Staff Picks: Harvey Pekar, Henry Luce, Lost Critics


This Week’s Reading

What we’ve been reading this week.


  • I was keen to catch a glimpse of what is being called the “last comic” of Harvey Pekar, which is a collaboration with Tara Seibel, a Cleveland cartoonist and graphic designer. Seibel’s story of her final moment with Pekar is comforting in its ordinariness: she dropped him off at the public library, where he had parked his car. —Thessaly La Force
  • Jackson Lears’ marvelous review of Alan Brinkley’s less-marvelous dual biography of Henry Luce and Time, Inc. The book has been a strange mirror for reviewers: when The New Yorker handled the book, it did so as a shadow portrait of Eustace Tilley; when The New York Times did, it became a book about the challenges facing newspapermen in the digital era. But Lears sees something bigger than himself reflected in the story of Luce and his mid-century behemoth. “Few men have more fully embodied the tense alliance between the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” he writes. “He preached a civil religion for an emerging affluent society.” —David Wallace-Wells
  • It’s douche bag, not douchebag, according to a former New York Magazine copy editor. But my favorite testimony from the trenches is still this Q&A with The New Yorker‘s Mary Norris. Some tidbits: she will always regret making Oliver Sacks spell sulfur the American way (instead of sulpher); there’s a staff writer who consistently spells annihilate with one “n”; and even the best are confused by the difference between “lie” and “lay.” —T. L.
  • Also, the ever-serious Jeffrey Rosen on the punishing frivolity of life on the Internet; theologian David B. Hart on theologician Marilynne Robinson; and a charming Esquire feature on gamesmanship and The Price Is Right. —D. W. W.
  • For my sins I’ve been reading Seymour Krim’s 1970 collection Shake it for the World. Krim was what used to be called an “underground” critic. He wrote for the Voice and the New American Review; I read him to remember how dead that world is now. Half this collection is a sustained rant against James Jones and Norman Mailer (“… now this hip young literary snatch was carrying on about Barbary Shore in a way that would have offended Mailer himself. I lost my trick of the evening because of the stone I turned to after this Mailer-infected preacherette thrust him at me like the sacrament . . . ” etc., etc., etc.) Nowadays I suppose he’d be a blogger, like the rest of us. Every once in a while, though, Krim gets off a zinger. For instance when the New Yorker theater critic John McCarten calls Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf “a vulgar mishmash.” Writes Krim: “What Irishman is kidding what Jew?” One misses that kind of thing, a little. —Lorin Stein