RB: How much is the New Yorker a barometer, a thermometer, litmus test, measuring stick of cultural developments in the United States? Does the ongoing success of the New Yorker say anything about literacy, book-buying, things like that?
DR: Well, if that were the case than it would defy all [the] dark imaginings of all the prognosticators, because our circulation seems to go up. I have to tell you—one of the good parts about traveling or getting out of the house and the well-worn groove between my apartment and the office, and meeting people at this event or that event, is the number of people who come up and, in a non-routine sort of way, almost with an urgency, tell me how important the magazine is to them. Not me, not any single writer, even the enterprise by itself and its constancy. Not because it’s unfailing or because it’s perfect—that’s too ridiculous to hope for—but because of its ambition. I don’t think we are all alone, by the way. There are a number of magazines I really admire and respect that are quite different from ours. But I remember, one week after getting this job, in the almost absurd way I got it, I had to go to San Francisco, and I was at dinner and some guy came up to me. He had been in the Midwest and lived in San Francisco and he came up to the table where we were having dinner and grabbed my arm in a way that was slightly alarming and his message to me was, “Don’t fuck this up!”
DR: “This magazine has meant something to me since I was 14 or 15 years old.” This guy had to be 50 if he was a day, and so his attachment to it was really important to him. And that happens all the time in one way or another.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Paragraph of the Week
A selection of Roger Birnbaum's interview with The New Yorker's editor-in-chief, David Remnick, published in The Morning News: