BBC 4 50th anniversary NYRB film airs tonight
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BBC 4 Arena: The 50 Year Argument directed by Martin Scorsese & David Tedeschi
In anticipation of the Review’s 50th anniversary, editor Robert Silvers and publisher Rea Hederman came to Martin Scorsese with the idea of making a film about the magazine. An avid reader since his college days at NYU where he “wouldn’t miss an issue,” Scorsese eagerly agreed.
It’s no accident that the sole source of consistent, fact based analysis in the United States following the attacks of September 11, 2001 was found within the pages of The New York Review of Books. In the early days of the “War on Terror” and the build up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Review published many pieces that even now, 12 years later, still appear truthful and incisive. “Torture and Truth,” Mark Danner’s article on enhanced interrogation, based on a confidential Red Cross report, was a watershed moment when many people began to see the events of the Bush Administration in a new light. This is one of many crowning moments for The New York Review of Books.
In its inaugural issue 50 years ago, the Review distinguished itself immediately with an enviable roster of some of the most illustrious writers and thinkers of their time: Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, William Styron, W.H. Auden, Mary McCarthy and many others who would go on to do some of their best work within the pages of the Review. The film will tell the story of the shared spirit of inspiration that brought that first issue to press: Elizabeth Hardwick writing “The Decline of Book Reviewing” for Harpers magazine, which argued that a new kind of literary journal – passionate, engaged, truly literary – was needed. The impromptu dinner party that brought Hardwick and her husband Robert Lowell to the table of their neighbours, book editors Jason and Barbara Epstein. Jason Epstein’s flash of clarity that a New York City newspaper strike had given them a golden opportunity to launch the publication of their dreams. The next day Jason Epstein called Robert Silvers to recruit him as editor and he in turn recruited Barbara. The founders launched the Review from Hardwick’s premise, but it grew large part from the hard work, imagination and sensibility of its editors, Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers.