Robert Gottlieb: “The Basics of Editing as I Understand Them…”

From the book Avid Reader by longtime book editor Robert Gottlieb, who also edited the New Yorker from 1987 to 1992:

What do I tell students hoping to have a career in book publishing or journalism? The basics of editing as I understand them: “Get back to your writers right away.” “It’s the writer’s book, not yours.” “Try to help make the book a better version of what it is, not into something that it isn’t.” “Spend your strength and your ego in the service of the writer.”…And over and over again, “It’s a service job.”

“it could be that there’s only one word”

W.S.Merwin’s poetry was characterized by indirect, unpunctuated narration.

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding

they’re awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won’t come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they’ll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be
that they won’t unroll
in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything

Ken Burns, President Nixon, and Vietnam: Two More Looks at What Happened

From a cover story, by Judith Viorst, in the September 1969 Washingtonian:

Anna Chennault says someday she’ll write a book about Vietnam. Maybe then we’ll find out whether or not this exotic Oriental beauty really did try to stall the peace talks in Paris long enough to give Richard Nixon the Presidency.

Why Autocorrect Is Now Taobao at the Economist’s Daily Dispatch

Correction: In yesterday’s newsletter we referred to China’s equivalent of eBay as Taboo. The auction site is called Taobao. We have now turned off autocorrect on our computers. Apologies.

—Posted by Mike Feinsilber

Readers Continue to Like Good Pictures of People

John le Carre, by Annie Leibovitz, in the October 2017 Vanity Fair.

Researchers looked at 1.1 million photos on Instagram and found that pictures with human faces are 38 percent more likely to receive likes than photos with no faces.

The study, conducted by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs, is one of the first to examine how photos with faces drive engagement on large-scale, image-sharing communities.

Remembering a Writer Whose Stories Moved Faster Than the Speed Limit

Vic sometimes looked serious but inside he was smiling.

Vic Gold, a longtime Washington political operator and writer, died in June and yesterday there was a celebration of his life at Acadiana, a DC restaurant that specializes in the New Orleans food he loved.

There were a lot of political types in the room and much of  the talk was about politics—Vic was closely tied to President George H.W. Bush and before that to Barry Goldwater, Spiro Agnew, and other Republican pols. He was a conservative but with an open and interesting mind.

A Reminder That Things Appear Much Clearer When Looking Back

Reaction to the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War has been mostly disbelief that the country poured so much money and lost so many lives in what now seems a senseless war. A typical reaction on Facebook: “So many bad decisions compounded by more bad decisions. What a senseless, hideous war that was.”

Here are excerpts from a February 1970 Washingtonian article that laid out what the Washington Post editorial page said about the war from 1961 to 1969:

When an Obit Makes You Smile

From an obituary, “Jake LaMotta, ‘Raging Bull’ of boxing, dies at 95” by Matt Schudel in the Washington Post:

Mr. LaMotta was married six times, most memorably to his second wife, Beverly Thailer, who was better known as Vikki and was played by Cathy Moriarty in the film “Raging Bull.”

They were married in 1946, when Vikki was 16. At age 51, she appeared in a nude pictorial in Playboy, prompting a predictable joke from Mr. LaMotta: “She always complained she had nothing to wear. I never believed her until I saw her in Playboy.”

Why Is the Washington Post Asking Me?

By Mike Feinsilber?

You thought a newspaper’s job was to provide answers to readers’ questions? That proposition is turned upside down by lots of Post headlines.  Will you take a look at what Post web and print headlines asked me–and other readers–on Wednesday, September 20?

Will Chipotle Choke on Its Own Queso?
(The Mexican-flavored food chain created a cheese dip some tasters didn’t like.)

“Rocket Man”: Was That a Slam of Kim Jong Un – Or a Compliment?

Got a Weird Amazon Email About a Baby Registry You Don’t Have?

Can Centrism Be a Movement?
(Over a Kathleen Parker column. Her answer was yes.)

Tending Bar Is Good Training for Journalism—and May Get You a Job

A post last week quoted Maggie Haberman, a star reporter at the New York Times, as saying her early life as a bartender made her a better journalist: “That was the best training that I had for learning how to approach people.”  Having also worked as a bartender before going into journalism, I expanded on Haberman’s quote with more wisdom you might pick up behind the bar, along with a lot of tip money.

Al McGuire, a great basketball coach who won a national championship coaching at Marquette University, said it this way: