The Rake

A NEW KIND OF FARE

There is a story about a man stuck down a hole, unable to get out. A priest walks by, and the man asks the priest for help: the priest dutifully throws down a prayer and walks on. Then a doctor walks by, and responds to the call for help by throwing down a prescription. Then another guy walks by, sees the waylaid protagonist, and jumps into the hole. “Are you crazy, why did you jump down?” the first man says. “Now we’re both stuck.” The second man says, “Well, I’ve been down this hole before and I know the way out”.

The parable is pretty good for most contexts. For editors, a vocation in which plenty of time is spent down various crevasses, the guy you want to see walking by is Graydon Carter. He is the editor’s editor, a graven image of the trade, gilded with so many awards they could have a Wikipedia page of their own. They include 14 National Magazine awards in the U.S.; the Order of Canada; a place in the Magazine Editor’s Hall of Fame; an Emmy; a Peabody; and that most enviable of accolades, the ire of Donald Trump on Twitter.

Carter’s 25 years as the Editor-in-Chief concluded in 2017; his departure cast a long shadow over Condé Nast. What would become of the world’s most sophisticated magazine? How would his successor make their own mark without changing what many considered to be perfect? Questions abounded, but one person was gearing up for a well-earned retirement, recuperating in the south of France… at least, that was the plan.

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