Interview with Alex Star - June 4, 2014

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Alex Star is senior editor at Ferrar, Strauss and Giroux in New York. He has a long and distinguished history as an editor, first as assistant literary editor of The New Republic, then–from 1994 to 2001–as the editor of Lingua Franca, a publication with a truly outsized impact on the world of ideas in general, both within and beyond the academy. Later he was founding editor of The Boston Globe "Ideas" section, deputy editor of The New York Times Magazine, and senior editor of The New York Times Book Review before joining Ferrar, Strauss and Giroux in 2012. He has also written essays and reviews for The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, London Review of Books, and other publications.
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The interview was conducted in his office in New York on June 4, 2014. Star talked about how he became an editor (1:00) and learned how to edit (2:35), what goes into editing a good piece (6:05), editing versus writing (18:45), switching off the editorial sensibility (23:10), the use of a pen (24:00), what becomes of marked-up copy (25:50), editors he admires (27:50), the grand narrative that lends sense to his various career moves (29:15), market vs. editor (33:20), investigative ideas reporting (36:45), whether editors can be like Henry Higgins (41:10), the forensic skills of editors (46:35), saying “no” to writers (48:50), the editorial high (51:10), what he holds sacred (54:35), how he’s changed as an editor (57:35), the most basic unit of writing (58:50), motion versus sound in good writing (1:00:55), regrets (1:04:30), the editor as basketball player, lawyer, and/or psychotherapist (1:06:00), the editorial relationship with writers of magazine pieces vs. book authors (1:08:25), reading habits and preferences (1:11:10), how times have changed (1:14:35), balls still in the air (1:20:00), historians as the best writers [he said it] (1:22:55), and what he would do with twenty million dollars (besides invest it in the Romanian film industry) (1:28:55). To download and listen to the complete interview, click here.
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