Remembering Mr. Shawn’s “New Yorker”
In REMEMBERING MR. SHAWN’S “NEW YORKER”: THE INVISIBLE ART OF EDITING, Ved Mehta explains his estrangement as a young man from his native India, but most of his memoir concerns the consequences of his decision to forsake pursuing a Ph.D. in history at Harvard in 1960 to become a contributor to THE NEW YORKER. Mehta offers a vivid picture of the New York literary world of the 1960’s and depicts the eccentric behavior of many of his fellow writers for the sophisticated weekly magazine.
Mehta describes the famously seedy 43rd Street offices of THE NEW YORKER and the day-to-day operations of the magazine with regular contributors like himself going through a painstaking process of writing, rewriting, and waiting before their pieces appeared in print.
An attitude of the magazine before anything else was imbued by William Shawn, who joined THE NEW YORKER in 1933 and became its editor in 1952, succeeding the legendary Harold Ross. Shawn lived for his work and expected nothing less of his staff. Mehta offers a loving, perhaps idealized, portrait of the editor he saw as his mentor and father figure. The young writer and his editor became entwined in numerous ways from Mehta’s becoming an honorary member of the Shawn family to Shawn’s writing the jacket copy for Mehta’s books.
Although Mehta may go into too much detail about Shawn’s last days as editor, with S. I. Newhouse buying the magazine in 1985 and replacing Shawn with Robert Gottlieb in 1987, he presents a vivid picture of an old-fashioned man’s determination to run a major publication his way with interference from no one.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCIV, May 15, 1998, p. 1563.
Boston Globe. June 1, 1998, p. C7.
Choice. XXXV, July, 1998, p. 1855.
Columbia Journalism Review. XXXVII, May, 1998, p. 75.
Entertainment Weekly. July 10, 1998, p. 65.
Library Journal. CXXIII, May 15, 1998, p. 86.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 17, 1998, p. 3.
New Criterion. XVII, September, 1998, p. 56.
The New York Times. May 18, 1998, p. B8.
The New York Times Book Review. CIII, June 14, 1998, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, April 6, 1998, p. 66.
The Wall Street Journal. May 22, 1998, p. W10.