Journalists Gush Over New Yorker Editor's Obama Bio

David Remnick's 'The Bridge' gets really, really positive reviews

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As the editor of the New Yorker, one of the most coveted perches in U.S. media, David Remnick is in a position to help journalists looking for assignments with the prominent weekly magazine. It's hard, then, not to notice the glowing, sometimes over-the-top reviews that Remnick's new book is enjoying. The Bridge, a 672-page biography of President Obama, came out Tuesday and is already being hailed as a journalistic triumph. There's no reason to doubt the sincerity of the reviews, though it's striking how much of the praise is personal.

  • Remnick Is 'Making It Look Easy'  The New York Times' Stephanie Clifford really lays on the praise. In his triple-role as New Yorker editor, occasional New Yorker writer, and now book author, "Mr. Remnick works hard to seem as if he is not working hard." Clifford adds, "Mr. Remnick stands out at the [Conde Nast] 4 Times Square headquarters in other ways. He takes the subway to work, not a town car, and lacks the imperiousness or mercurialness that surround other celebrity editors."
  • A Beautiful, Ambitious Book  USA Today's Susan Page calls it "beautifully written and exhaustively researched." She also says it is "sprawling" and "ambitious."
  • And So Long!  Politico's Michael Calderone whistles. "Although David Remnick has been known to pound out 10,000 to 20,000-word pieces while still editing The New Yorker, I still expected a slimmer volume on Obama — perhaps expanding on his Joshua Generation piece — rather than a full biography stretching over 670 pages."
  • Best Obama Book Yet?  In the Washington Post, Gwen Ifill says previous attempts have been lacking. "In the hands of other writers, Obama has proved to be a murky character study." But not Remnick. "A less admiring author -- one who did not invest the considerable time Remnick did ... -- might have spun this tale more harshly," she writes. "Remnick deserves credit for telling Obama's story more completely than others, for lending a reporter's zeal to the task, for not ducking the discussion of race and for peeling back several layers of the onion that is Barack Obama."
  • Even When It's Weak, It's Strong  NPR's Susan Gilman beams that the book "is very much like its subject: even-handed, eloquent, beautifully packaged." Her criticism is couched in praise. "His biography is well-researched and articulated but contains nothing earth-shattering. How can it? Without resorting to tabloid journalism, the best Remnick can do is elaborate on the facts, delve into the footnotes, expand upon the broader historical contexts. And here's where 'The Bridge' is strongest."
  • 'The Best Anyone Could Hope For'  Even Gawker's Hamilton Nolan, typically a searing skeptic of all things Condé Nast, can't resist. "Remnick is perfect for his time and place in the industry. He's no-nonsense, budget-conscious, and a wise cultivator of talent; he's also a Princeton man and a willing cultivator of The New Yorker's insular traditions," he writes. "Remnick is the best that anyone could hope for (which is to say, he's excellent)."
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