“I like his mind.”“The great thing about Leon is that he’s open to everything: having fun is not beneath him,” says restaurateur Brian Mc Nally of New York’s fashionable 44. “The most important first fact is not that I was born in Brooklyn or America, but that I’m my parents’ son.Wieseltier returns the favor, saying of Mc Nally, “I love him like a brother.”Such is the bright little world that Wieseltier, since leaving the yeshiva in Flatbush, has been enthusiastically orbiting, thereby laying claim to a mushrooming extra-literary reputation. My parents survived the war, both of them very badly.”Mark Wieseltier was an officer in the Polish army who spent the war in Siberia and went on to prosper in America as the owner of several furniture stores.
To support this expensive pastime—all but impossible on his salary, which is in the high five figures—he regularly loaded dozens of books he received as literary editor into the trunk of his Honda Accord and hauled them to Washington bookstores, selling them to finance purchases of “truth serum.” A colleague who has witnessed Wieseltier’s snorting recalls being embarrassed into silence by the brazen display.
When he finally asked Cuomo a question, the governor, in typical style, picked apart the premise, leaving nothing but rubble. “I’m two ahead of you,” he added, indicating his whiskey.
According to witnesses, Wieseltier was soon bringing to the office another habit that he also enjoyed outside the workplace: frequent cocaine use.
At least I would have wanted a Wieseltierian, eloquently ironic, cynical quip.”“I didn’t quite understand where he was coming from,” says Streisand, granting an interview at Wieseltier’s urging. According to this version, he slipped his arm around her. “Barbra,” he supposedly said, “do you mind if I call you . What happened was that my faith was not sufficiently strong to withstand my desire to taste wine, eat food, and kiss women.”Indeed, Wieseltier has been linked to an astonishing array of prominent women, among them his Columbia classmate Nancy Graham, who later became a film producer and married movie mogul Ned Tanen; literary agent Maxine Groffsky, who was said to be the model for in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus; Kathleen Tynan, who jokingly called him “my son’s and daughter’s moral tutor—and also their immoral tutor”; the actress Lois Chiles, one of the “James Bond girls”; and TV diva Diane Sawyer, apparently a platonic relationship (Sawyer won’t comment) in which the two shared the romance of shopping. The Other means the sexual other as well as the ethnic other and the intellectual other.”Such an other—indeed, the apotheosis of otherness—was Mahnaz Ispahani, the daughter of a Pakistani merchant prince, a darkly beautiful young woman who wore a diamond in her nose. “This is Shiite.”) Ispahani gave Wieseltier invaluable advice as he left off medieval Jewish history to write a long article on nuclear deterrence, which filled almost an entire issue of in Washington.
“One night [after the “bubble-headed” quote appeared] I was talking to Shirley and said, ‘Why don’t you come over to dinner? “You’ve got your arm around me,” Streisand supposedly observed. (“I would rather be the Stuffy of his life than the woman of his life,” says his friend the journalist Anna Husarska, alluding to Wieseltier’s pug.)“I knew from a young age that I could furnish myself with ideas, with thoughts, with tradition, with authenticity, with morbidity, with memory,” Wieseltier pronounces elegiacally. It became clear to me very early on that one gift that women could make to me—not the only gift, God knows—was the gift of beauty. She was getting her doctorate in international relations when Wieseltier met her at the bar of a restaurant on Harvard Square. “Mahnaz,” Wieseltier declaims fondly, “was the Virgil to my Dante.”They were married in November 1985, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg conducting the civil ceremony.