A collection of articles by an outspoken writer.
Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Wolff (The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, 2008, etc.) gathers 20 pieces of Adler’s nonfiction, published between 1965 and 2003, which serve as a witness to history and evidence of her hard-hitting journalism. In the 1960s and ’70s, Adler was prominent, opinionated and often controversial. Her career, Wolff writes, went “wrong, or at least astray…primarily for not being able to hold her tongue.” In 1968, working as a book reviewer for the New Yorker, she “no longer saw the point of reviewing other people’s books” unless they were important. When the New York Times offered her a post as movie critic, she took that, only to become irritated by the obligation to review movies she thought unworthy of attention, her editors’ stylistic strictures and the newspaper’s objection to her “excessively scathing” reviews. She quit after 14 months, returning to the New Yorker, where she continued as a staff writer for 40 years. Articles on the Six-Day War; the 1965 civil rights march in Selma; a Black Power march in Mississippi, with deft cameo portraits of Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King; and Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court represent some of her work there. When the New Yorker changed ownership in 1985, Adler made enemies by writing a book that was harshly critical of its new editors and several prominent writers. She made more enemies after publishing an 8,000-word article in the New York Review of Books excoriating Pauline Kael’s When the Lights Go Down, a collection of her reviews. Adler deemed the book “piece by piece, line by line, and without interruption, worthless.” Adler’s nonfiction has been available in other collections, whose introductions are included in this one.
Although this volume amply reveals the author’s attention to language and commitment to politically engaged journalism, many pieces seem dated, and a few are tediously long.