Stanley Meisler hits a stand-up double

Stanley Meisler hits a stand-up double

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As a general rule, magazine editors don’t like to run more than one article by any one writer in the same issue. That goes for us, too, but this time we couldn’t help ourselves. Stanley Meisler’s story about Daniel Libeskind ("World Trade Center site was selected as a finalist. And Meisler’s piece about the playful, painted bronzes of sculptor Joan Miró ("Mischief Maker") was just the thing—also timely, colorful, upbeat—to round out the issue.

Meisler, for his part, regards his interviews with Miró, who died in 1983, and Libeskind as two of the high points of his 47-year journalism career, much of it as a foreign correspondent in Europe for the Los Angeles Times. "Miró was then the most famous living artist in the world," Meisler recalls of meeting him in 1978, "but he seemed to have no pretense. He gestured as he spoke, punching a fist into the air or slamming a foot on the ground. He smiled and laughed, kept saying how much he liked the United States and had only kind things to say about everyone." Except artist Salvador Dalí. When Meisler asked him about Dalí, who had not only supported the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco but had come to parody himself as his work grew ever more commercial, Miró said pointedly: "I admired the young Dalí."

During an interview, Meisler likes to say as little as possible to encourage the subject to talk as much as possible. But interviewing Daniel Libeskind in Berlin for us some months ago, Meisler went on almost as much as Libeskind. "Mostly this stemmed from Libeskind’s personality," says Meisler. "He is an amiable artist who seems not to be blinded by his own ego and has an insatiable curiosity."

Subject and interviewer turned out to have a lot in common. Both have family roots in eastern Poland. Both went to high school in the Bronx. Both had relatives who were sent to the Auschwitz death camp in World War II. As those coincidences and others kept coming up, Libeskind peppered the conversation with cries of "amazing" and "strange world."

When Meisler met Libeskind again a few weeks ago in New York City, the journalist was determined to "behave more professionally. But I failed. After he answered all my questions about his proposed design for the World Trade Center, he asked me about my children. [Meisler has six ranging in age from 25 to 39.] I could not resist replying at length, and the two of us were soon chatting away."

About Carey Winfrey
Carey Winfrey

Carey Winfrey was Smithsonian magazine's editor in chief for ten years, from 2001 to 2011.

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