From the stacks
September 8, 1958
Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958 and refused to accept it.
Doris Lessing, who died Sunday at 94, is being remembered as a shatterer of literary and political conventions. In 1962, 45 years before she won the Nobel Prize, Lessing was the subject of a lengthy review in The New Republic by Irving Howe.
September 22, 1979
It may seem hard to believe, but at the time of his death 10 years ago, Jack Kerouac was considered a has been, all but forgotten by those who had read On the Road and proclaimed him the king of the Beats. The hippies, the inheritors of the freedom that Kerouac extolled and exercised, had never heard of him—or, if they had, thought of him as one of those old guys who wrote books. He languished in Orlando, Florida—alcoholic, dyspeptic, given to fits of anger against both the Establishment and those who opposed it. Was he a man without a country?
October 14, 2002
With Arthur Miller reaching the age of eighty-seven this month, it is time for those of us who have not always been in his corner to salute one of our theater's most distinguished elder statesmen. Aging surely has its inconsolable side, the worst being the waning of your faculties and the loss of those you love (Miller this year suffered the death of his wife, the gifted photographer Inge Morath.) But one of the advantages of growing old is that you finally begin to outlive your critics—or at least their sour opinions of you.
December 6, 1954
Henry James called him a "fatuous cad," but we all know he was just jealous.
June 16, 1982
I write this piece from London, where, according to this morning's Times, the Queen Mother has just been to visit an exhibition of P. G. Wodehouse memorabilia at the National Theatre. She is an avid reader of Wodehouse, says the Times, and collects his books in her library in Scotland. So the Queen Mother and I have something in common after all: we are both Wodehouse fans.
April 10, 1961
At last. Michelangelo Antonioni is an Italian director who has just made his seventh film and who is so highly esteemed abroad that there has already been an Antonioni Festival in London. For the eleven years of his career no Antonioni film has been released here. Now at last comes Avventura, which is the sixth of his works.
July 13, 1963
Like most autobiographical works Federico Fellini's scintillating new film 8 ½ reveals something more than its author intended. Begin with the title. It derives from the fact that, up to now, Fellini has made six full-length films and has contributed three "half" segments to anthology films. Before we step into the theater, the title tells us that he is clever, and that he sees the film as part of his personal history. It also tells us that he found himself stuck for a title.
December 10, 1993
Steven Spielberg has made his own Holocaust museum. In Schindler's List (Universal), an adaptation by Steven Zaillian of Thomas Keneally's book, Spielberg has created a 184-minute account of the fate of Kraków's Jews under the German occupation, centered on the German businessman and bon vivant, Oskar Schindler, who devised a ruse to save 1,100 Jews from the Auschwitz ovens. A closing note tells us that in Poland today there are fewer than 4,000 Jews but in the world there are 6,000 "Schindler Jews," survivors and descendants.
January 24, 1994
If a film has genuine worth, it's more than one film. It changes with further viewings. The second time you see it, it's larger. This time you aren't "distracted" by the story, by discovering what happens next. You can concentrate on the qualities that made you want to see it again, usually acting or felicities of vision or both. (Third and later viewings—of especially fine films—have an even stranger effect: as you learn more about them, you simultaneously feel you're seeing them for the first time.