Captain Vic

*Nation* editor stays close to his desk

by

comment

Scheduled guest of honor at the screening of Professional Revolutionary, publisher and editorial director of The Nation Victor Navasky has a new book out, A Matter of Opinion. As the title suggests, it’s an examination of the role of the journal in contemporary society. To some extent a professional memoir disguised as a thesis, Navasky’s book recounts his career, then lapses into the cobwebby history of The Nation, all the way back to its founding by E.L. Godkin in 1865. Navasky spends almost half the book bringing us up to speed — but luckily this includes the highlights of his early satirical magazine Monocle, which once featured a comic strip called “Captain Melanin,” in which a shoeshine boy “turns himself into a black Captain Marvel by shouting not ‘Shazam’ but ‘Booker T. Washington’ and ‘Modern Jazz Quartet.’” In another Monocle stunt, Navasky and company sent questionnaires to hundreds of writers, thinkers and Guggenheim fellows, asking if they sold out and why — prompting an angry Norman Mailer to call them “wise-ass crypto-faggot types.”

Those familiar with Navasky’s tenure as editor of The Nation will certainly look forward to hearing about the period of vitriolic spats between the magazine’s columnists, including a spectacular defection to the right wing by Christopher Hitchens. It’s easy to imagine the journal as an embattled craft, with Navasky and his crew swashbuckling their way across the high seas of opinion. But the storms of controversy and volleys of lawsuits are strangely baffled and distant in this phlegmatic narrative. Navasky seems determined to cast himself as an unflappable, kindly old panda bear, happily munching on nutritious commentary, bemused when people accuse him of being “shrill” (he disagrees) or “ideological” (he agrees). In fact, Captain Navasky is far away from the cannon’s roar, spending most of his time on land, seeking Wall Street titans to bail out a craft that’s taking on water and needs a tow.

Michael Jackman is a writer and copy editor for Metro Times. E-mail mjackman@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.