Daniel Menaker, award-winning author and editor, dead at 79 – books
Daniel Menaker, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author and longtime editor at The New Yorker and Random House who worked with Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Colum McCann, and many others, has passed away at age 79.
Menaker’s son, podcaster Will Menaker, announced on Twitter that he died Monday of pancreatic cancer, along with his wife, writer and editor Katherine Bouton; and her two children by her bedside.
“He was me, and I am him in many ways,” Will Menaker tweeted. “I miss him very much, but I am struck by a deep feeling that I am the luckiest man in the world to have been his son.” Daniel Menaker authored several books, including the memoir “My Mistake” and the comic psychological novel “The Treatment,” adapted into a 2007 film starring Chris Eigeman and Ian Holm.
He was also known for the story of the O Henry award-winning title from his collection “The Old Left,” which is based on his early childhood in Greenwich Village and his upbringing as a “red diaper”: his father allegedly spied on Trotsky in Mexico, where the exiled Russian revolutionary was finally assassinated, on behalf of the Communist Party; an uncle was named by Friedrich Engels.
In conversation, Menaker was often cool and modest, but he recognized the competitive and boastful sides and was haunted by a family tragedy that he helped provoke. In 1967, during a family football game, he encouraged his only older brother, Mike, to play defense, despite Mike having knee problems. Mike Menaker tore a ligament and died after surgery when he developed septicemia.
“Somewhere in my horrible identification, I killed him,” Menaker wrote in his memoirs. “I beat him off the field, and all the loot is mine.” Menaker was an undergraduate student at Swarthmore and received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. He taught in private school and worked as an editorial assistant at Prentice Hall before joining The New Yorker as a fact checker in 1969.
He stayed for more than 25 years, moving from fact checker to editor, handling the work of Munro, Pauline Kael, and George Saunders, among others. It was also published in the magazine, beginning with a story in which he imagines his brother returning from the dead, “Grief.” In her memoirs, she recalled that then-editor Tina Brown pulled it out of the magazine in the mid-1990s and handed it over to her husband, Harry Evans, who ran Random House and named Menaker Senior Editor.
Over the next decade, its authors included Rushdie and future award winners like McCann and Elizabeth Strout. He also took on one of the publisher’s more unusual assignments: the manuscript for Bill Clinton’s 1992 novel about the presidential race, “Primary Colors,” which he edited without knowing who wrote it.
The 1996 best-seller was published anonymously, although it was eventually revealed that the author was journalist Joe Klein.
“It reinforced the education I received at Swarthmore, which was very explanatory. You didn’t care who wrote a poem, you just read it, ”Menaker told Paris Review in 2014.“ I’m not sure ‘Primary Colors’ is a great work of art. I know this is a tremendously good novel, and it was a pleasure to remove all the complications from the author. So it was kind of a purist graduate school approach to something that was a trade publication, but it was a lot of fun. ”
He was kicked out of Random House in 2007 – his salary was too high, his earnings too low, he would recall – and in recent years he worked as a consultant for Barnes & Noble and on the creative writing program faculty at SUNY: Stony. Brook University.
(This story was posted from a cable agency feed with no changes to the text.)