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HBO Presents New York Review of Books Documentary


“Magazines don’t change the world, but they shape a certain climate of ideas.” – from the forthcoming HBO Doc The 50 Year Argument about the New York Review of Books which suggests discussion of the climate in which editors Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein founded it (during the publishing strike of 1963). The publication’s “About” page explains its raison d’être as a place where “the most important issues are discussed by writers who are themselves a major force in world literature and thought.” They elaborate:

It is the journal where Mary McCarthy reported on the Vietnam War from Saigon and Hanoi; Edmund Wilson challenged Vladimir Nabokov’s translations; Hannah Arendt published her reflections on violence; Ralph Nader published his “manifesto” for consumer justice; I.F. Stone investigated the lies of Watergate; Susan Sontag challenged the claims of modern photography; Jean-Paul Sartre, at 70, described his writing and politics, and how he felt about his blindness; Elizabeth Hardwick addressed the issues of women and writing; Gore Vidal hilariously lampooned bestsellers, Howard Hughes, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Reagans; Felix Rohatyn made the case for a national industrial policy in an influential series of articles; Peter G. Peterson showed why the present Social Security program can’t last; Joan Didion described, in a firsthand account, the situation in El Salvador; McGeorge Bundy, George Kennan, and Lewis Thomas outlined the nuclear threat; Nadine Gordimer and Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote from South Africa on the conflict over apartheid; Vaclav Havel published his reflections from the Czech underground; Timothy Garton Ash reported on the new Eastern Europe; Mark Danner reported on torture from the CIA black sites; Ronald Dworkin wrote of how George W. Bush’s two Supreme Court appointees have created an unbreakable phalanx bent on remaking constitutional law; Freeman Dyson described the scientist as rebel; David Cole revealed how the Bush Justice Department allowed America to become a nation that disappeared and tortured suspects; articles by Paul Krugman, George Soros, Joseph Stiglitz, and Jeff Madrick explained America’s failing economy; Tom Powers described the George W. Bush administration’s fundamental shift from diplomacy to military action; Martin Filler wrote on the many makers of modern architecture; and where Bill Moyers described the threat to the environment presented by Evangelical Christians.

Probably unrelated to / not mentioned in the documentary, which airs September 29th, but as an FYI, VIDAweb.org found that in 2012, the periodical disproportionately reviewed male authors (only 22% of female authors were reviewed), only 16% of their reviewers were female, and less than 23% of the bylines were female. They’re not alone in this distinction, hence, #Binders.

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