Tag Archives: history

Start Ups and New York Review of Books

The founding of New York Review of Books is a nice story and contains good bits to keep in mind when thinking about corporate historical narratives and start ups:

Bob and Barbara worked night and day assigning authors, finding a designer, hoping for the copy to arrive before the strike ended. Forty-five reviewers agreed to and met a three-week deadline, with no pay. That first issue looked nothing like what The Review looks like today. Each page, including the front cover, consisted of three unbroken columns of solid type, except where Barbara placed a few woodcuts. On the front page Fred Dupee reviewed Jimmy Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, admiring its passion but objecting to its acceptance of violence. It achieved just the quality of gravitas and fluency we hoped for. No reader of that piece could fail to see the point of our project. The strike lasted just long enough for Eastern News to ship the entire first printing. There were no unsold copies. In an editors’ note we solicited readers’ opinions. Two thousand letters arrived urging us to continue. That fall we acquired a publisher, Whitney Ellsworth, to handle financial and production issues, and the first regular issue appeared.

What impresses me are the completely unanticipated events that came together to make The Review possible. The newspaper strike that provided the opportunity to make the kind of review that Lizzie’s article demanded. The chance meeting that afternoon when Barbara and Lizzie decided on dinner. Bob’s availability. The publishers’ unspent advertising budgets and the ability of Eastern News to reach the right readers. The willingness of forty-five authors to complete their unpaid assignments on time. The duration of the strike. That all this came together seems in retrospect to have been a miracle.

Things I Learned this Week

Among the things I’ve learned this week:
* Black ASL (Courtesy: Washington Post)

* Fifteen percent of lung cancer cases are in non-smokers. (Courtesy: New Yorker)

* The country’s oldest endowed chair is the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. The chair was established in 1721. (Courtesy: NYT)

* Push presents. (Courtesty: EC)

* Mel Brooks co-created Get Smart. (Courtesy: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)

Things I Learned this Week

Among the things I learned this week:
* Sharp invented the mechanical pencil. Sharp’s Wikipedia page identifies a few other cool inventions from the company, including the first camera phone. (Courtesy: Bloomberg)

* Careering means: “Move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction”. (Courtesy: RC)