Thursday, June 15th, 2023


The Write Stuff

In an era when books are being banned and culture is something to declare war on, let's pause to celebrate the life of a giant of American literary culture and the most influential editor of our time. Toni Morrison, Joseph Heller, John le Carré, Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, John Cheever, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Sidney Poitier, and Chaim Potok; science fiction by Michael Crichton and Ray Bradbury; histories by Antonia Fraser and Barbara Tuchman; memoirs by former President Bill Clinton and Katharine Graham — these were just a few among the authors Robert Gottlieb shaped, edited, published, and occasionally argued with. The arguing was especially famous when it came to what was perhaps Gottlieb's most notable (and certainly longest lasting) partnership, with Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker and the Lyndon Johnson multi-volume biography. Robert Gottlieb often imagined he'd mark up the last page of the much-anticipated fifth and final volume of that series and then finally lay down his number 2 pencil. But he knew, more than a decade ago, that the numbers weren't necessarily in his favor: "Let's look at this situation actuarially. I'm now 80, and you are 75. The actuarial odds are that if you take however many more years you're going to take, I'm not going to be here. The truth is, Bob doesn't really need me, but he thinks he does." In the end, no obituary of Robert Gottlieb could ever quite do him justice since he's not around to edit it. NYT (Gift Article): Robert Gottlieb, Eminent Editor From le Carré to Clinton, Dies at 92.

+ David Remnick, editor where Gottlieb was once editor, in The New Yorker: Remembering Robert Gottlieb, Editor Extraordinaire. "At Knopf and The New Yorker, Gottlieb was an editor of unexampled accomplishment—someone who seemed to have read everything worth reading and to have published a fair amount of it, too." (For you authors out there, consider that Gottlieb, one of busiest people in literature, often got back to writers about their manuscripts the day after they delivered them, or at the latest, "by the weekend." For that alone, he should be celebrated.)

+ Do yourself a favor and watch Lizzie Gottlieb's fantastic documentary on her father and his working relationship with Robert Caro, Turn Every Page. At one point during the documentary, we learn that Robert Caro struggled to understand Lyndon Johnson because he couldn't relate to the people and culture of the Texas Hill Country where Johnson grew up. So Caro moved from NYC to Johnson City, TX, and lived there for three years. You have to get the story before you can tell the story, though that's far from the only lesson of this anecdote.


Heart and Bowl

"In 1988, a 65-year-old man's heart stopped at home. His wife and son didn't know CPR, so in desperation they grabbed a toilet plunger to get his heart going until an ambulance showed up. Later, after the man recovered at San Francisco General Hospital, his son gave the doctors there some advice: Put toilet plungers next to all of the beds in the coronary unit. The hospital didn't do that, but the idea got the doctors thinking about better ways to do CPR." NYT (Gift Article): How a Toilet Plunger Improved CPR.


Show Me the Money Grab

"President Joe Biden is set to announce that ticketing giants Live Nation and Ticketmaster have promised to disclose the full price of tickets upfront, essentially removing the haunting prospect of hidden fees at checkout." Basically, you'll still get ripped off, but at least you'll be aware of every moment of it.


Corpus Delicti

"A manager of Harvard Medical School's morgue and his wife are accused of stealing human body parts — among them heads, brains, skin and bones — from donated cadavers and selling them, according to a federal indictment ... Also facing charges is the owner of Kat's Creepy Creations in Peabody, Katrina Maclean. Her Instagram page advertises 'creations that shock the mind & shake the soul.'" This case is going to shake the souls of the jury and the sentencing judge. Harvard Medical School morgue manager accused of stealing, selling human body parts as part of nationwide network.


Extra, Extra

Sealed Fate? "For months, the BBC has been communicating in secret with three North Koreans living in the country. They expose, for the first time, the disaster unfolding there since the government sealed the borders more than three years ago.
Starvation, brutal crackdowns, and no chance to escape." We Are Stuck Waiting to Die.

+ Greek Shipwreck: "Survivors from an overcrowded fishing boat that capsized and sank on Wednesday off the Greek coast in one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean in recent years have told doctors and police that women and children were travelling in the hold of the vessel." Greece shipwreck: up to 100 children were below deck, survivors say.

+ Native Son (and Daughter): "The U.S. Supreme Court, defying predictions, upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act on Thursday ... By a 7-2 vote, the court upheld the law's preferences for Native tribes when American Indian children are adopted." (I wouldn't make any predictions about this court, except when it comes to cases that have any connection to religion.)

+ Party Rule: "Blimey. This is a report - in breadth and depth - that demolishes Boris Johnson's character and conduct. Let's be blunt: it says he lied."

+ Strip Show: "The Oakland Athletics cleared a major hurdle for their planned relocation to Las Vegas after the Nevada Legislature gave final approval on Wednesday to public funding for a portion of a proposed $1.5 billion stadium with a retractable roof." (Vegas took the Raiders and the A's. Oakland should legalize gambling.)

+ B's Fees: "She can sing. She can dance. She can cause unexpectedly high inflation in Sweden. The kick-off of superstar Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour in Stockholm last month may have contributed to a spike in that country's May inflation rate, according to an analysis by an economist at Danske Bank." (A small price to pay to be in proximity of Beyonce.)

+ K-911: "Days after participating in the rescue of four children in the Amazonian jungle, Colombian commandos are now searching for a beloved comrade—a furry, four-legged one. About 100 commandos brave heat, heavy downpours, bug bites and general misery to find Wilson, a Belgian shepherd who was participating in the search." WSJ (Gift Article): Wilson the Rescue Dog Who Helped Find the Amazon Children Is Missing.


Bottom of the News

"In roughly the time it took you to read this sentence, Max Park solved a Rubik's Cube. With his time of 3.13 seconds, Park bested Yusheng Du's 2018 mark of 3.47 seconds. Just watch the's ridiculous."

+ CityLab: Over 100 Contenders, Including a Dog, Vie in Toronto Mayor Race.