Barbara Epstein: Thank you.

Barbara Epstein

I never met Barbara Epstein (above) but I wish I did.

She was the co-founder of one of my favourite periodicals, The New York Review of Books. I’ve been a reader for nearly 25 years and a subscriber for almost as many.

She died earlier this week at the age of 77.

 “The secret of [the Review’s] success,” The New York Times wrote, “is this: Its editors' ability to get remarkable writers and thinkers, many of them specialists in their fields, to write lucidly for lay readers on an enormous range of complex, scholarly and newly emerging subjects, issues and ideas.”

I agree completely.

In just the last couple of issues, some remarkable pieces:

Elizabeth Drew  describes U.S. President George W. Bush’s assault on democracy.

Bush has claimed the right to ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president. He has unilaterally overruled Congress on a broad range of matters, refusing, for example, to accept a requirement for more diversity in awarding government science scholarships. He has overruled numerous provisions of congressional appropriations bills that he felt impinged on his executive power. He has also overruled Congress's requirement that he report back to it on how he has implemented a number of laws. Moreover, he has refused to enforce laws protecting whistle-blowers and providing safeguards against political interference in federally funded research. Bush has also used signing statements to place severe limits on the inspectors general created by Congress to oversee federal activities, including two officials who were supposed to inspect and report to Congress on the US occupation of Iraq.

The President could of course veto a bill he doesn't like and publicly argue his objections to it. He would then run the risk that Congress would override his veto. Instead, Bush has chosen a method that is largely hidden and is difficult to challenge.

Jason Epstein  reviews a couple of cookbooks, if you can call them that. Books about and involving cooking and cooks but both are a long way from “The Joy of Cooking” and Epstein is terrific tour guide:

In January 2002, the middle of the journey of his life, [Bill] Buford, a distinguished magazine editor, abandoned his job and his common sense with such passion as normally afflicts the reproductive appetite of men his age. Quitting The New Yorker, he bound himself as a “kitchen slave,” an unpaid trainee, to his idolized friend Mario Batali, a Dionysian chef-proprietor whose appearances as Molto Mario on the Food Network have made him a national celebrity and his restaurant, Babbo, a shrine. But Babbo is more than an obligatory tourist destination with its ovate proprietor on display at the bar, a life-size Humpty Dumpty in orange pigtail, knee-length pantaloons, and kitchen clogs.

Or here’s Orville Schell describing the craft of journalism as practiced in Baghdad, one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists:

Wherever in the city the news bureaus are, they have become fortified installations with their own mini-armies of private guards on duty twenty-four hours a day at the gates, in watch towers, and around perimeters. To reach these bureaus, one has to run through a maze of checkpoints, armed guards, blast-wall fortifications, and concertina-wired no man's lands where all visitors and their cars are repeatedly searched . . .

The Review has had only two editors since its creation in 1963 — Epstein and Robert Silvers. Silvers will continue as the sole editor.


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