Behold the Critic | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Behold the Critic
by

A MASTER OF ENGLISH
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski’s John Simon Says…:

In the 1970s, I worked for a publisher’s representative, one of whose clients was New York magazine, then edited by its founder, Clay Felker. John Simon was there as theater critic. I well remember how properly and thoroughly he skinned a theatrical presentation of the “poems” of Leonard Cohen. One such paid tribute to some woman who had caught Cohen’s eye with her “perfect ass.” That phrase became, of course, Simon’s headline for the review as a whole, and for Cohen. And it was perfectly illustrated with a cartoon of Cohen, monstrous tongue emerging from his mouth to lick his own face.
Lawrence Henry

Right on, Wlady! I never cared much for Glengarry Glen Ross, the movie, even with the excellent performances by the actors, particularly Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. Now I know why.

I followed your link to Simon’s review, and thence to the Archives where I spent a delightful hour or so reading Simon’s reviews. Then, for a comparison, I read a few reviews by Ada Calhoun, and in so doing discovered a fundamental truth about Simon’s writing: he literally takes the reader into the theater. Calhoun, in contrast, brings to mind James Thurber’s The Mail Animal. I refer to the protagonist’s immortal line when the ex-campus-big-wheel raves about reading Reader’s Digest: “Do you like bouillon cubes?”

Even Simon’s swan song had class. I can only assume that New York magazine’s reader base has declined in class, as has that of so many publications. Well, New York isn’t the bastion of class that it once was.

And it’s all about the money, isn’t it? Perhaps readers were not willing to pay to read Simon, preferring pabulum from Calhoun and her ilk.

Thank you for introducing me to this Master of the English Language. I’ve never had much opportunity to see actual theater productions, The Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles being the last, but Simon’s writing is an adequate, albeit poor, substitute.
Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

The amazin’ John Simon penned my all-time favorite movie-review line.

I’m not sure I remember the movie he was reviewing; it may have been Yentl.

But I’m sure I remember his prose: “Streisand, whose ego is exceeded in size only by her own enormous beak….”

He will be missed.
Doug Welty
Arlington, Virginia

John Simon may have stood for all the right things, as Wlady Pleszczynski maintains. Okay, and he wrote well.

But he was also an uncommonly nasty man in print. I’ve honestly never seen ANYONE who was so obsessed with others’ physical shortcomings, and I write that after four long years (many years ago) of fraternity meetings, three years in the Army, and lots of time spent in biker bars. He really did write things about others (especially, I always felt, well, “ethnics,” like me and Wlady) which would have gotten him punched out regularly even in extremely polite society, let alone the three subcultures cited above. And he is/was by no means all that wonderful a physical specimen himself.

So he acted, time after time after time, like an obnoxious jerk in print. That, I suspect, got him fired as much as anything else.

He also never conveyed happiness in print. Severe self-satisfaction that he’d made fun of someone in print, yes (it was certainly never done “regretfully”). But nothing of his personal happiness really came through in his writing. So I really do hope he’s now as alone and as miserable as he made so many actors, directors, producers and writers.
Richard Szathmary

Wlady Pleszczynski replies:
Mr. Szathmary may be confusing John Simon with Bob Knight or someone else the media love to traduce. He’s as “ethnic” as either of us, and a tall and handsome man besides, with a rather deep, soothing speaking voice that could easily dominate any stage. As a gentleman he shows appropriate reserve. So, no, you won’t see him pulling a Gene Kelly in the rain. But anyone who’s read him at all knows what an appreciative critic he can be. On occasion he even gives a hint of his personal “feelings,” as when he wrote, “I confess Goodbye, Mr. Chips moved me to tears. But I must also confess that I attended the Leys School in Cambridge…and that I was one of those new boys who at the start of every Michaelmas term tamped up Trumpington Road to have tea with the kindly old retired master who was the model for Chips.” Not a happy moment?

MEANINGFUL SECURITY
Re: Reid Collins’s Assumptions:

Bravo, and totally true. It will lead to a day where it isn’t an “innocent.” We failed, and all because “well it was ‘only’ …” and the anticipated backlash in the LIBERAL media.
S. Dent

I’m anticipating that there will be a general outcry against Reid Collins’s excellent parable from Uncle Pundit. There will be the usual “bleating heart” liberals ranting about how heartless it would be to shoot down an “innocent” blundering pilot who “chanced” to wander into the No-Fly Zone over the capital. Well, who among you can read the mind of such a pilot? Can we assume — because it is apparently an innocent mistake as it was in this particular case — that any future “blunder” will be the same? As Reid pointed out, the flyboys with their fingers on the triggers will now have second thoughts, perhaps just long enough to let the attack succeed.

“By their deeds ye shall know them.” — Matthew 7:20

Jesus had it right. What people do is who they are. Remember 9/11? What those terrorists did was who they were. Trying the same thing again with commercial airliners is “been there, done that” for these monomaniacal suicide bombers. But pretending to be a disoriented private pilot accidentally blundering into airspace over the Capitol, the White House, and/or the Pentagon would be a new approach, and based on the reaction of the authorities in this “Case of the Confused Cessna” it quite probably could work. If it didn’t, what have the bastards lost? Another fanatical suicide bomber, a cheap Cessna, nothing more.

And don’t forget, should the next one be loaded with bioterrorism and/or radioactive weaponry, just shooting it down inside the No-Fly Perimeter will release destruction enough, even if it isn’t precisely on-target. Perhaps it’s already “Too little, too late.”
Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

Let’s carry your assumption a bit further.

The F-16s nuke these guys and the plane falls on a freeway exploding into flames and killing several people on the ground. (“Oh…we never thought of that.”)

What is interesting here is that the system is adjusted to cope with lunkheads like these two guys. It was obvious early on to those running the show that these were not terrorists even though they did so many things wrong it boggles the mind.

The bottom line here is that the system got a workout, the aviation community received notice of the consequences involved in flying the DC,A and enough notoriety occurred to make those borderline idiots flying take notice. BTW, I am a licensed pilot with over 40 years experience. I have no sympathy for the 69 year old. He should have his license revoked.

There was a similar incident over Peru not long ago when the air force down there decided a Cessna 185 was a drug runner. So it was blasted out of the sky. The missionaries aboard died. They’re still running drugs around the Andes but propagating the faith has slowed somewhat.

I have always enjoyed your work and am cognizant of the puckish humor you inserted into more than one news/business cast.
Don Priest

TOUGH MONEY
Re: Jed Babbin’s Saddam’s Bought Russians:

What a solid piece of reporting. But I am a little sanguine about the level of influence that Saddam’s oil contracts represented to the Unity Party (i.e. Putin).

Based on your reporting we’re looking at $30-40 million over a three to four year period. (Correct me if I am wrong.) Sounds like a lot of money till you consider that Putin with a simple phone call could have a $10 million campaign contribution sitting on his desk in a day. Being as five of the ten richest people in the world reside in Moscow, and there are no campaign finance laws in that country, dropping that kind of cash in the right hands is done on quite a regular basis. When the oligarchs assets holdings end in the letter B on the balance sheet what’s a couple of million to assure good service?

I would also point out that the arrest of Khodorkovsky, of LUK oil was an attempt by Putin to do two things: first to send a message to the oligarchs that political meddling has limits; second to assure his party had parity in what was being dished out. Khodorkovsky was prior to the time of his arrest known to be providing funds to the opposition out of proportion to the party in power such is the ham handedness of Russian affairs. No one has ever accused Russians of being subtle.

If the Russians were willing to poison an opposition candidate for the Ukrainian elections to assure a favorable deal from the incumbent for an oil pipeline to the Baltic, it gives one pause to understand that bribes in the former CIS states is grease not influence. Saddam’s OFF offerings to Russia were more likely inducements for better pricing on military hardware than trying to curry personal favor in the ruling party.

A sad tale nonetheless. So what do you have on the French?
John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

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