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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 37

Peer Review

Michelle Dean, author of Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion celebrates Renata Adler. Words by Michelle Dean. Photograph by Sebastian Kim / August Image.

The first time I remember encountering Renata Adler, she was mid-skirmish in the pages of Harper’s Magazine. It was the year 2000. She had just published a book called Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker and apparently everyone in New York was angry with her. The New York Times, she reported, had published no fewer than eight pieces rebutting the book. She wrote of it as “institutional carpet bombing.” Never one to shy from drama, I was intrigued.

That said, for a person like me, from the provinces (read: Canada), much of the piece was impenetrable. I didn’t live among people who tracked bylines, let alone mastheads. No one I knew had opinions about which regime at The New Yorker was best. The idea that a magazine could so closely resemble a soap opera, or perhaps a Roman epic—fiefdoms and rivalries and hard-set preferences for umlauts that would shape generations of readers and writers—still counted as a


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Seven

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