GONE by Renata Adler


The Last Days of The New Yorker
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Novelist and ex-staffer Adler (Politics, 1988, etc.) offers an accusatory dirge for the William Shawn New Yorker that is

actually three volumes in one—to its ultimate cost.

Adler’s first volume is a brisk analysis of the magazine’s decline under S.I. Newhouse’s ownership. The new regime—whose

ascent had been unwittingly prepared for by beloved longtime editor Shawn’s unwillingness to anoint a successor—mounted an

expensive chase for new subscribers at the cost of alienating the old, ran color ads that interrupted the magazine’s formerly

sacrosanct columns of printed copy, and accelerated the New Yorker’s uneasy embrace of the New Left politics personified by

Jonathan Schell. Adler keeps interrupting her indictment, however, for digressive accounts of her own friends and adventures at

the magazine. While many of these recollections—of Donald Barthelme, Shawn’s son Wallace, Adler’s arrest in a subway sweep

while she was on her way to cover the Ariel Sharon libel trial—are vivid and memorable, none adds authority to her diagnosis

of the magazine’s ills. Instead, personal history and philippic meet up in her third volume to create a piquant anthology of

invective bound to satisfy everyone but its targets. Thus, in Adler’s view, the rival New Yorker memoirs of Lillian Ross and Ved

Mehta are self-serving and embroidered; Pauline Kael’s movie reviews are “inaccurate, sneering, mean”; Newhouse publisher

Steven Florio is “young, blustering, cheerful, coarse, incompetent”; Newhouse editor Robert Gottlieb is “almost comedically

incurious”; and Watergate Judge John Sirica (who might have thought himself safe from harm in a New Yorker memoir) is

“corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest.”

The resulting hybrid offers many pleasures, but none of them makes Adler’s heartfelt insider’s diatribe against Newhouse,

recent editors Gottlieb and Tina Brown, and the long-standing weaknesses that left the magazine vulnerable to them any more

convincing than the complaints of many an outraged former subscriber.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-80816-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000


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