Oct. 29, 2009

Off to the Country of Cancer

by Liam Rector

It comes on.
Comes on with the word,
A doctor's word,

The doctor saying cancer.
"But do I have cancer?"
"Yes, cancer."

Doctor has to say cancer
One more time
Before the cancer

In me
Becomes the word
I give over to it.

"What then
Will we
Do?" (A we

Quickly, to calm
The alone

Setting in
And then I

Let go of the we
"We'll do

A regimen of chemo
And radiation and hope
For the best." "Well, that

Sounds like something. You're sure
I have cancer?" "Yes,
Cancer, that's it."

"Off to the Country of Cancer" by Liam Rector, from The Executive Director of the Fallen World. © The University of Chicago Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the current editor of The New Yorker magazine, David Remnick, (books by this author) born in Hackensack, New Jersey (1958). He's only the fifth editor in the 84-year history of the magazine.

He had no professional editorial experience before taking the job a decade ago. He was a journalist, and one of the best around. After graduating from Princeton with a comparative literature degree, he went to work for The Washington Post as a cub reporter, covering football games, police activity, and celebrity gossip. Then, a post as Moscow foreign correspondent opened up, and he — in his late 20s and newly married — jumped at the chance.

He was the junior reporter at the foreign bureau, and the minion status led to some interesting investigative assignments. Once, he was charged with the task of finding a hairdresser for an upcoming interview between Mikhail Gorbachev and his boss, the owner of The Washington Post, Katherine Graham. Without a plethora of beauty salons then in communist Russia, he "did not so much find a hairdresser as create one," he recalled. He went to an embassy and found "a young woman who was said to own a blow-dryer and a brush." He said, "I rang her up and explained the situation. Gravely, as if we were negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, I gave her an annotated copy of Vogue, a mug shot of Mrs. Graham, and a hundred dollars." She accepted, and the interview went well and the text was featured — along with an excellent photograph in the publication Pravda the next day. Remnick reflected, "Mrs. Graham looked quite handsome, I thought. A nice full head of hair, and well combed. I felt close to history."

He stayed in Moscow several years, researching and writing stories for The Washington Post. He was a dedicated, brilliant, and prolific reporter, fluent in Russian, a rising star, a young man who'd become a legendary foreign correspondent. One day, three of his stories from Moscow appeared on the front page of The Washington Post. Then he wrote his first book, Lenin's Tomb: The Last days of the Soviet Empire (1993), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

After a decade with The Washington Post, he went to work for The New Yorker, starting as a staff writer in 1992.

When Remnick took over in 1998, the magazine was in financial straits. But it's remarkably profitable now, with greater advertising revenue and the highest renewal rate of any subscription magazine in the country. But Remnick said, "My principle in the magazine — and I am not being arrogant — is that I don't lose sleep trying to figure what the reader wants. I don't do surveys. I don't check the mood of the consumers. I do what I want, what interests me and a small group of editors that influences the way of the magazine."

It's the birthday of James Boswell, (books by this author) born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1740). He is best known as the author of Life of Johnson (1791), a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson, which is considered by many people to be the greatest biography ever written in English.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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