When should writers work for free? It is one of the most difficult questions facing writers in the 21st Century as unpaid outlets multiply online.
In an interview at The Paris Review, we found a historic moment when famous authors wrote for free in a completely unknown publication. When the legendary editor Robert Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1962, he went straight to the most talented writers in the country and asked them to work for free.
Our thought was to think of the best writers in the world to review the books of the season—even people who hadn’t written book reviews for years or ever. Many of them we knew—Norman Mailer, [William] Styron, W. H. Auden, Edmund Wilson. We said, “Look, we have three weeks, we can’t pay a penny, will you do it?” And they all did.