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Collected reactions to the Harper’s letter; Nan A. Talese will retire this year after six-decade publishing career

Thomas Chatterton Williams. Photo: Dominique Nabokov

Nan A. Talese is retiring later this year after a six-decade career in publishing. Talese first started working in the literary world in 1959, as a copy editor at Random House—later becoming the publisher’s first woman literary editor—and has worked at numerous houses since, founding her own imprint at Doubleday in 1990. Margaret Atwood, whose The Handmaid’s Tale was acquired by Talese, said of her longtime collaborator and friend: “No editor has seen so many changes and done so much in publishing as the legendary and much beloved Nan Talese, known fondly to some as ‘the Nanster.’ . . . I can’t imagine her actually ‘retiring.’ It’s a figure of speech. She will continue reading, and reading my work, I hope, and offering commentary: ‘None of these people are very nice.’”

The New York Times rounds up reactions to “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” published yesterday on the Harper’s Magazine website. The letter’s signatories—including J. K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Greil Marcus, Thomas Chatterton Willams, Salman Rushdie, Nell Irvin Painter, David Frum, Bari Weiss, and more than one hundred others—assert that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” As the Times points out, replies to the statement on Twitter were brisk and often vehement. Williams, who spearheaded the effort to write the letter, told the Times, “Donald Trump is the Canceler in Chief . . . but the correction of Trump’s abuses cannot become an overcorrection that stifles the principles we believe in.”

The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu on the true meaning of liberalism, recent media upheavals, and the martyrdom of reactionary critics: “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.”

The faculty of University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program have written a detailed response to an open letter from NWP students addressing the lack of support for Black students in the program.

Randy Shaw, author of The Activist’s Handbook, breaks down the Black Lives Matter movement’s decentralized approach and embrace of direct actions. He applauds the movement for ushering in a new era of activism, especially for “pushing innovative plans such as challenging police where they are most vulnerable: their budgets.”