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Friday, March 22, 2013

A Strike and a Start: Founding The New York Review

Jason and Barbara Epstein

JACOB EPSTEIN: Of the four friends who met for dinner fifty years ago in Barbara’s and my apartment on West Sixty-Seventh Street during the New York newspaper strike, I am the sole survivor. Though we had no such plan in mind beforehand, it was at that dinner that Elizabeth Hardwick, her husband Robert (Cal) Lowell, Barbara and I saw all at once the opportunity that would become The New York Review of Books. The dinner was impromptu, a last minute plan of Lizzie and Barbara’s, who had met unexpectedly on Columbus Avenue that afternoon; we sat around a makeshift table in our as yet barely furnished apartment, which, with its double-height living room and huge north-facing window, had been designed at the turn of the century for artists. The Lowells also lived on West Sixty-Seventh Street, an easy walk from our own building.

We were of course discussing the strike. I recall having said that, with the Times and Tribune gone, the world and its woes were out of sight and mind. We were living in a kind of nirvana, especially blessed, I added, to be without the dismal Sunday book reviews that Lizzie had savaged in Harper’s magazine for their “flat praise and faint dissention, the minimal style and the light little article, the absence of involvement, passion, character, eccentricity—the lack, at last, of the literary tone itself. ” Owing to the decline of serious reviewing, she wrote, “a book is born into a puddle of treacle.” Our friend Bob Silvers, a Harper’s editor, had commissioned her piece along with a few others for a special issue on “Writing in America.”

Read on at NYR blog -
Irene Worth and Robert Lowell

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