The Devil Problem & Other True Stories

The Devil Problem & Other True Stories

by David Remnick
     
 

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Readers know from his now classic Lenin's Tomb that Remnick is a superb portraitist who can bring his subjects to life and reveal them in such surprising ways as to justify comparison to Dickens, Balzac, or Proust. In this collection, Remnick's gift for character is sharper than ever, whether he writes about Gary Hart stumbling through life after Donna Rice or

Overview

Readers know from his now classic Lenin's Tomb that Remnick is a superb portraitist who can bring his subjects to life and reveal them in such surprising ways as to justify comparison to Dickens, Balzac, or Proust. In this collection, Remnick's gift for character is sharper than ever, whether he writes about Gary Hart stumbling through life after Donna Rice or Mario Cuomo, who now presides over a Saturday morning radio talk show, fielding questions from crackpots, or about Michael Jordan's awesome return to the Chicago Bulls — or Reggie Jackson's last times at bat.

Remnick's portraits of such disparate characters as Alger Hiss and Ralph Ellison, Richard Nixon and Elaine Pagels, Gerry Adams and Marion Barry are unified by this extraordinary ability to create a living character, so that the pieces in this book, taken together, constitute a splendid pageant of the representative characters of our time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marion Barry, Gerry Adams, and others are profiled by the frequent New Yorker contributor.
Library Journal
Remnick, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Lenin's Tomb (LJ 6/15/93), wrote these "stories" about politicians, athletes, writers, and the news business for the New Yorker. The pieces are factual, but many of them also read much like a good short tale. The title piece, for example, about professor of religion Elaine Heisey Pagels of Princeton, tells of the tragedies of her life and some of the circumstances that surrounded her writing The Origin of Satan (LJ 6/1/95). Remnick's smooth, readable style and clear insight make for interesting reading. Recommended for popular journalism and current events collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/96.]Rebecca Wondriska, Trinity Coll. Lib., Hartford, Ct.
Thomas Gaughan
Remnick, a "New Yorker" staff writer and winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Lenin's Tomb, is properly respectful of the idea of stories. "Stories," he states, "the telling and the listening, are much of what we are." Remnick's stories begin with people, a disparate group that includes Gary Hart, Michael Jordan, Joseph Brodsky, Ralph Ellison, Mario Cuomo, and Alger Hiss, and they examine what he describes as the gap between "private life and public ambition." His stories and people span literature, scholarship, politics, and sports, and Remnick is as fluent in his commentary on Brodsky's poetry as on Jordan's post-up move. There are stories within stories, as well, as when Gary Hart describes a weird conversation with Richard Nixon during the funeral of Senator Jacob Javits. Nixon told him that Bach was better than Brahms, because Bach is "tougher" than Brahms. Remnick is a gifted observer, a graceful and evocative writer, and a storyteller who illuminates his subjects and edifies his audience.
Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer Prize winner Remnick (Lenin's Tomb, 1993) turns his attention to . . . Reggie Jackson? This collection of Remnick's New Yorker pieces runs the gamut from Reggie to Alger Hiss, from Michael Jordan to theYiddish daily, the Forward. Stories, Remnick asserts in his preface, are the heart of journalism, and as readers of his prize-winning book on Russia know, he is a very capable storyteller. With the exception of the essays on Alger Hiss and USA Today's Al Neuharth, the pieces in this collection are recent, having been published between 1993 and February 1996. The topics are varied, but two elements do unify them. The first is Remnick's penchant for telling detail and for the slightly offbeat variation on an ordinary interviewer's question. The second is the way he balances his passionate commitment to a vision of morality with the necessities of objective journalism. At its best, these two constants can produce a masterpiece, as in his lengthy examination of the forces that drove Marion Barry's campaign to return to the mayoralty of Washington, D.C.; one watches, fascinated, as Remnick comes to understand and even (a little grudgingly, as you might expect) to like the ex-con ex-mayor. At its worst, the result is the book's opening piece, a portrait of Gary Hart in 1993 that, because its central figure is unforthcoming about the most obvious topic of interest, feels hollow at the center. Happily, the book has many more examples of the former than of the latter. Remnick is particularly good on his enthusiasms: a warm tribute to the late Joseph Brodsky, and affectionate portraits of Ralph Ellison and Murray Kempton. He is less effective when venting his spleen, as in hisslightly shrill attack on the cold new sports arenas that opens his profile of Jordan. On the whole, though, this is a superbly entertaining collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679777526
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/01/1997
Edition description:
Reprinted Edition
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

David Remnick was a reporter for The Washington Post
for ten years, including four in Moscow. He joined The
New Yorker as a writer in 1992 and has been the magazine’s editor since 1998. Mr. Remnick served as an Olympic Correspondent and Commentator for NBC during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
 

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