John Leonard estimated that he read 13,000 books and published more than five million words in his lifetime. For 50 years, before his death of lung cancer in 2008, he was the most relentless and generous of critics. He started out, before he dropped out of Harvard, in the pages of the Crimson, parodying the Cambridge coffeehouse scene and panning Monocle, a humor magazine run out of Yale by Victor Navasky, who invited him to write for Monocle, where he parodied National Review, which got William Buckley to give him a job there, at a time when the contents page—featuring Joan Didion, Garry Wills and Renata Adler—read like a preview of the New York Review of Books. At National Review he could throw acid on Greenwich Village, which was apparently spoiled before Bob Dylan got there, and declare the death of the Beat Generation, but he had to move to Pacifica Radio in Berkeley to hate on Nixon with impunity and put Pauline Kael on the air. Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 11/01/11 4:06pm
The pleasures of reading Haruki Murakami could easily be mistaken for a list of his vices. His heroes are lonesome, underemployed everymen with casually refined tastes and plenty of time on their hands to be drawn into precarious intrigues or dispatched on romantic quests. But a friendless bachelor who likes nothing better than to crack open a can of beer while stirring a pot of spaghetti and listening to classical music in his Tokyo apartment you might also call a nonentity. That is, until the phone rings and on the other end is some mischievous operator or femme fatale. (Mr. Murakami’s female characters are hard to distinguish from common male fantasies.) These tend to get Mr. Murakami’s plots moving, to the extent that his one-thing-after-another books relay the impression of being plotted; indeed, they are often better when they don’t. Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 10/25/11 5:31pm
On March 3, 1966, Joan Didion and her husband and screenwriting partner, John Gregory Dunne, adopted an infant girl born that morning at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. The idea to adopt had come from the former child star Diana Lynn, herself adopted, and the girl’s name, Quintana Roo, from a map of Mexico, where the couple had recently vacationed. “The baby with the fierce dark hair,” Ms. Didion writes, “stayed that night and the next two in the nursery at St. John’s and at some point during each of those nights I woke … to the same chill … dreaming that I had forgotten her, left her asleep in a drawer.” The chill is the anxious tingle of several what-if scenarios about parenthood: “What if I fail to take care of this baby? … What if this baby fails to thrive, what if this baby fails to love me? … And worse … what if I fail to love this baby?” [emphasis Ms. Didion’s]. Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 4/26/11 10:50pm
On Monday night, I was on 10th Avenue talking to the biological granddaughter of Brooklyn literary lioness Paula Fox. I asked her if she read Martin Amis. “I like Money,” said Courtney Love, sitting on a bench and smoking a cigarette outside a film premiere after-party. “I like John Self in Money,” she said. “I Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 3/09/11 1:26am
Buzz. Zeitgeist. Electrifying!
Lists. Lists of lists. Lists of the greatest lists of lists. Lists of the most powerful lists of the greatest lists of lists. Lists of the lists that shook the lists that shaped the lists that changed the world forever. I should make a list of these lists. Or someone should make Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 3/09/11 12:52am
“Did she see you had an entourage with you?” asked Bobby.
“Yes, she definitely noticed,” The Observer replied.
The Observer had just had a close call on the floor of the Armory Show. Looking at two large photographs by Candida Hofer, he had been accosted by an ex-girlfriend.
“Hey,” The Observer had whispered. “It’s good Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 3/02/11 12:30am
After 20 years and 30 issues, Open City is ceasing publication, co-editor Joanna Yas told The Observer.
“These things are not institutions,” said founder and co-editor Thomas Beller. “They’re always razor’s edge things.”
Ms. Yas and Mr. Beller decided to shut down the journal after multiple sources of funding pulled out. They hadn’t expected issue Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 3/02/11 12:16am
Let’s say I have $60 billion in assets, not frozen but liquid. And let’s say that after 42 years of glorious rule and personal enrichment, and a few weeks of pointless, no doubt Western-inspired bloodshed, I decide enough is enough. What if I moved to New York? What could that $60 billion buy me?
By Sadie Stein and Christian Lorentzen 3/01/11 11:58pm
“When I bring a guy home, he has to measure up to Kai Ryssdal,” said the brunette. “The only guy close on NPR is Jad from Radiolab.”
“When Kai Ryssdal talks about money–oh, Jesus!” said the blonde, of the host of Marketplace. She mimed a swoon.
“Kai’s gotten me through a lot,” said the brunette. Read More
By Christian Lorentzen 2/23/11 1:42am
Postmodernity has culminated in my torn underwear. The fragmentation of my fishnets signals the teetering of a mode of authority that was in the end so much bad romance. In the depthlessness of my stare heralds equality in superficiality, and digitality allows my hair to be everywhere. The utopian gesture has in my heels undergone Read More