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Tag: david remnick

Extra, Extra!


John Henry buys the Boston Globe and the Graham’s sell the Washington Post.

Here’s David Remnick:

After talking with the board of directors, Donald Graham quietly began looking for a potential buyer around Christmas of 2012. “We were in our seventh consecutive year of declining revenues, and there was the question of, What could we do?” Graham told me. The company had bought Slate and Foreign Policy (and is holding on to them) and sold Newsweek (which changed hands again this weekend). “Our strategy had been to innovate like hell in digital and other businesses and offset the declines in print revenues. But Katharine said the declines were going to go on, for the eighth and ninth straight years. And so …”

The trends were violent and undeniable. Graham and Weymouth saw circulation drop from 832,332 average subscribers, in 1993, to 474,767. The newsroom staff was once more than a thousand; it is now around six hundred and forty. The paper is still capable of extraordinary journalism—in June, it broke the Edward Snowden-National Security Agency surveillance story, along with the Guardian, and, only last Sunday, scored the first interview with the leader of the Egyptian military coup, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, in which the general said, nervily, “you have turned your back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget it.” But the Post is clearly a diminished version of its old self. It is still serious and grounded, but not quite essential in the way its rival, the Times, remains.

And our pal Peter Richmond.

[Photo Credit: Lisa Provence]

Goodbye to All That

News that Phillip Roth has retired from writing made its way around today. Here is David Remnick’s take over at The New Yorker:

Roth told Les inRocks that when he turned seventy-four he reread his favorite authors—Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Turgenev, Hemingway. Then, he said, “When I finished, I decided to reread all of my books beginning with the last, ‘Nemesis.’

“I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing. And I thought it was more or less a success. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ It’s exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.”

“After that, I decided that I was finished with fiction,” Roth went on. “I don’t want to read it, I don’t want to write it, and I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. I dedicated my life to the novel. I studied them, I taught them, I wrote them, and I read them. At the exclusion of nearly everything else. It’s enough!”

…Roth long resisted the idea of a biography, and he has mocked the form in his fiction and in interviews. Some years ago, he worked for a while with Ross Miller, a professor at the University of Connecticut, but the two fell out and there was no biography. Recently, he wrote a hilarious screed for The New Yorker’s Web site about the Wikipedia entry for “The Human Stain.” But the need for a rather more complete account of his life persisted. This year, Roth relented and signed a collaborative agreement with Blake Bailey, who has written fine biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates. He told Les inRocks that he is allowing Bailey free access to his archives for as long as necessary, but that he has instructed his executors to destroy the archive after his death. “I don’t want my papers lying around,” he said. “No one has to read them.”

[Photo Credit: Eric Thayer]

The Man


David Remnick has a long profile on Bruce Springsteen in the New Yorker:

Early this year, Springsteen was leading rehearsals for a world tour at Fort Monmouth, an Army base that was shut down last year; it had been an outpost since the First World War of military communications and intelligence, and once employed Julius Rosenberg and thousands of militarized carrier pigeons. The twelve-hundred-acre property is now a ghost town inhabited only by steel dummies meant to scare off the ubiquitous Canada geese that squirt a carpet of green across middle Jersey. Driving to the far end of the base, I reached an unlovely theatre that Springsteen and Jon Landau, his longtime manager, had rented for the rehearsals. Springsteen had performed for officers’ children at the
Fort Monmouth “teen club” (dancing, no liquor) with the Castiles, forty-seven years earlier.

The atmosphere inside was purposeful but easygoing. Musicians stood onstage noodling on their instruments with the languid air of outfielders warming up in the sun. Max Weinberg, the band’s volcanic drummer, wore the sort of generous jeans favored by dads at weekend barbecues. Steve Van Zandt, Springsteen’s childhood friend and guitarist-wingman, keeps up a brutal schedule as an actor and a d.j., and he seemed weary, his eyes drooping under a piratical purple head scarf. The bass player Garry Tal-lent, the organist Charlie Giordano, and the pianist Roy Bittan horsed around on a roller-rink tune while they waited. The guitarist Nils Lofgren was on the phone, trying to figure out flights to get back to his home, in Scottsdale, for the weekend.

Springsteen arrived and greeted everyone with a quick hello and his distinctive cackle. He is five-nine and walks with a rolling rodeo gait. When he takes in something new—a visitor, a thought, a passing car in the distance—his eyes narrow, as if in hard light, and his lower jaw protrudes a bit. His hairline is receding, and, if one had to guess, he has, over the years, in the face of high-def scrutiny and the fight against time, enjoined the expensive attentions of cosmetic and dental practitioners. He remains dispiritingly handsome, preposterously fit. (“He has practically the same waist size as when I met him, when we were fifteen,” says Steve Van Zandt, who does not.) Some of this has to do with his abstemious inclinations; Van Zandt says Springsteen is “the only guy I know—I think the only guy I know at all—who never did drugs.” He’s followed more or less the same exercise regimen for thirty years: he runs on a treadmill and, with a trainer, works out with weights. It has paid off. His muscle tone approximates a fresh tennis ball. And yet, with the tour a month away, he laughed at the idea that he was ready. “I’m not remotely close,” he said, slumping into a chair twenty rows back from the stage.


The Dreaded Double Nickel

I love the “Director’s Cut” reprint series over at Grantland. Today, they’ve got a 1995 New Yorker piece by David Remnick titled “Back in Play.” It’s about Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA:

For my own peace of mind, I talked with two of Jordan’s precursors at the guard position — Bob Cousy and Walt Frazier — and neither had any doubt that Jordan would scrape off the rust in time for the trials of May. Retired ballplayers — especially players of a certain level — are often touchy about the subject of the current crop. They can be grouchy, deliberately uncomprehending, like aging composers whining about the new-fangled twelve-tone stuff. But not where Jordan is concerned. Cousy, who led the Celtics in the fifties and early sixties, and Frazier, who led the Knicks in the late sixties and the seventies, would not begrudge Jordan his eminence.

“Until six or seven years ago, I thought Larry Bird was the best player I had ever seen,” Cousy, who works as a broadcaster for his old team, said. “Now there is no question in anyone’s mind that Jordan is the best. He has no perceptible weaknesses. He is perhaps the most gifted athlete who has ever played this foolish game, and that helps, but there are a lot of great athletes in his league. It’s a matter of will, too. Jordan is always in what I call a ready position, like a jungle animal who is always alert, stalking, searching. It’s like the shortstop getting down and crouching with every pitch. Jordan has that awareness, and that costs you physically. If you do it, you are so exhausted you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Not many athletes do it. To me, he hasn’t lost a thing.”

“Leapers are usually not great shooters, but Michael is the exception,” Frazier said. “If you give him a few inches, he buries the jump shot. When he gets inside, his back is to the basket and he’s shakin’ and bakin’ and you’re dead. When he drives, good night. He’s gone. Now that the league has made hand-checking illegal — you can’t push your man around on defense any longer — it’s conceivable that Michael could score even more. I don’t think he’s even sensed that he has more license now. When he does, he’ll be scoring sixty if he feels like it.”

Nothing Ornate, Always the Right Word

A friend sent this over. From a 1996 Charlie Rose Show featuring Roger Angell and David Remnick talking about the great Joe Mitchell.

A Life of Reinvention

In the New Yorker, here’s David Remnick on a new Malcolm X biography:

For nearly twenty years, Manning Marable, a historian at Columbia, labored on what he hoped would be a definitive scholarly work on Malcolm X. During this period, Marable struggled with sarcoidosis, a pulmonary disease, and even underwent a double lung transplant. Recently, he completed his rigorous and evenhanded biography, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” (Viking; $30), but, in an echo of his subject’s fate, he died on the eve of publication. One of his goals was to grapple with Malcolm’s autobiography, and although he finds much to admire about Malcolm, he makes it clear that the book’s drama sometimes comes at the expense of fact. Haley wanted to write a “potboiler that would sell,” Marable observes, and Malcolm was accustomed to exaggerating his exploits—“the number of his burglaries, the amount of marijuana he sold to musicians, and the like.” Malcolm, like St. Augustine, embellished his sins in order to heighten the drama of his reform.

The literary urge outran the knowable facts even in the most crucial episode in Malcolm’s childhood. One evening, in 1931, in Lansing, Michigan, when Malcolm was six, his father, Earl Little, a part-time Garveyite teacher, went to collect “chicken money” from families who bought poultry from him. That night, he was found bleeding to death on the streetcar tracks. The authorities ruled his death an accident, but Malcolm’s mother, Louise, was sure he had been beaten by the Black Legion and laid on the tracks to be run over and killed. Perhaps he had been, but, as Marable notes, nobody knew for sure. The autobiography (and Lee’s film) presents the ostensible murder as established fact, and yet Malcolm himself, in a 1963 speech at Michigan State University, referred to the death as accidental.

[Photograph by Ricard Avedon]

Love and Marriage

I was All-Schoolyard, tell her, Max.

“Sports to me is like music…It’s completely, aesthetically satisfying. There were times I would sit at a game with the old Knicks and think to myself in the fourth quarter, This is everything the theatre should be an isn’t. There’s an outcome that’s unpredictable. The audience is not ahead of the dramatist. The drama is ahead of the audience, and you don’t know exatly where it’s going. You’re personally involved with the players–they had herioc demensions, some of those players. It’s a pleasurable experience, though not intellectual–much like music. It enters you through a diferent opening, sort of…

You see, life consists of giving yourself these problems that can be dealt with, so you don’t have to face the problems that can’t be dealt with. It’s very meaningful to me, for instance, to see if the Knicks are going to get over some problem or another. These are matters you can get involved with, safely, and pleasurably, and the outcome doesn’t hurt you.”

Woody Allen to David Remnick, 1994

Well said, though I’m sure some fans would argue about not being hurt. Last night’s loss was a tough one, doesn’t matter that the Celtics should have mopped the floor with them. Carmelo Anthony was brilliant but Jared Jeffries will be the memory that doesn’t go away from this one. And that hurts, man.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver