Robert Vare Editors' Note

The Atlantic Monthly | November 2000

"YEARS ago," says Robert Vare, who recently joined The Atlantic's staff as a senior editor, "I discovered that my abiding passion in magazines was writing that married the arts of journalism and storytelling. I love stories that make drama out of the observable world of real people, real places, and real events -- setting scenes, depicting multidimensional characters, and, most of all, telling the tale."

The genre known as narrative nonfiction has in some form always found a home in these pages, beginning with Nathaniel Hawthorne's elegant Civil War dispatches. The modern form of the genre is exemplified by articles like William Langewiesche's "The Shipbreakers," which was last August's cover story, and Eric Schlosser's exploration of the devastated world of the families of murder victims, "A Grief Like No Other" (September, 1997).

Robert Vare, who will be helping to bring more of this kind of writing into the magazine, has been an editor and a writer for thirty years. He has served as articles editor of The New Yorker (1994-1996), articles editor of The New York Times Magazine (1990-1994), and assistant managing editor of Rolling Stone (1986-1990). While at the Times Magazine he was the editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Grady's Gift, Howell Raines's memoir of growing up in the 1950s in racist Birmingham, Alabama. He was one of the two principal editors of the parody Off The Wall Street Journal (April Fools' Day, 1982) and the editor and publisher of the Playboy magazine parody Playbore (1983). He has been a comedy writer for movies and television, and his humor writing has appeared in many newspapers and magazines. Recently Vare has moved into the world of teaching. For the past three years he has taught narrative-nonfiction writing at Harvard University's Nieman Foundation (where he was a Nieman fellow in 1996-1997), and this fall he is a visiting lecturer at Yale, again focusing on narrative nonfiction.

"General-interest magazines with national audiences used to be fertile breeding grounds for this kind of writing," Vare observes, "but most magazines today are far less hospitable to the narrative form. Their editors seem to have decided that readers now have neither the time nor the inclination to savor carefully developed narrative stories. But I'm a believer, and I'm willing to bet that readers will respond to true tales well told."