Levine’s Last Stand

Vanity Fair intermittently winds up running an engaging story amid its celebrity coverage and overwritten Sebastian Junger dispatches, and David Margolick‘s profile of longtime New York Review of Books illustrator David Levine is a must-read. Levine, now in his 80s, is losing his eyesight; the NYRB hasn’t quite fired him, but they’ve stopped using his work, and Margolick argues that Levine ought to fight for better treatment, given his role in defining the look and attitude of the publication. (Go to its Web site—which, by the way, has very good new pieces by Joyce Carol Oates on Annie Proulx and Colm Toibin on the similarities between James Baldwin and Barack Obama—and you’ll see that the homepage is big on pushing Levine calendars. The tab icon for the Web site, at least in Firefox, is a Levine caricature of Shakespeare.) Margolick’s glum summation:

Levine is proud, even hypersensitive—when the Review recently sent him a wristwatch featuring one of his Shakespeare caricatures, he misconstrued it as a parting gift—and refuses to send in anything on spec. And the magazine, which continues to sell David Levine mouse pads, David Levine postcards, and David Levine reproductions—from which Levine derives only token royalties—is too timid or too pragmatic or maybe too considerate to ask. So the awkward pas de deux continues. Such is combat between habitual noncombatants.

The magazine also includes a slideshow of Levine illustrations, emphasizing his renderings of politicians and power brokers. The NYRB site has its own very deep gallery, including one for American writers.