Thinking about Victor S. Navasky (July 5, 1932–January 23, 2023), the longtime editor and even longer-time public face of The Nation magazine, who passed away last week. He was a towering figure in journalism, and his life and career have been documented by people much more qualified than me. But I have some personal memories to share.
It was 1990. I was a year out of college, searching for direction, and I wrote a desperate plea to The Nation, a sort of moral compass for me back then. I begged for a job — any job — and even though the magazine didn’t have any openings, Victor agreed to meet with me. Despite his vital obligations in putting out a weekly magazine, he was so kind and patient during the interview, crinkling his eyes in a sympathetic smile as I expressed my existential crisis.
And somehow he created a job for me! At first, I was the magazine’s jack-of-all-trades — my duties included everything from helping with the magazine’s classified ads section and selling back issues and T-shirts to putting fresh toilet paper in the bathroom — but I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be in the door and apparently steering my life in the “right” direction.
Victor was never a director mentor to me, but he embodied the spirit of the place. I learned so many things from him just by observing his manner and the way he dealt with his people. I thrived at The Nation, where I made a bunch of great friends and contacts, and eventually became director of reprints and syndication. I also learned how journalism and fact-checking work, and I credit that formative experience with setting me on the path to my eventual (current) role as a journalist.
And no doubt the best thing that happened at The Nation was that I met Sari Wilson, who began her own post-college career as an intern there. The rest, as they say, is history!
I left The Nation in 1992, setting out with Sari on our round-the-world backpacking adventure (which led to us living in Prague, then Chicago, then San Francisco, then Provincetown, and finally, nearly a decade later, back to New York City). At the farewell party for me, Victor gently ribbed me about how far I had come in my two years there, and even jokingly took credit for connecting me with Sari. But it wasn’t a joke: if he hadn’t taken “pity” on me and given me a job that didn’t exist, Sari and I would never have met.
I ran into Victor here and there in later years — when Sari and I were back in NYC for a visit, and a couple of times upstate in the Berkshires. And he was always the same: avuncular, sharp-eyed, and happy to see how my life was progressing. I’m happy he had a good long life, and I’m grateful our lives intersected at such a key juncture in mine. He will be missed.