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, the writer and editor Katherine Bouton; and his two children at his bedside.
“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.
My father, Robert Daniel Menaker, died yesterday afternoon nearly a year after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was in his own bed, in no pain, and with my mom, my sister and me. He will live on in our love for him and in the memories of everyone who knew him. pic.twitter.com/jZflvUi21M
— Will🦒Menaker (@willmenaker) October 27, 2020
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.
Menaker was an undergraduate at Swarthmore and received a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University. He taught at a 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. He remained for more than 25 years, rising from fact-checker to editor, handling work by Munro, Pauline Kael, and George Saunders among others. He was also published in the magazine, starting with a story in which he imagines his brother returning from the dead, “Grief.” In his memoir, he remembered being pushed out of the magazine in the mid-1990s by then-editor Tina Brown and handed off to her husband, Harry Evans, who was running Random House and made Menaker a senior editor.
He was forced out from Random House in 2007 — his salary was too high, his profits too low, he would recall — and in recent years worked as a consultant for Barnes & Noble and on the faculty for the creative writing program at SUNY: Stony Brook University.