I recently subscribed to Graydon Carter’s new publication ‘Air Mail‘. I have to admit, I only became aware of its existence by accident. Just looking through the past issues I found Ash Carter’s revelatory essay/ interview with Wieseltier and its other protagonists of August 15, 2020 :
Headline: Taking—and Making—Liberties
Sub-headline: Three years after #MeToo allegations sank his Laurene Powell Jobs–funded magazine, Leon Wieseltier wants back in
“I went away,” he told me. “And I reflected. I tended to my son as best I could, because that was my primary consideration. Some friends stood by me.” He paused. “It was sort of an interesting experience. I’d been made a pariah, and I’ve read about pariahs all my life, so I guess I’m the wiser for it.” When I pressed for more details about this period, Wieseltier said, more than once, “This is not my redemption story.” He became more animated on the subject of his new quarterly, which until now has been a closely guarded secret. Its name, at once proudly patriotic and vaguely seditious, is Liberties. It has an editorial staff of two: Wieseltier and his managing editor, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania named Celeste Marcus.
Although I have selected a quotation, it seems that contrition for past misdeeds seems to be an alien concept, that represents a pattern throughout the interview. It isn’t exactly denial, but a muted form of arrogance. Which reminded me of this 1999 New York Times interview by Sam Tanenhaus.
Headline: Wayward Intellectual Finds God
The literary/political melodrama that was the lot of 1999’s Leon Wieseltier is refracted though the opinions of his friends, and an admiring interviewer. What is left untouched is the unstinting admiration, that veers into near idolatry for Henry Adams. Was this mere affectation for the eyes of a newspaperman?
Ernest Samuels biography of Adams was published in 1989, and its one volume abridgement, of those three volumes in 1995. That abridgement by Samuels’ biography, at 462 pages, that records Adam’s history of Anti-Semitism, in its erratic expressions, didn’t seem to intrude into Wieseltier’s awareness. As a literary critic and expert on American life, letters and politics, how could such a telling component of Adams’ character have escaped Wieseltier’s attention, the very sine qua non of the critic?