Daniel Menaker, award-winning author and editor, is dead

PTI New York | Updated on October 28, 2020

Daniel Menaker, an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction and a longtime editor at The New Yorker and Random House who worked with Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Colum McCann and many others, has died at age 79.

Menaker’s son, podcaster Will Menaker, announced on Twitter that he died Monday of pancreatic cancer, with his wife, writer and editor Katherine Bouton, and his two children at his bed side.

“He was me, and I am him in so many ways,” Will Menaker tweeted. “I miss him terribly, but am struck with a profound feeling that I am the luckiest man alive for having been his son.”

Daniel Menaker was the author of several books, including the memoir My Mistake and the comic psychological novel The Treatment, adapted into a 2007 movie starring Chris Eigeman and Ian Holm.

He was also known for the O Henry Award-winning title story of his collection The Old Left, which draws on his early childhood in Greenwich Village and his red diaper upbringing: His father allegedly spied on Trotsky in Mexico, where the exiled Russian revolutionary was eventually assassinated, on behalf of the Communist Party; an uncle was named for Friedrich Engels.

In conversation, Menaker was often genial and self-effacing, but he would acknowledge competitive and boastful sides and was haunted by a family tragedy he helped bring on.

In 1967, during a family game of touch football, he encouraged his older and only brother Mike to play defence, even though Mike was troubled by bad knees. Mike Menaker tore a ligament and died after surgery when he developed septicemia.

“Somewhere in my hideous id, I killed him,” Menaker wrote in his memoir. “I vanquished him from the field, and spoils are all mine.”

Menaker was an undergraduate at Swarthmore and received a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.

He taught at private school and worked as an editorial assistant at the Prentice Hall publishing house before joining The New Yorker as a fact checker in 1969.

Published on October 28, 2020

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