“Just think of it — going on 50 years now,” Mr. Menaker wrote. “Well, maybe don’t think of it. As you told me recently, comfortingly and disturbingly, ‘We can’t die young anymore.’”
Robert Daniel Menaker was born on Sept. 17, 1941, in Manhattan to decidedly mixed lineage. His father, Robert Owen Menaker, who designed, sold and exported furniture to Mexico and South America, was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Russia whose rabbinical ancestry could supposedly be traced to King Solomon and who had been jailed in czarist Russia as a revolutionary. Mr. Menaker’s mother, Mary R. Grace, the chief copy editor at Fortune magazine, was said to be a descendant of William the Conqueror.
A red-diaper baby, Mr. Menaker attended what he described as the “aptronymic” Little Red School House in Greenwich Village in the 1940s. His father was a Communist Party member who, on his travels to Mexico, spied on Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary exiled by Stalin. (Daniel Menaker described his own politics as “anarcho-syndicalist.”)
Daniel was 10 when his first contribution appeared in The New Yorker: a Talk of the Town item about a classmate who had identified Columbus’s fleet as “the Atchison, the Topeka and the Santa Fe” railroads. Mr. Menaker told the arts journal The Brooklyn Rail in 2016: “Miraculously, they recast it a bit and published it. I guess it set me on the road to authorial vanity and perdition.”
After attending Nyack High School in Rockland County, N.Y., he went to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in philosophy and poetry and was captain of the soccer team. While there, he said, he bought Bob Dylan’s first album because he had mistaken Mr. Dylan for a Welsh folk singer. He taught the guitar by Michael Meeropol, the older son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to spy for the Soviet Union and executed.
He graduated in 1963 and earned a master’s in English at Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Menaker married Ms. Bouton in 1980. A freelance writer at the time, she became an editor at The Times and is the author of books on hearing loss. In addition to her, he is survived by their son, Will, a founder and host of the political podcast Chapo Trap House; and a daughter, Elizabeth Menaker.
Mr. Menaker taught at the private Collegiate School in Manhattan (which provided fodder for “The Treatment”) before he was hired by The New Yorker in 1968 as a fact checker. He was working as a copy editor when, by his account, Mr. Shawn dismissed him as a know-it-all, but not before telling him that he could stay on while taking as long as he needed to find another job.