Friday, November 07, 2008

John Leonard

The writer-critic-editor who died today was a gifted man who never seemed to fit into categories. It started when he was a teenager and applied for a job as a Disneyland guide. "I failed the physical," he recalled. "I wasn't blond enough."

He went from being an "apostate" intern at William F. Buckley's National Review to editor of the New York Times Book Review, where he breathed life into a staid journal until 1970 when he devoted an entire issue to books against the war in Vietnam and lost his job for not being "centrist" enough.

From then on, he devoted himself to writing, in his words, "sorting the signals of an overheated publicity culture, manufacturing opinions instead of widgets" and earned a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle for seeing into the heart of every form of expression from serious literature to sitcoms.

In my working lifetime among writers, there were few I admired as much.

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