What's Right with the World

Joe Sobran as I Knew

I met Joe Sobran in 1973 when I was working as history editor at St. Martin’s Press and had begun writing for National Review.  I don’t remember how exactly, but the occasion must have been one of the open-house cocktail parties at the magazine’s offices at 150 East 35th Street, held every other Wednesday evening after the current number had been seen off to the printer in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  St. Martin’s is established in the Flatiron Building at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, a short walk across midtown New York to Number One Fifty.  However our meeting occurred, it was the beginning of many years of regular lunches and dinners in the company of Joe.  We were often joined at these by Timothy Dickinson, an Englishman who had been at Oxford with George Will before coming to New York, where he was then established as a walking, breathing, resident encyclopedia for Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper’s.

In those days Joe was living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with his four children and commuting to Manhattan by plane on alternating weeks.  Despite his growing fame he was not rolling in money, and hotels in New York were, then as now, absurdly expensive.  On the weeks when he was in town, Joe’s bed was the conference table in the library, where he would stretch on his back at night, staring up at the reflected pattern of car lights on East 34th Street passing across...

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