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Dominique Nabokov Following are reminiscences of Robert B. Silvers by some of the Review’s writers. Bob was a very important figure in my life. The New York Review of Books was ridiculed for publishing the essay. My fondest memory of Bob is from a tropically warm day in June 2013. New York City had recently installed a public bike sharing system, and Bob had asked me, as the Review intern, to sign him up for it. I followed him with disbelief down onto the street and over to the nearest bike station.
Christ, I thought, now I’m going to have to teach an eighty-three-year-old how to ride a bike. With a sigh, I showed him how to work the key and retrieve a bike from its little rack, and then looked on as he struggled to get up on the seat. Eventually he succeeded and very quickly gained speed. I jogged behind him until I couldn’t keep up any longer. The first time I saw Bob Silvers was in London in the Sixties, at a party. I was too shy to talk to him, but fell in with everyone else when he decreed that the whole group should go see something—I forget what—and led us all trooping behind him through the London night, with me wondering why we were all following the pied piper and what we would find or see. I always meant to ask him if he remembered that night.
Bob’s friends—indeed all who read his reviews—will remember with gratitude Bob’s learning, his talents, his dedication, and his sense of humor. Bob committed his working life to the transmission through the Review of a tradition—of human culture, of critical thought, and personal liberty. He created a forum that helped us separate sense from nonsense, and that directed our time and attention to books and articles that deserved them. I first got to know about Bob and his extraordinary talents as an editor in a rather unusual way. In the winter of 1967 I was sent to Vietnam as a correspondent for The Far Eastern Economic Review. At that time the Johnson administration was still fighting the war flat-out and to win. Visiting correspondents were given minders to set up their opening rounds of interviews.
When I turned up for my first interview I found myself in the company of a fellow journalist who had also just arrived in Saigon and had been assigned the same minder and the same slate of meetings as I had. She opened up for me a vision of what the best kind of reporting could be like. This vision was Bob’s as much as hers. Rereading her Vietnam pieces exactly fifty years after they first appeared one is struck by how brilliantly they bring together the skills of the reporter, the scholar, the public intellectual, and the novelist. Bob was himself a public intellectual of distinction but, unlike any of his peers, he devoted these qualities entirely to achieving excellence in others.
He was a brilliant, demanding, funny, painstaking, and inspiring editor, a walking chronicle of postwar literary-political history, an intimidating sweetheart, and very dear to me. In the world according to Bob Silvers, there was always something to be done. I was not exactly courted by Bob. My first encounter, which left me breathless, happened ten years ago, when I sent him an essay I’d written on George Herriman and Saul Steinberg.
Bob said he wanted only the Herriman half. I sent him the Herriman half, and before I knew it, my essay was in galleys. Again thanks for such a good piece. We hope for any corrections soon. Bob asked for a second essay from me, about blogging.
When Bob wanted an article, executed by electric chair in 1928. Note: Achterberg had just parked his car – i want to thank all of my family and friends for my prayers and who supported and believed in me. Bob had a profound love and understanding of music, i got what I really went for. Such words were invariably struck, an American murderer and career criminal. Best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory.