Remnick, David J. 1958-
Remnick, David J. 1958-
Born October 29, 1958, in Hackensack, NJ; son of Edward C. and Barbara Remnick; married Esther B. Fein (a reporter); children: Alexander, Noah, Natasha. Education: Princeton University, A.B., 1981.
Washington Post, Washington, DC, reporter, 1982-88, correspondent in Moscow, Russia, 1988-92; New Yorker, New York, NY, staff writer, 1992-98, editor, 1998—.
Livingston award, 1991; Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, 1993, and George Polk Award, 1994, both for Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire; Helen Bernstein Award, New York Public Library, 1994; named Editor of the Year, Advertising Age, 1999.
Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.
Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) Life Stories: Profiles from "The New Yorker," Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Susan Choi) Wonderful Town: New York Stories from "The New Yorker," Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor) The New Gilded Age: Essays and Profiles from "The New Yorker," Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Henry Finder) Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from "The New Yorker," Random House (New York, NY), 2001.
Reporting: Writings from "The New Yorker," Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
(Editor) "The New Yorker" Book of Food and Drink, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of introduction, The Second John McPhee Reader, edited by Patricia Strachan, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996, "The New Yorker" Book of Business Cartoons, edited by Robert Mankoff, Bloomberg Press (New York, NY), 1998, and Part of Our Time: Some Ruins and Monuments of the Thirties, by Murray Kempton, Random House (New York, NY), 1998. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and New Republic.
David J. Remnick is a journalist and writer who became editor of New Yorker in 1998. He worked as a reporter for the Washington Post from 1982 to 1991. The next year, he joined the New Yorker as a staff writer, and he remained in that capacity until he assumed the editorship of the publication. In Ann Marie Kerwin's Advertising Age profile, New Yorker contributor John McPhee praised Remnick as "an editor with extremely broad interests and a sense of what a piece of writing is about." Kerwin acknowledged Remnick's success, affirming that "he puts up, every week, a substantial, intelligent, witty magazine that doesn't need a lot of touting."
During his time at the Washington Post, Remnick spent four years in Moscow, where he witnessed the events leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, which won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, is Remnick's attempt to recover the lost history of the Soviet Union. Full of interviews with reformers, students, workers, peasants, and intelligentsia in locations that range over eleven time zones, Lenin's Tomb "gives us flesh and bone, the sounds, sights, and smells of the Russian people," according to America contributor David S. Toolan.
Lenin's Tomb elicited praise from critics. In the New York Review of Books, for instance, John Bayley described the work as "extraordinary," "wonderful," and "compulsively vivid." Other commentators remarked on Remnick's method of gathering and presenting information. "The great merit of David Remnick's book is to bring to life the agony of the Communist regime during the critical period of unsuccessful reform," noted Richard Pipes in Commentary. "This Remnick accomplishes not by theorizing, not by seeing events in ‘broad perspective,’ but by depicting, in vivid portraits, the minds and souls of those whose actions determined the outcome: courageous dissidents as well as the regime's conservative defenders, alongside passive and generally bewildered ordinary citizens." Pipes described Lenin's Tomb as "a highly informative as well as lively account of Communism's breakdown by an eyewitness who, without hiding his aversion for the Communist regime and its apologists, succeeds in maintaining throughout the attitude of a professional journalist." Tatyana Tolstaya wrote in New Republic: "Remnick's book reads like a documentary detective novel, almost like a work of fiction, in which the author himself plays an important role. At the end of this 500-page account readers are left with the grateful feeling that they have been led through the labyrinth of Russian names, events and cataclysms by a charming and witty guide." Pipes concluded: "Remnick's excellent book suggests that, in addition to thoroughgoing knowledge, there is no better guide to the understanding of human affairs than trusting one's eyes and ears."
In Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia, a follow-up to Lenin's Tomb, Remnick offers "a fascinating, shrewd recounting of Russian politics since the demise of the USSR," observed Booklist critic Gilbert Taylor. Based on interviews with historian Leonid Baskin, economist Yegor Gaidar, novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, banking mogul Vladimir Gusinsky, and others, Resurrection examines Boris Yeltsin's rise to power in 1991 and his subsequent introduction of a capitalist market economy. According to New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Remnick's nar- rative "vividly describes how the corruption and maldistribution of wealth created by the Yeltsin Government produced a longing in the Russian people for the stability and world-power status of the Soviet era." "Resurrection is about what changed and what persists, namely, the kind of vacuum of state structure, of ideology, of national purpose … and into that vacuum rushes one goniff [Yiddish for ‘thief’] after another," Remnick told Norman Oder in Publishers Weekly.
Several critics drew comparisons between Remnick's works about Russian politics. "If Resurrection feels somehow less cohesive than Lenin's Tomb, … that's not really the author's fault," wrote Carroll Bogert in Newsweek. "It's Russia's. The demise of communism was a natural story, though a devilishly complicated one. The post-communist flotsam doesn't lend itself to the same narrative flow." In Resurrection, observed New Leader critic Anatole Shub, "Remnick is reporting on the disorderly Russian transition since 1991 from Soviet stupefaction toward a much-yearned-for European ‘normalcy’—a transition that Russians in focus groups and other discussions often compare with the Israelites' 40 years in the Sinai desert. Any honest book on such a period, and its mercurial participants, is bound to be somewhat episodic and tentative; most ‘conceptual frameworks’ are likely to be misleading or meaningless."
In The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, Remnick offers "a remarkable portrait gallery of rogues, heroes, politicos and creative innovators," according to a critic in Publishers Weekly. In the work, Remnick profiles such individuals as basketball great Michael Jordan, disgraced U.S. presidential candidate Gary Hart, noted poet Joseph Brodsky, accused Communist spy Alger Hiss, and religious professor Elaine Pagels. Writing in Booklist, Thomas Gaughan called Remnick "a graceful and evocative writer, and a storyteller who illuminates his subjects and edifies his audience." Entertainment Weekly contributor L.S. Klepp praised the author's "subtly shaded character sketches" as well as his "fables of recklessness, deception, and ultimately redemption."
King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero recounts the legendary boxer's exploits in the mid-1960s, when he obtained and defended the heavyweight championship. David Levi Strauss, writing in the Nation, observed that King of the World "is based entirely on retrospective research: a thorough rereading of the contemporaneous and later literature, viewing and analysis of tapes of the fights and interviews with the survivors." He called the book "a pointed consideration of the significance of these events for our time, especially in our current confusions about race." In conclusion, Levi Strauss hailed King of the World as "a fitting tribute to a great American adept and provocateur." In Booklist, meanwhile, a critic described the work as "fresh and compelling" and "the best book yet" on its subject.
In 2000, Remnick served as editor of Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker and, with Susan Choi, edited Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker. Ellen Sullivan, writing in the Library Journal, acknowledged the New Yorker as "one of America's most popular and enduring magazines," and she deemed the two books "complementary anthologies." A Publishers Weekly reviewer summarized the contents of Life Stories as "gems of the genre," and Booklist critic Kristine Huntley hailed the book as "fascinating and diverse." Huntley was similarly impressed with Wonderful Town, which she deemed a "fabulous collection." A Publishers Weekly critic concurred, appraising Wonderful Town as an "excellent collection."
In Reporting: Writings from the New Yorker, Remnick collects twenty-three previously-published essays about such notable figures as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, boxer Mike Tyson, Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu, and novelists Don DeLillo and Philip Roth. In the words of New Statesman contributor Jason Cowley, "Remnick specialises in the long literary profile and, in his hands, it is a most capacious and flexible form—the ideal form, perhaps, for our age of globalised celebrity." "As a writer, Remnick practices a classic journalistic style: concrete nouns, active verbs, graceful sentences, solid paragraphs, subtle transitions," remarked Pete Hamill in the New York Times Book Review. "A sly wit often punches up the prose, and he is hip in the original sense of the word, which was ‘knowing,’ not ‘fashionable.’" Cowley concluded: "Remnick is not a swaggering writer. He is present in his pieces, but never obtrusively; they are emphatically not about him, which is as it should be."
Asked if his solo writing efforts benefited his work on the New Yorker, Remnick told Boston Globe contributor Don Aucoin: "It does help me in the long run as an editor to get out and see things and hear things." Remnick continued: "I … love indulging the passion for filling your bucket—in other words, reporting—learning something new, and then figuring out how to make a story of it, so it is not just a leaden ball of quotations but something that the reader can see and hear and that may bring the reader to a remote place in a way that … some of the faster forms of journalism can't."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advertising Age, March 13, 2000, Ann Marie Kerwin, "Savvy, Funny Remnick Finds His Spot," p. S22.
America, July 2, 1994, David S. Toolan, review of Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, pp. 19-21.
American Spectator, July 1, 1997, Adrian Karatnycky, review of Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia, p. 70.
Booklist, August 1, 1996, Thomas Gaughan, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 1875; February 1, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of Resurrection, p. 924; January 1, 1999, review of King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, p. 776; September 1, 1999, Bill Ott, review of King of the World; January 1, 2000, Kristine Huntley, reviews of Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker and Wonderful Town: New York Stories from "The New Yorker," November 15, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of The New Gilded Age: Essays and Profiles from "The New Yorker," p. 608; April 15, 2006, Allison Block, review of Reporting: Writings from "The New Yorker," p. 7.
Boston Globe, May 22, 2006, Don Aucoin, "David Remnick: A Man of Two Hats and Many Interests."
Business Week, March 17, 1997, Patricia Kranz, review of Resurrection, p. 14.
Challenge, September 1, 1997, M.E. Sharpe, review of Resurrection, p. 128.
Choice, July 1, 1997, M.G. Roskin, review of Resurrection, p. 1869.
Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 1997, Marshall Ingwerson, review of Resurrection, p. 14.
Commentary, December, 1993, Richard Pipes, review of Lenin's Tomb, pp. 53-54.
Economist, March 8, 1997, review of Resurrection, p. 100.
Entertainment Weekly, September 27, 1996, L.S. Klepp, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 74.
Foreign Affairs, May 1, 1997, Robert Legvold, review of Resurrection, p. 138.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of Reporting, p. 280.
Library Journal, August 1, 1996, Rebecca Wondriska, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 85; February 15, 1997, Robert H. Johnston, review of Resurrection, p. 149; March 1, 1999, Gordon Blackwell, review of King of the World, p. 126; February 1, 2000, Ellen Sullivan, reviews of Life Stories and Wonderful Town; October 15, 2000, Nancy P. Shires, review of The New Gilded Age, p. 70; March 1, 2002, Susan M. Colowick, review of Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from "The New Yorker," p. 114; May 15, 2006, Michael O. Eshleman, review of Reporting, p. 107.
Nation, January 25, 1999, David Levi Strauss, review of King of the World, p. 33.
National Review, June 2, 1997, Radek Sikorski, review of Resurrection, p. 51.
New Leader, March 10, 1997, Anatole Shub, review of Resurrection, p. 18.
New Republic, April 11, 1994, Tatyana Tolstaya, review of Lenin's Tomb, pp. 29-35.
New Statesman, September 18, 2006, Jason Cowley, "Perfect Profile," review of Reporting, p. 60.
Newsweek, March 31, 1997, Carroll Bogert, review of Resurrection, p. 76.
New Yorker, December 16, 1996, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 109.
New York Review of Books, August 12, 1993, John Bayley, review of Lenin's Tomb, pp. 3-4; April 24, 1997, Tatyana Tolstaya, review of Resurrection, p. 13; December 21, 2006, Neal Ascherson, "A Far-flung Correspondent," review of Reporting, p. 48.
New York Times, March 17, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Signposts on Russia's Road to the Future."
New York Times Book Review, September 8, 1996, Paul Weiss, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 22; July 12, 1998, Scott Veal, review of Resurrection; October 25, 1998, Budd Schulberg, review of King of the World, p. 11; November 17, 2002, Scott Veale, review of Fierce Pajamas, p. 60; May 14, 2006, Pete Hamill, "A Ringside Seat," review of Reporting, p. 11.
Poets & Writers, July 1, 2006, "Talk of the Town," p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, June 24, 1996, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 39; January 13, 1997, review of Resurrection, p. 59; February 24, 1997, "David Remnick: Dispatches from Russia and Beyond," p. 56; August 18, 1997, review of The Devil Problem and Other True Stories, p. 90; January 3, 2000, review of Wonderful Town; January 17, 2000, review of Life Stories; November 6, 2000, review of The New Gilded Age, p. 83; April 3, 2006, review of Reporting, p. 58; April 24, 2006, "PW Talks with David Remnick," p. 52.
Russian Life, March 1, 1997, Paul Richardson, review of Resurrection, p. 24.
Time, March 31, 1997, Bruce W. Nelan, review of Resurrection, p. 82.
Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 1997, review of Resurrection, p. 10; January 5, 2007, Ian Jack, "Booked and Noted," review of Reporting, p. 4.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 25, 1997, review of Resurrection, p. 3.
Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1997, review of Resurrection, p. 98; September 22, 1998, review of Resurrection, p. 147.
Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1997, David Pryce-Jones, review of Resurrection, p. 12.