Silvers on editing

26 January 2013

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The New York Review of Books is about to turn 50, and its editor, Robert Silvers, now in his eighties, is the subject of this week’s ‘Lunch with the FT‘ profile.

One of the paragraphs is unmissable, at least if you’re interested in words and writing:

Editing, Silvers advises me, is an instinct. … “You see something in a piece that you can’t understand, and you have to say, ‘Can it be clearer?’ Issues that are left out, you have to raise them. You see dead or tired metaphors, you have to get rid of them.” He pokes at the sprouts in his little bowl, explaining how various phrases are tired or misused – “compelling”, “key”, “massive”, “context” – before looking down. “On the table!” he cries. The metaphorical table, he says, is now terribly overburdened, “with ‘issues’, ‘phrases’, ‘treaties’, ‘wars’ … ”

For the rest of it, you’ll have to buy the FT. But I can reveal that he thinks that long-form journalism will survive, and seems distraught that there’s so many words out here in the blogosphere that he and other critics can’t get a handle on. The interviewer was Emily Stokes.

The picture of the rather ascetic cover of the first issue of the NYRB is from its website, and is used with thanks.

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