What do you do?

David Remnick: It is more unusual than you would think that a writer becomes an editor, at least in this era. It’s not unusual; historically it happened a lot; but at the New Yorker it’s pretty much a first.

[Harold] Ross was a newspaper man, but mainly an editor. [William] Shawn almost completely an editor. Bob Gottlieb became a writer really only after he retired from the New Yorker. Tina Brown wrote a little bit as kind of a spritely feature writer, but came to write a book long after she left the New Yorker.

I also had no time to think about it. I went from being a writer at the New Yorker on a Friday to the editor of the New Yorker on a Monday.

I had no thoughts of this. It’s not as if I were the third base coach for years, and then became the pitching coach, and then became the manager.

For a newspaper, you would go through any number of steps before you became the Executive Editor after long years of both experience and competition. So I had very little time to think about what this meant. And the only salvation was the fact that I was surrounded by extraordinarily talented people: Dorothy [Wickenden], Pam McCarthy, Henry Fender and so on; and that the magazine knew what it was about, and that I was in concert with them.

But clearly what being an editor is about at the New Yorker – I don’t know about other places – is to get the best work out of very, very talented people; continually replenish a staff of talented people with more of same; to give the magazine a kind of journalistic, and literary, and even moral direction; and ethical underpinning; and togive it a kind of sense of momentum, and drive, and imagination; and also to fire up other people about what they have to do; putting very intelligent and talented people in positions to succeed and get the best for themselves.

This magazine is largely about individual writers and artists and so on coming up with what they do best. Now do I ask for certain things? Do I push people toward certain things? Do I think we need certain subjects covered or looked at over time? You bet.

But we are not a newspaper. We are not a news weekly. I try to see what these writers are obsessed with and push them in that direction.

Do I miss reporting? I’m fully aware that you can’t do everything in life. And each day you get a little older, you realize that this is not just a cliché, but an absolute law of life. If I thought that my not writing either completely or even a lot was a great loss to the literary or journalistic world on the scale of a Philip Roth or John Updike deciding suddenly that they have to become chefs, I wouldn’t do it.

I think the world can live without my writing so much. I do it a little bit. I energize myself. I indulge myself by getting out of the office sometime and going to the Middle East, or Russia, or something like that and write about it; but not very often. Once or twice a year.

 

Recorded on Jan 7, 2008

Remnick answers what it is like to helm The New Yorker.

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

US, Russia, China won't join global initiative to offer fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. Why not?

The U.S., China, and Russia are in a "vaccine race" that treats a global challenge like a winner-take-all game.

Coronavirus
  • More than 150 countries have joined an initiative to develop, produce, and fairly distribute an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
  • But China, Russia, and the U.S. have declined to join in a bid to win the vaccine race.
  • The absence of these three economies risks the success of the global initiative and future collaborations.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Being in a frisky mood may improve your chances in the dating world

    Positive, romantic thoughts could produce positive, romantic outcomes while dating.

    Credit: 4 PM production on Shutterstock
    Sex & Relationships
    • Fear of rejection, self-doubt, and anxiety are just some of the obstacles humans need to overcome to make a meaningful, romantic connection with another person.
    • According to a 2020 project by a group of psychologists at the University of Rochester (and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya), humans see possible romantic partners as a lot more attractive if they go into the interaction with a "sexy mindset."
    • Across three separate studies, this team discovered that this sexual activation helps people initiate relationships by inducing them to project their desires onto prospective partners.
    Keep reading Show less

    A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

    Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

    Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
    Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Study reveals alarming link between binge-drinking and anxiety

    New research conducted on mice suggests repeated heavy drinking causes synaptic dysfunctions that lead to anxiety.

    Credit: Pixabay
    Mind & Brain
    • The study was conducted on mice, who were given the equivalent of five drinks daily for 10 days.
    • Images of the alcoholic mice brains showed synaptic dysfunctions related to microglia (immune cells in the brain).
    • The results suggest that regulating TNF, a signaling protein related to systemic inflammation, may someday play a part in treating alcohol addiction.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast