At 29, Herman Melville had a wonderful wish, that Shakespeare was alive in New York.
“Not that I might have had the pleasure of leaving my card for him at the Astor, or made merry with him over … punch; but that the muzzle which all men wore on their souls in the Elizabethan day, Read More
A few months back, in the South Pacific, I met a lady named Olive from the Save the Whales movement. She was on her way to an international conference and staying at the same hotel as a friend in Nuku’alofa. We all went out to eat. She reminded me of a suffragette: striking, thin-lipped, precise Read More
Contrarian that I am, I like Hollywood movies about Hollywood. I tend to give the genre the benefit of the doubt, despite the traditional box-office resistance to movies about movie people, because what else do filmmakers know as well? Besides, some of the best movies have taken this Pirandellian posture, most notably Billy Wilder’s Sunset Read More
James Gray’s The Yards , from a screenplay by Mr. Gray and Matt Reeves, continues on the soulful, downbeat path across the outer boroughs that the then 24-year-old Mr. Gray marked back in 1994 with his first film, Little Odessa . In that one, his locale was Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach with its largely Russian population. Read More
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theater the other night. I went to the wrong theater. It’s the fickle finger of Fate. But it’s never happened to me before. I was glad, though.
Better to stumble across a small masterpiece than to head for a big disappointment. That’s what I Read More
Herman Melville , by Elizabeth Hardwick. Lipper/Viking, 161 pages, $19.95.
The English excel at writing brief lives, a pocket-size genre long on style, short on facts. Invented by the second-century Roman historian Suetonius ( Lives of the Caesars ), aped by John Aubrey as an alternative to 17th-century dinner-party gossip, epitomized by Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Read More
The Night Inspector , by Frederick Busch. Harmony Books, 278 pages, $23.
One of the many pleasures of reading Edwin G. Burrows’ and Mike Wallace’s monumental Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 , which I hope to finish one day, is discovering how much our own New York has in common with Read More
The lost language of Crane: I love the sound of that phrase (its resonance indebted to the David Leavitt novel title). I’m speaking of the lost language of Hart Crane, to my mind the great American poet of the 20th century, inventor of a unique ecstatic poetic language that is at once maddeningly elusive and Read More