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Jason Epstein, founder of 'The New York Review of Books,' dies at 93

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jason Epstein and a group of literary friends hatched their plans for The New York Review of Books over dinner during the 114-day-long New York newspaper strike of 1962 and 1963. That strike killed many New York newspapers, but The New York Review of Books is still here publishing long, sometimes lyrical, often caustic, always voluminous reviews and reportage.

Jason Epstein is credited with launching the paperback revolution and also helped begin the Library of America series, which reissued great works by great writers in enduring, elegant bindings.

He once gave the most sensible explanation of a writing life. I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer, wrote Jason Epstein. Three things I answered. First, one must cultivate incompetence in almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy - once you have these in place, you are set to go.

Jason Epstein died this week at the age of 93, accomplished, hopeful and wise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.