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Fall 2009 23 The Man Who Would Be Hated: An Interview with John Simon Bert Cardullo John Simon is an American literary, theatre, and film critic. Born in Subotica, Serbia in 1925, he was educated at Harvard (B.A., M.A., and Ph. D.), and has been a regular contributor to a number of magazines, including The New Leader, The New Criterion, National Review, and The Weekly Standard. Although not a native English speaker, he is known for his incisive criticism of the (mis)use of the language inAmerican writing, notably in his book Paradigms Lost: Reflections on Literacy and Its Decline (1981). Simon was theatre critic at New York Magazine for more than thirty-six years, from October 1968 until he was fired in May 2005. Since June 2005 he has reviewed theatre for BloombergNews.com. His writings on theatre have been collected in several volumes, including Uneasy Stages (1976). In 2005, he published three extremely large collections of his work, titled John Simon on Theatre, John Simon on Music, and John Simon on Film. Simon has also written several books on poetry and film, including Private Screenings (1967), Movies Into Film: Film Criticism, 1967-1970 (1971), Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Films (1982), Something To Declare: Twelve Years of Films from Abroad (1983), and Dreamers of Dreams: Essays on Poets and Poetry (2001). Along with an interview with Eric Bentley (published in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism in Spring 2006) and additional, planned interviews with such critics as Robert Brustein and Stanley Kauffmann, the following conversation with John Simon is part of a book-length project of mine on the history and practice ofAmerican theatre criticism. Like my previous interviewee for JDTC, Simon is similarly critical of contemporary American theatre and drama. Unlike Eric Bentley, however, John Simon continues to cheerfully play his role as theatre critic, convinced that the practice of criticism alone is profession enough for any educated man. I spoke with him in his Manhattan apartment for several hours on the morning of June 24, 2008. BC:You were the theatre critic for New York Magazine for over thirty-six years, and thus a key voice on the American theatre scene. How did you become a critic? Bert Cardullo is Professor and Chair of Media and Communication at the Izmir University of Economics in Izmir, Turkey. He is the author, editor, or translator of many books including American Drama/ Critics: Writings and Readings, Comparative Stages: Essays in the History of Euro-American Drama, and Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950: A Critical Anthology. This interview with John Simon is one of a projected series of interviews with notable American theatre critics. 24 Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism John Simon: Just as the Radcliffe girl said when asked why she joined the whorehouse, “Just lucky, I guess.” Seriously, part of it is just being in the right place at the right time. Part of it is having someone influential front for you. For example, I got the post at The Hudson Review, which was my first drama critic’s position—I got that job because Robert Brustein, who had met me and liked my work, recommended me to the editors of the magazine and they hired me. BC: What had you been doing up to that time? JS: I was free-lancing—doing this, that, and other things in various places. BC: Doing criticism, you mean? JS: Oh, yes, always. I did a few interviews, too, especially on television, but otherwise it was criticism all the way. BC: Does one just decide to become a critic? JS: I think one may be born to be one. If you are difficult, querulous, and something of a perfectionist when you are six or seven years old, as I seem to have been, then you continue in that vein and eventually you make it into print. BC: Were you told by your editors how to cover the theatre and what to cover, or were you given totally free rein to cover what you chose to cover, to say what you wanted to say? JS: I have always been 99.99% free to cover what...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-2686
Print ISSN
0888-3203
Pages
pp. 23-39
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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