DEAD WRITERS SOCIETY: The economy may be tanking and it may have been tax day Tuesday, but there's nothing like Champagne and literary schmoozing to dull the pain. In this instance, the occasion was the recent publication of a money-themed issue of Lapham's Quarterly, essentially curated historical selections overseen by former Harper's editor in chief Lewis Lapham. "After decades at Harper's, Lewis Lapham figured out the best idea for a magazine: All his writers are dead," Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, a longtime friend, told the crowd.
As for the living writers and other eminences who were reading from the issue that night, a co-hostess, Brooke Geagan of the Accompanied Literary Society, in a glittering, pageant-esque evening gown, could not contain her enthusiasm for them. "Graydon Carter: big crush," she blurted. "Tom Wolfe: bigger crush." Her description of Wolfe's writing's effect on her anatomy cannot be printed here, but suffice it to say that even Carter blushed purple and looked helplessly at his wife.
As Richard Dreyfuss' cell phone went off — twice — Wolfe showed he was no prude himself, telling a diffuse tale of profiling Marshall McLuhan, author of his selection that night, for New York magazine, which involved a topless bar.
The most rousing performance of the evening, despite considerable competition and an Oscar-winning actor, was by Harvey Weinstein, whose selection, an excerpt from Michael Lewis' "Liar's Poker," was inspired. (Of note: Lewis, not being dead, is an exception to Carter's rule.) The passage was about the frenzied gluttony of mortgage bond traders, and Weinstein read with good-natured gusto lines like, "As their number grew...they became louder, ruder, fatter and less concerned with their relationship with the rest of the firm." Having dedicated his reading to "the subprime guys," Weinstein finished with his own walk-off: "And with that, they f---ed the country." The crowd, manifestly far from the subprime mortgage demographic, seemed on the verge of cheering.
Carter is ineligible for the Bush stimulus payment, probably a good thing, given his well-recorded antipathy for the administration. What if he were? "I'd probably give it to the poor," he said. "Or to Lapham's Quarterly. Maybe they're the same thing." And has he been feeling the recession yet? "No more caviar for the staff every day," he said. As for the criticism of his magazine's green issue not being printed on recycled paper, Carter said work was under way to find recycled stock that would please glossy-oriented advertisers.
— Irin Carmon