Robert Gottlieb, Eminent Editor From le Carré to Clinton, Dies at 92

He wore a jacket and tie and examined people by appointment, unlike his respected and formal predecessor, who was called “Mr. Nicknamed “Shawn”, Mr. Gottlieb is an eccentric collector of kitschy things like plastic women’s handbags, a passionate lover of classical ballet, and an eccentric Anglophile who calls the writer “dear boy”. It was also home.

He didn’t attend gossip magazine lunches, preferring to eat hot dogs in Central Park or sandwiches at his desk. With a long face, thick glasses, and thinning hair, he wore old sneakers, baggy trousers, and a wrinkled polo shirt and walked around the office like a beachcomber, chatting with staff.

To assuage the fears of many New Yorker enthusiasts, he made few, if any, minor changes in five years. He published novels by Robert Stone and Richard Ford, with new contributors such as journalist Raymond Bonner, essayist Judith Thurman, and poet Diane Ackerman. New critics were hired, and Talk of the Town commentary was exposed to more writers and no longer written anonymously. However, instead of shortening long articles that critics sometimes criticized as being long and boring, he gradually earned the trust and love of most of his staff.

In 1992, Tina Brown, the British editor of Vanity Fair, succeeded Gottlieb in a friendly change of government, bringing about dramatic changes. Admirers called them lively topicality and refreshing sass. Traditionalists called them vulgar, notably the magazine’s trademark portrait of dandy Eustace Tilly, who appeared on the cover of the memoir as an acne-stricken teenager wearing gold earrings. He criticized the Times Square sex shop leaflets for squinting.

After his time at The New Yorker, Mr. Gottlieb eventually resumed editing Knopp. He became a dance critic for the New York Observer. He has compiled an anthology of dance, jazz and lyrics. He has authored several books, including his 2016 memoir Avid Reader: A Life, in which he covers the strengths and weaknesses of his literary life.

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