March 10, 2004


paul terwelp

I can't imagine how a conservative non fiction writer who contributes to Vanity Fair is going to upgrade the fiction coverage to the satisfaction of the liberal readers of the NYT book section.

Daniel Green

Tanenhaus really isn't a conservative, although he did write a book on Whittaker Chambers. He also writes for the New York Review of Books. The Chambers book is actually very good.


As are many of the pieces I've read that he's written for Vanity Fair.


You know, I made the same mistake earlier when impulsively taking in the news. I offered wild speculations on Tanenhaus's possible politics(thankfully confined to email and thankfully written up with caveats). I foolishly inferred this from his biographies. It was largely a hunch. A bad hunch, but I can understand why anyone would do the same.

Ironically, I had railed against Daniel over this very problem. While there are cetainly small ways that politics can influence one's instincts on literature (e.g., Yardley's recent dismissal of "Studs Lonigan"), ultimately it's hardly as much of a factor as it is in covering the Washington beat or social issues. True, the free market conservative might be ill-disposed to cover, say, independent bookstores raging against the corporate machine. And I had privately speculated that we might see a concentration on stodgy novels involving upper-class Caucasians in upstate New York, rather than a hip-hop lit movement out of Brooklyn. But this, I think, had something to do with Chip's sensibilities. We must remember that he was a big supporter of debut novelists.

But now that I've things things over, I really don't know enough about the guy to make any serious prediction.

And there's no way I'm going to damn the guy until I see what he does with the NYTBR in April. If he fucks it up in six weeks, THEN I'll be on his ass faster than a smug expression spreading across Bill Keller's face.

No no folks. You haven't heard the last of me on this subject at all. :)

Daniel Green

What makes me mildly optimistic is that Tanenhaus is himself a good writer, and he may turn out to value good writing over, say, the fomenting of "conversation" that Keller talked about.


What Daniel said.

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