New York Times writer-at-large Charles “Chip” McGrath, the 61-year-old former editor of the paper’s Sunday book review, is working on a profile of New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers. The piece will appear in The Times’ Arts section just as soon as Mr. McGrath finishes it, which he said this morning he hopes to do next week.
Mr. McGrath said Mr. Silvers cooperated with his efforts graciously, not only agreeing to be interviewed but uncharacteristically sharing his thoughts (albeit only “a little bit”) on the question of succession at the Review.
Mr. Silvers seriously hesitated before deciding to cooperate with the piece, Mr. McGrath said, which is consistent with the 79-year-old editor’s reputation as a press-shy workaholic who wants attention to be focused on “the paper”—as he calls the Review—rather than himself.
“He’s very private,” Mr. McGrath said. “He agreed to do it with some reluctance. He said it caused him an unquiet night. I think he did it for the Review. He thought it would be good for the Review.”
Mr. McGrath said the piece had not been prompted by anything in particular, and that he’d been asked to do it by Times culture editor Sam Sifton.
“It’s not really pegged to anything other than that it’s been about 10 years since The Times did anything about Silvers,” Mr. McGrath said, referring to a profile by Janny Scott that ran in the Times in the fall of 1997.
Several pieces on Mr. Silvers and the Review have appeared in other outlets since then, including one in The Observer by Sheelah Kolhatkar from December 2005 and a lengthy one in New York by James Atlas that appeared in September 2006, shortly after the death of Barbara Epstein, who was Mr. Silver’s co-editor at the Review for 43 years.
Mr. McGrath declined to go into detail about the the piece he’s writing, but indicated that he wants to say something “new” about the Review and Mr. Silvers.