David Remnick is the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker magazine, as well as host of its newly launched radio show and podcast, The New Yorker Radio Hour. Remnick began his reporting career at the Washington Post in 1982, later becoming the paper’s Moscow bureau chief and penning the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Lenin’s Tomb.
A staff writer at The New Yorker by 1992, he has edited the magazine since 1998, leading it to 40 National Magazine Awards. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Remnick recently shared with Fast Company what he’s up to in those rare moments he’s not reading or writing. But tellingly, for a man who frequently declares his admiration for his colleagues, he seems not to be able to mention a leisure activity without simultaneously invoking one of his star writers.
Working Out: Remnick begins his Sunday with “the requisite going to the gym,” he says. “After suffering through that, I have the muffin that nullifies the gym.”
Rocking Out: Sunday at noon brings what Remnick calls “the great pleasure of my weekend”: a guitar lesson. “I play in a band. I know, it’s very sad. What could be more pathetic than a guy in his 50s in a rock and roll band?” The band is called The Sequoias, “because we are wooden and tall and old and dead inside.” He loves it, because for just a while, “I’m not reading and writing. I’m not thinking about budgets, or why we missed such-and-such a story.” He’s hardly the only New Yorker moonlighting as an amateur musician: Staff writer John Seabrook is his band’s leader, and Remnick says he greatly admires the drumming ability of critic James Wood. “He’s the best literary critic-slash-drummer alive,” Remnick says.
A Brisk Walk: Asked what his favorite walk in New York is, Remnick doesn’t hesitate: “To the subway. I’m not a nature boy.” He says he’s an environmentalist insofar as he’s committed to publishing author Elizabeth Kolbert and other writers who expose the horrors we impose on the Earth. But when it comes to his own affinity for trees and mountains and such, he quotes Woody Allen: “I’m at two with nature.”
A Matinee: “I’d just as soon spend a Sunday afternoon at the Film Forum,” says Remnick. Friends with New Yorker film critic Richard Brody since they were 18, he’ll often accompany him to the latest art-house flick. “I’m open to whatever he’s gonna take me to. The only Godard I haven’t seen is the last one, which Richard swears is a masterpiece. We don’t always agree on that.” (He has less than fond memories of being persuaded to sit through 1977’s 440-minute Hitler: A Film From Germany.) A recent favorite was the Sorkin Steve Jobs biopic. Despite his magazine’s storied fact-checking department, Remnick doesn’t insist on utmost veracity in his cinema, except when the stakes are high. He found Zero Dark Thirty problematic, “because we’re still living in the age of the war on terror, and we’re still living with a sizable continent of commentators and people in the national security apparatus who want to sell torture as an instrument of policy.”
Fine Dining: A recent culinary enthusiasm is a new restaurant called Han Dynasty, on West 85th. While not the best restaurant in the city or even the neighborhood, he calls it “pretty damned good.” He adds: “The fact that the Upper West Side had to wait for a decent Chinese restaurant until now is maybe the most counterintuitive thing not to have been written about by Malcolm Gladwell.”