David Remnick is definitely one of the most important non-fiction writers of our time. In this book, he shows the range of his powerful profile-writing. After reading each profile, you feel like you are now intimately acquianted with the person. Remnick goes beyond the superficial, relating the story behind each individual and the circumstances surrounding their claim to fame. This is a must-read for anyone who attempts to write profiles and biographies. It should also be a must-read for any reader out there.
This is a terrific book. I have appreciated Remnick's profiles in the NEW YORKER, but here, read one after another, they have a cumulative power. Remnick's prose is clear and graceful. He also achieves a feat rare in profile writing: He manages to let us know what he thinks without ever clouding the reader's ability to make his or her own judgments. Bravo!
The "general assigment" feature writer is becoming a lost art and title at most newspapers. Whether big-city newsrooms to rural dispatches, the tendency is to specialize or eliminate. Remnick takes us back, and show's us the way of the old masters in his recent compilation, "The Devil Problem." Most of the stories are from Esquire and the New Yorker, where he's now a staff writer. Remnick warmed up with a ten-year tenure at the Washington Post, where he covered Glasnost for the paper, converted his experiences into a book, "Lenin's Tomb," and won a Pulitzer for his efforts. Fellow New Yorker staffer Henry Louis Gates Jr. referred to him as "The Michael Jordan of Journalism.'". Others profiled in "The Devil Problem" range from Nobel Prize winners to retiring baseball players, from performance-art rebounder Dennis Rodman to the dashing IRA demagogue Gerry Adams. My favorites underlined that gamut: a profile on the waning career of Reggie Jackson, and a tale of avarice and academica re: a pair of Shakespeare scholars ---- one, an Oxford-educated professor and Hollywood TV producer, the other an aspiring doctoral student with bills to pay and, hence, pride to swallow.
Perhaps the best piece is Remnick's portrait of legendary New York journalist Murray Kempton