Tag Archives: Francine du Plessix Gray


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.


“[Set designer Boris Aronson and I] sat in the Russian Tea Room talking the world away—how it is even past the Decline and now in the Fall. I said that when the theater died in its own place and took to the streets (as it has here—the theater in the streets is fantastic; the novels in the daily papers are extraordinary…), when this happened, revolution and war are inevitable. Boris agreed…

“He had been to view the Picasso sculptures and found them surface things. Everything in the arts today, Boris feels, is surface, since nothing is the outcome of greatness.

“Today is a decorator’s time.” — Leo Lerman, 1967

The Grand Surprise—The Journals of Leo Lerman, ed. Stephen Pascal (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 292.

See: nymag.com/books

Top: John Koch, The Cocktail Party, 1956. Leo Lerman is in foreground, facing Ania Dorfmann, the pianist. Virgil Thomson is to Lerman’s immediate right.

Above: During his brief, nine-month stint as editor-in-chief, writers—for the first and last time—were cover subjects of Vanity Fair. Shown here: Philip Roth and Francine du Plessix Gray.

Below: Maureen Stapleton, Lerman, and Julie Harris at the Algonquin Hotel in 1971.


“Spaces intended for entertainment” has been an ongoing exhibition theme at Villa Noailles, and this year DOMESTIC POOLS will cover “vernacular and industrial types of private pools… which have left their mark on twentieth-century architecture.”*

Included in the show are works by Alvar Aalto, Ricardo Bofill, Albert Frey, Adolf Loos, Julia MorganRobert Mallet-Stevens (the villa’s architect), and Rem Koolhaas.


DOMESTIC POOLS, through March 18.

VILLA NOAILLES, Montée de Noailles, Hyères.


See Francine du Plessix Gray, “The Surrealists’ Muse”: newyorker.com/the-surrealists-muse

Top left: Balthus, Marie-Laure de Noailles. Top right: Man RayMarie-Laure de Noailles.

Bottom: Domestic Pools. Image credit: Villa Noailles.

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