Robert G. Hoyt, R.I.P.

Bob Hoyt, who died April 10 at eighty-one, was a distinctive writer and a brilliant editor. Distinctive because he had a voice of his own-succinct, witty, and precise. His writing voice was the opposite of his speaking voice—gravelly and sometimes inaudible-and his spoken words, which were discursive and agonistic. He loved a good argument, especially one he was sure he could win, if only...if only, you paid exacting attention to his point.

Writers counted themselves lucky to have Bob as an editor. Syntax, logic, cohesion, clarity, and solid content were the stern standards by which he judged anyone’s writing, from the most august to the lowly neophyte; in that he was indiscriminate. My first book review for him in 1968, and for the National Catholic Reporter, which he established in 1964, was of Red Flag/Black Flag, an analysis of the 1968 uprising of French students and workers, events I had witnessed from my student garret in Paris. He quickly convinced me, once I was back in New York, that movie reviews ought to be added to my repertoire. Bob was never the distant or impersonal editor; analysis and conclusion were as important as word choice and sentence structure. He actually convinced me I could be a "real" writer, and did everything possible to make me one.

His departure from NCR in 1970 was a sad day for me and many others: I canceled my subscription. We...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.