In the summer of 1948, during a heat wave, E.B. White came down from Maine and holed up at the Algonquin Hotel to write a piece for Holiday, an elegant travel magazine of the day. The assignment was to revisit his old haunts, and the result, a poetic essay called “Here Is New York,” was published as a book first in 1949 and then again in 1976.
The little volume soon fell out of print, but was not forgotten. “It’s the legendary cult classic for White admirers,” says Angela Hederman, publisher of The Little Bookroom, a four-year-old small press in the West Village. “It comes into used book stores and is snapped up. It’s on the recommended reading list for Columbia Journalism School. It’s just one of those well-loved things that you always hear about.”
This week, to celebrate what would have been White’s 100th birthday on July 11, The Little Bookroom has issued a reprint of Here Is New York. The handsome new edition features an introduction by White’s stepson, the New Yorker writer Roger Angell, and two unpublished photos of White. The cover shot captures the author on the streets of Manhattan circa 1935, wearing a fedora and the look of a bird-dog hot on the scent.
In the essay, the legendary stylist roams uptown and down, from the “great rustling oaken silence of the reading room of the Public Library” to the Bowery (“where all you feel is a sort of cold guilt”) to the café of the now-defunct Lafayette Hotel on 9th Street, where he nurses a drink and watches the “red brick fronts . . . turning slowly to purple . . . at the end of the day, the way a red rose turns bluish as it wilts.” There is no better way to appreciate White’s prose, which Luc Sante calls “good enough to bottle,” than to sip it yourself. The first paragraph follows:
On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.
E.B. White would not have been caught dead reporting in cyberspace, but another veteran of print, Marshall Loeb, is making the leap at the ripe age of 70. In August, Loeb will quit the editorship of Columbia Journalism Review to write a daily column on personal finance and the economy for the Web site CBS MarketWatch.com. He will also be writing a biweekly column on retirement for Quicken.com and filing dispatches for CBS Radio.
Loeb started his career after World War II, working his way up from foreign correspondent for United Press International to business editor of Time to longtime editor in chief of Fortune magazine. And like a pro, he timed his move to the Internet to coincide with the release of the July/August issue of CJR, whose cover line reads: “Surprise! Pay for Journalists Is Going Up.”
Writer Anne Colamosca reports not only that U.S. journalists as a group are making 50 percent more than they did 10 years ago, but that some of the best-paid hacks are those who cover business and technology for online publications. According to the article, a midlevel reporter for the Wall Street Journal‘s online ventures earns $55,000; a senior editor for CBS MarketWatch.com can bring home $95,000.
Loeb, who will continue to write a magazine column for CJR, insists that print media and the Internet can coexist in the same universe. “Our salvation lies not in the printed word,” he told Press Clips, “but in the word, in all of its media manifestations. I’ve long said that I have no particular allegiance to the printing industry, the paper industry or the postal service. If we can do our work and it shows up on an electronic screen, that’s fine with me.”
CJR publisher David Laventhol will assume the additional duties of editorial director for an interim period, at the end of which Laventhol and Columbia Journalism School dean Tom Goldstein will appoint a permanent editor. They face the perennial challenge of trying to beef up advertising while cutting expenses. Asked to comment on rising salaries in the industry at large, the departing editor of CJR said, “Thank goodness. It’s about time.”
It’s all well and good in the fantasy world of South Park, when the kids let forth a stream of stereotypes and obscenities. But is it harmless when a talk show host like Don Imus promotes stereotypes about black people?
Philip Nobile, a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, thinks not. Nobile charges that Imus and his guests have said things throughout the basketball season that should raise the hackles of sportswriters sensitive to race issues— especially someone like David Remnick, the rightminded editor of The New Yorker.
For starters, Nobile claims, Imus has called the black players on the Knicks “a bunch a thugs.” But what Nobile finds truly reprehensible is the way Imus and his guests casually compare African Americans to apes. On June 18, for example, in talking about the movie Instinct, a regular guest of Imus observed that “the gorilla special effects look like the starting lineup of the Knicks.” In a similar vein, Nobile claims, Imus and one of his producers constantly referred to Patrick Ewing this spring as a “knuckle-dragging moron” and “knuckle-dragging dope.”
Nobile has been contacting journalist friends of the I-man in hopes that he can find someone willing to take Imus to task. But the writer thinks Imus is protected from criticism by a “white posse of major media players” who crave the publicity they can generate by going on his show. So far, no response from Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Jeff Greenfield, or Frank Rich. He also called George Vecsey, a sports columnist for The New York Times, who Nobile says is “no racist.” He hoped that Vecsey might take umbrage at Nobile’s claim that this March, Imus called Times sportswriter William Rhoden a “quota hire.” Vecsey, who has been a guest on the Imus show, left Nobile a semi-apologetic phone message.
Then last week, David Remnick published a piece in The New Yorker criticizing sports writers who made the mistake of judging Knicks players on their “character,” early in the season when the team was losing. (In sports, he implied, character is not relevant to performance, and it even may have become a code word for race.) Sensing an opening, Nobile sent The New Yorker a letter, praising Remnick’s piece and detailing Imus’s allegedly racist comments.
Remnick declined to comment, which Nobile called a “scandal,” adding, “Ralph Ellison weeps.”
Everywhere you turn in New York, some sassy gal is publishing a book about single women and their sex lives. The worst of them blithely put their own sex lives on display. But there’s at least one twentysomething in the big city who makes a living writing about sex, without disclosing a word about her sex life! That’s Sari Locker, professional sex educator and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex, published in May by Macmillan.
This how-to book won’t teach Candace Bushnell any new tricks, but it’s done wonders for Locker’s profile. One of the first stops on her publicity tour was the Leeza show, on which Locker appeared with William Shatner.
“When I first met him in the wings, he shook my hand and acted fairly aloof,” recalls Locker. But then during the show, when Leeza took out Locker’s book, “He grabbed the book away from her and they started wrestling over it. During the commercial break, he turned right around and started talking to me and he wanted to know all sorts of things about my sex life.”
But Locker is not that kind of girl. She sets boundaries, and she’s not interested in getting intimate with guys who she meets when she’s giving a lecture, or doing a book-signing, or appearing on a TV show. “I was trained that you don’t get involved with your students or, in therapy, with your clients,” she sniffs.
That doesn’t stop men from hitting on her at professional gigs, and as a result, Locker has come up with what she calls the Four Categories of Men. “A quarter of the men I meet think I’m going to be some wild, passionate, kinky lover. A quarter of the men I meet have some kind of sexual problems. A quarter of the men I meet are very intimidated, not just because I write books and I’m on TV, but also because being financially successful is very intimidating. The rest are the ones who want to know me for me. They’re neither threatened, nor intimidated, nor titillated.”
Asked why she doesn’t write about her own sex life, Locker says, “Someday I will write the story about how being in this field since I was 18 has affected my sexuality and my dating life. But I think 29 is too young to be writing an autobiography.” She is currently dating an artist she met at some other guy’s book party.