On February 5, 2013, The New York Review celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an evening of readings and reflections at Town Hall in New York City. Seven regular contributors to the Review read from their work and spoke about their relationship with the magazine. We are glad to provide the following record of the occasion.
Reviewing LeRoi Jones’s Blues People in The New York Review in 1964, Ralph Ellison wrote:
Perhaps more than any other people, Americans have been locked in a deadly struggle with time, with history. We’ve fled the past and trained ourselves to suppress, if not forget, troublesome details of the national memory, and a great part of our optimism, like our progress, has been bought at the cost of ignoring the processes through which we’ve arrived at any given moment in our national existence.
Ellison’s own work, from his celebrated 1952 novel Invisible Man to his stories, essays, and the unfinished novel published posthumously as Juneteenth, sought to record those troublesome details and question our national memory. “Ellison incessantly pondered the ways that race pervaded America and he wrote about them with originality and eloquence,” Robert Stone wrote in these pages in 1999. “But above all he was an artist.”
To celebrate the hundredth anniversary—or perhaps the ninety-ninth; accounts vary—of Ralph Ellison’s birth, we present a selection of pieces by him and about his work from the Review‘s archives.
I was hired as an intern at The New York Review during my last month as an undergraduate, when the previous intern was abruptly deported. After interviewing at the old office on 56th and Broadway, I started work during the first week in our light-filled place on Hudson Street, in the spring of 2008. Bob’s desk, for the only time in my tenure, had only two or three hundred pieces of paper on it.
On February 5, The New York Review celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an evening at Town Hall in New York City. Before a packed crowd of 1,400 people, editor Robert Silvers introduced John Banville, Mary Beard, Michael Chabon, Mark Danner, Joan Didion, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Darryl Pinckney, who read from their past work in the Review and spoke about their relationship with the magazine and its influence on their careers. We present here some highlights from the event, along with a selection of photos.
Ronald Dworkin, who died on February 14 at the age of eighty-one, published over one hundred articles, reviews, and letters on legal and philosophical issues in The New York Review, from his 1968 defense of conscientious objectors to the draft during the Vietnam War to his 2012 argument against color-blind college admissions policies. As we mourn the loss of a long-standing contributor and friend, we present the following selection of his writings from the Review.
The first personal ad to appear in The New York Review of Books was published in the magazine’s July 11, 1968 issue. “WIFE WANTED,” it read. “Intelligent, beautiful, 18 to 25, broad-minded, sensitive, affectionate. For accomplished artist and exciting life. NYR box 1432.” Ever since then the Review’s personals have been a widely-followed (and much-parodied) part of the magazine. Associate Publisher Catherine Tice spoke with NPR’s Scott Simon for Weekend Edition Saturday about love sought, and found, in the pages of the Review.
When I think of the focused efforts that led nowhere, and the gifts that have fallen in my lap—like working at the Review—I have to resist discerning a pattern. I was sleeping on a friend’s floor in New Orleans, running from a heavy heart, when Barbara Epstein offered me a job as assistant editor. It was the spring of 1989; I was twenty-four.
The Fisk Building had a stolid utilitarian look, like one of Ben Katchor’s cartoon office buildings, and was surrounded by automobile showrooms, at the dowdy end of West 57th Street. New York was paradise. You took a 57th Street Cafeteria bagel on a shortcut through the Yangtze River Restaurant, passing the wonton wrapper, to an elevator crammed with other smokers, to the thirteenth floor where The New York Review had an office like a detective agency in a film noir. I arrived in December 1963, before the NYR had been on the newsstands a year. I was twenty-one.