Saturday, September 26, 2015

In the critic wars of the sixties and seventies, no one emerged untarnished, particularly not Renata Adler

From Salon:
The veteran reporter, critic and novelist Renata Adler has published one of seven new books pegged to the New Yorker’s 75th anniversary in February. Unlike its cousins, however, Adler’s New Yorker memoir, “Gone,” is stirring up trouble. Last November, New York magazine reported that former New Yorker fiction editor and current New York Times Book Review editor Charles “Chip” McGrath had sent a letter of protest to Adler’s publisher after reading the galleys of “Gone.” Adler, McGrath said, had described him as participating in an event that never occurred.

The memoir’s veracity has also been called into question by another former New Yorker mandarin, Robert Gottlieb, who was the magazine’s editor from 1987 to 1992. While drawing comparisons between Lillian Ross’ “Here But Not Here,” and Adler’s memoirs, Gottlieb writes in this week’s New York Observer that “where Renata really trumps Lillian’s ace is in the matter of inaccuracy … She gores Lillian’s claims to plausibility, but her own book is riddled with errors, of varying degrees of importance and disingenuousness.”

According to Gottlieb, he never fired jazz writer Whitney Balliett, as Adler contends, nor did he hire writer Adam Gopnik, a particular target of Adler’s scorn and indignation. (In her memoir, Adler asserts that, “Under Bob Gottlieb, the magazine had begun seriously to slide.”)

And while Gottlieb’s article ticks off numerous mistakes that concern him directly, another New Yorker insider has gone so far as to draw up a comprehensive list of the book’s factual errors. One of the most egregious occurs when Adler writes, “For the months from January to August 1976, when President Nixon resigned, I virtually lost contact with the New Yorker.” Nixon resigned in 1974. And as Adam Goodheart points out in the New York Observer’s second article about “Gone,” Adler covered Nixon’s impeachment.