catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Barbara Epstein, RIP

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Barbara Epstein, co-founder and co-editor for more than 40 years of the New York Review of Books has died, aged 77. The NYRB is sometimes known as the New York Review of Each Other’s Books for the overlap between reviewers and authors of books under review, but with such an illustrious group of contributors it hardly matters.

The NYRB is almost entirely made up of review articles – several thousand words on the one book – a form of writing that almost deserves to be classed as American, since it is American magazines, though often using non-American writers, that keep it going. (The British, by contrast, can lay claim to the short book review – American mass media book reviewing seems too polite to me; I much prefer the bitchy Brits). It’s probably something to do with US economies of scale. The NYRB‘s circulation is about 125,000, enough it seems to pay good writers to spend the time to read a book carefully, think about it, and write something interesting and readable.

Financing all this is no doubt helped by the remarkably heavy advertising load carried in each issue of NYRB. Over in the ABC thread, Harry Clarke is having a go at me for liking ads, but in the NYRB‘s case it’s not just that ads reduce the cover price. I do actually like them, as the magazine is a central place where major academic publishers announce their new releases. When I get each issue I go through it looking at the ads before I start with the articles.

In a magazine so tightly identified with a few people you have to wonder, however, how well it will survive their passing. Almost every issue of NYRB contains a notice announcing the death of a present or past contributor. There are various assistant editors listed in the magazine, but it will be hard to replace someone who has been a dominant figure for four decades.


Written by Admin

June 18, 2006 at 8:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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