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A Matter of Opinion Hardcover – April 21, 2005

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the mordant maxim byword at the offices of a certain left-wing weekly has it, "If it's bad for the country, it's good for The Nation" (the magazine's circulation has risen 71% since the 2000 election of George Bush). Of course, an alternative theory might emphasize Navasky's sure-handed stewardship of the country's "oldest weekly magazine" over the last 25 years. After editing a prominent 1960s satirical magazine (the Monocle) and working at the New York Times Magazine, Navasky, with his combination of bedrock principle and a light touch, was a perfect fit at the Nation. Unmistakably confined to professional doings (family members are hardly mentioned), this memoir recounts myriad tempests in teapots (and some not so trifling), lawsuits, donnybrooks, controversies and lines drawn in the sand. If the New Republic is where liberals address Washington, the Nation is where liberals talk among themselves. Navasky discusses many of his lively charges and colleagues (Trillin, Ephron, Hitchens, Sontag), and relates his thinking behind some of his most important decisions as an editor. Too fragmented to substitute for a history of the left over the past few decades, Navasky's story is finally about the nuts and bolts of editing an intellectual journal, interesting enough in its own right. Agent, Amanda Urban. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

"Journals of opinion are not by themselves going to save the world," Navasky admits, but, in nearly three decades of running The Nation and in four hundred-odd pages here, he remains a tireless evangelist for the idea that the world as we know it—liberal, democratic, and Enlightened—won't be saved without them and the public discourse they foster. Opinion magazines themselves, however, survive on the strength of their editors, or, as Navasky points out, on the reach of their editors' Rolodexes, and, luckily for The Nation, Navasky knows almost everyone. The front-room tour of his charmed rise from the Little Red School House to the publisher's chair includes visits with Bob Guccione, Paul Newman, and Jürgen Habermas. Along the way, Allen Ginsberg sleeps on the floor, formerly blacklisted members of the Hollywood Ten defame each other, and Norman Mailer claims he's never sold out.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (May 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374299978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374299972
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,801,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By E. M. Uprichard on January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A riveting tale of the world of opinion magazines. Not for everyone, perhaps, but if you have ever been interested in what it takes to publish a magazine, this book portrays it well. But the real selling point is that it's beautifully written. He's funny, clever, bright, and charming. You get a serious look at his life as well as his work and it's for this reason that the book is excellent.
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Format: Paperback
This longish chronicle of Mr. Navasky's stewardship of the weekly periodical The Nation is entertaining and satisfying, if a bit too rich in detail. He is an adroit and witty observer and writer, and maintains just enough distance and objectivity as he tells the story of the long-beloved liberal journal of opinion (it was founded in 1865), and how its fate fell into his lap. The magazine couldn't have fallen into more capable hands. A rare commodity, the journal of opinion has a distinguished if rocky history in America, and Navasky capably describes how it survives in a climate permeated by capitalism and the profit motive.

He is anything but a cockeyed optimist; he's been to Harvard Business School, dined with movers and shakers and major philanthropists, and has a good practical head for business; but he has managed to remain a "purist" in the right sense: He stands square on the principle that the editor and the publisher (or benefactor) must not interfere with each other. He has made many famous and influential connections along the way, including with Paul Newman--whose meeting with him, engineered by E. L. Doctorow, makes up one of the more satisfying anecdotes in the book; but he is anything but a name-dropper.

The book tells the story of how Victor Navasky kept the beloved magazine afloat by the force of his wits, always keeping a bemused detachment and a sense of humor, and a seemingly endless series of plausible backup plans. As serious as his subject is--the ability to keep serious and truthful debate available before the thinking public even in the face of well-funded opposition--often strong political opposition--Navasky keeps the tone light and cheery.
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