Sun Sets for Lipsky

It looks as though Seth Lipsky's "New York Sun" will fold on Monday -- barring a last minute cash infusion. Lipsky founded the daily in the shadow of 9-11 with the grand ambition of being a niche paper -- a non-tabloid high end New York daily.

Prior to the NY Sun Lipsky was the founding editor of The Forward, the English language weekly that was licensed from the Yiddish Forverts. I wrote for The Forward (their first book excerpt was from my Demjanjuk book), and knew Lipsky then.

For both the Forward and then The NY Sun, Seth had the great ability to convince wealthy people of the honor they were doing to invest in his publication -- no small accomplishment for as long as it lasted.

There are a few things I want to say about Seth and the Sun:

When people talk about the Forward under Seth, and the New York Sun, they start by talking about Seth's politics which are usually labelled as conservative and militantly pro-Israel. Those characterizations, while not untrue, do not do justice to Lipsky's complex hard-to-second-guess views.

Seth's Op-Ed pieces could be opaque masterpieces -- you start out thinking you know where he is heading and end up enlightened about a few points but confused about where he stands.On some days he could sound like a Menshevik Bundist -- for labor but also free markets. Just as some neo-conservatives are obsessed with proving that the Rosenbergs were guilty (turns out Julius was but Ethel wasn't) and that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty (again seems like one may have been; while the other wasn't), Seth was obsessed with the Altalena -- which in many ways was a defining event in Israel's march to Statehood.

Although most people mention Seth's politics, what deserves the most credit is his great emphasis on Culture (like a true Bundist). The Forward's cultural pages under Seth were terrific -- he published many great and celebrated writers and there's a long list of writers and editors who passed through the Forward on their way to greater professional success and acclaim (Jonathan Rosen, Robin Cembalest, Philip Gourevitch, Jonanthan Mahler are a few that come to mind).. The NY Sun also had great cultural coverage and mentored a wonderful roster of great critcs and writers.

The Forward under Seth probably had no more than12,000 paying subscribers -- the Sun probably no more than 15,000 -- numbers that are small for a newspaper, but rather large for a literary journal.

Perhaps Seth should abandon his political ambitions and just publish a great literary publication -- I have no doubt he would give the TLS, or the New York Review of Books a run for their money --. In any event, regardless of what he does, I wish him well, and thank him for putting so many writers to work for as long as he did.