Thursday, January 30, 2014

Richard Kaye Remembers Bob Tashman at the New York Review of Books

A nice memoir of our late friend by one of his co-workers at NYRB:
The other aesthete—unkempt, straight, Jewish-guy division—was Bob Tashman, as nervously fast-talking as David was mellifluously smooth-talking, an assistant editor for many years at the Review. For some time Bob and I did not get along. It was an office joke, of sorts, our everyday friction and bitchy bickering, and thinking about this now I am not sure why. But then, suddenly, we did get along, a development that may have had something to do with Bob’s basic sweet nature and perhaps my telling our mutual friend Arthur Goldwag at the Reader’s Subscription that I thought Bob was one of the smartest people I had ever met. Heck, he was the smartest man in the office, in the entire Fisk Building. It got back to Bob, as I wanted it to. Usually dressed in a bland preppy blue shirt and jeans, hair sprouting from everywhere, Bob would careen from office to office at the Review and do fiendishly accurate impressions of people, myself included. (Something about me saying “Iknow!” into the phone when I was talking to a friend.) 
Very tough-minded intellectually and yet hilarious in a way that would have served him well in vaudeville, Bob had all sorts of complex, fancy tastes in literature and plays and music and art and he could get quite emotional about some of those opinions. He loved to pick little fights about cultural matters. Wasn’t Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight absolutely the best film adaptation of Shakespeare ever made? Wasn’t James Joyce’s story “The Dead” the “greatest piece of fiction in the language”? He would become almost physically taunting about—or alternately physically gratified by—your tastes in books or music, depending on whether your judgments fit his own finely honed refinements. He would rant, cajole, become irritated. Bob was one of those brilliant people who almost always drop out of Ph.D. programs in which they are uneasily enrolled, as I would later understand, because their brilliance invariably is too ornery and unsystematic. Seldom would he yield to another person’s argument or a “school of thought.” Somehow Bob always brought to mind T.S. Eliot’s comment about Henry James having a “mind so fine no idea could violate it.” (Bob passed away from cancer several years ago.)