a culture. There’s a huge gap in what people know, and there’s no context for it anymore. — Fran Lebowitz*

Daniel Mendelsohn will moderate the panel THE POWER OF THE ARTIST at the Kitchen.

Presented by David Zwirner and the New York Review of Books, panelists include Jeremy O. Harris, Fran Lebowitz, Elizabeth Alexander, and Lisa Yuskavage.


Monday, February 3, at 6:30 pm

The Kitchen

512 West 19th Street, New York City.

*“The Voice: Fran Lebowitz,” interview by Francesco Clemente, Interview, March 2016.

From top: Jeremy O. Harris; Fran Lebowitz with Andy Warhol; Elizabeth Alexander. , photograph by Djeneba Aduayom. Photographs courtesy and © the subjects and the photographers. Above and below: Lisa Yuskavage, Bonfire, 2013–2015, oil on linen, diptych; Lisa Yuskavage, Naked Neighbors, 2019, oil on linen. Images courtesy and © the authors, the artist, the photographers, and David Zwirner.


Darryl Pinckney—longtime contributor to the New York Review of Books and the author of the novel Black Deutschland—will join Margo Jefferson for a conversation about the essays in his new collection Busted in New York, the “cumulative effect of [which]… is a contextualization of recent history in a manner only Pinckney’s prose can articulate.”*


Monday, November 18, at 6:30 pm.

New York Public Library

Wachenheim Trustees Room

476 Fifth Avenue (at 42nd Street), New York City.

From top: Darryl Pinckney, photograph by Dominique Nabokov; Darryl Pinckney, Busted in New York and Other Essays, 2019, cover image courtesy and © Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Margo Jefferson, Negroland: A Memoir, 2015, cover image courtesy and © Pantheon; Jefferson. Images courtesy and © the authors and photographers.



“Recently I wrote a note to accompany Paul Eprile’s translation of Jean Giono’s MELVILLE, which quickly evolved into a novel that has nothing to do with the historical neurasthenic and queer-leaning Herman Melville and everything to do with Giono himself.

“Giono was deeply influenced by American writers… [He] first discovered Walt Whitman in French [and] later studied the ‘American Homer’ in English. He loved Whitman’s all-embracing egalitarianism and his pantheism, and the first part of Giono’s œuvre obviously owes a debt to this passionate revolutionary figure. In Hill, his first novel, Giono tried to illustrate two very Whitmanesque truths:

‘The first of these truths is that there are people, simple and nude; the other is that this earth fleeced [entoisonnée] with woods… this living earth, exists without literature.’

“Cutting down on metaphor and simile (he could never altogether forego them) must have been painful for Giono, so naturally gifted with that kind of eloquence. As Aristotle suggest in The Rhetoric, metaphor is one of the greatest ornaments of writing but also the one no one can learn.” — Edmund White, The Unpunished Vice

White’s blend of memoir and literary criticism is out now.



Top image credit: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Above: Edmund White and Zadie Smith at a writers’ festival in Florence, 2017. Image credit: Édouard Louis‘ Twitter.

Below, from left: Bernard Buffet, Jean Giono, and Pierre Bergé in Manosque, June 16, 1950. Image credit: Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris.


“Cities are full of all kinds of people. Some of them watch ISIS videos all day long. Others read conspiracy blogs and hate-filled online screeds. Such material acts as a screen between citizen and reality; it functions like virtual-reality headsets. You slip them on and they allow you to walk into a Charleston church and see only ‘scum,’ or drive along a downtown bike lane and see only ‘scum.’ We can tighten visa laws and build our walls, but they will be poor defense against such ideologies, which are free-floating and borderless and whose goggles can be worn by anyone. Most of the terror attacks in America have been committed by Americans. (Some of the most terrifying have been committed by gun-toting Americans with no obvious ideological commitments at all, employing a different kind of mask between citizen and reality: narcissism.) It’s amazing what a narrative can make someone do. We cannot give up on offering alternative stories. Here’s one about the people of New York: we are not scum. We are every variety of human. Some of us voted for a government that caused the destruction of cities far away. Some of us didn’t. Some of us are dopers and junkies. Some of us are preschool teachers and nuns. None of us deserve to be killed in the street. We are a multiplicity of humans in an elastic social arrangement that can be stretched in many directions. It’s not broken yet. I have no idea if it will break soon—but it’s not broken yet. And here comes the rain, clearing the streets, for an hour maybe, even for a whole afternoon. We’ll be back out tomorrow.”

Zadie Smith, last paragraph of “Under the Banner of New York”—New York Review of Books, November 4, 2017—written in response to the October, 2017 truck-attack in Lower Manhattan. Smith—joined in conversation by Michael Chabon—takes the stage at Royce Hall this week.


ZADIE SMITH and MICHAEL CHABON—A CONVERSATION, Thursday, November 30, at 8 pm.

ROYCE HALL, UCLA, 10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles.


Zadie Smith.