Jack Richardson (1934–2012) was a playwright, novelist and drama critic. His 1960 play, The Prodigal, a retelling of Euripides’ Orestes, won an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award. Richardson wrote dramatic criticism for The New York Times, Esquire and Commentary and was a frequent contributor to The Review.

An Oppressed Group

Two years ago, as a reporter, I joined an ocean expedition whose purpose was to find the Soviet Union’s Pacific whaling fleet and, through argument or obstruction, end its annual harvest of sperm whales. The ship we sailed on, a chunky Canadian halibut boat festooned with symbols of peace, life, …

A Tale of Long Ago

Who would have thought that there would ever be a time when Lenny Bruce and Richard Nixon might be linked together, not as implacable adversaries, but as victims of our society’s verbal taboos? Yet while I was reading Albert Goldman’s description of one of the comedian’s trials in his book …

My Trip to Las Vegas

Morning makes a timid entrance into Las Vegas, insinuating itself with silver modesty among the thousand-watt spires, signs, and billboards, waiting until the master switches of the hotels are thrown, until the neon blinks off and natural daylight is officially allowed back into town. This twice-daily electric convulsion is the …

It’s About Time

It is somehow fitting that we should receive Nabokov’s earliest novel after he has presented us with the complex works of his maturity. The first book, Mary, is thus allowed to meet the American reader cloaked in that temporal ambiguity of which its author is so fond and which, in …

Keeping Up with Updike

How can a contemporary novelist confront experience? How, knowing that art has worn out so many of the details of life, can one still fix a narrative of a novel’s length into a world made up of “things” and “characters”? How can one make the selection of events or the …

Easy Writer

There are many types of social fantasts in literature, but the quality common to them all is a suspicion that the accepted customs of human society, if carried to their logical conclusions, would prove to be grotesquely absurd. Thus Swift, who, next to David Hume, had the best analytic imagination …

Master Builder

Since its publication in 1967, Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad has provoked throughout Latin America reactions far beyond those of ordinary critical approval. Indeed, this novel by a Colombian writer who has lived in Europe for the last fifteen years has been welcomed, written about, and discussed by Spanish readers with an almost relieved exuberance, as if to suggest that the style and sensibility of their history had at last been represented by a writer who understands their particular secrets and rhythms, by a writer who, moreover, presents these qualities with a classic lucidity and humor, and whose art is large enough to include the rough and the fastidious taste, to be epic at a time when so much of what is interesting in literature belongs to the idiosyncratic and consciously complex—certainly timely qualities for our fiction, but qualities not particularly suited to an imagination which wishes to span a century of narrative or catch the essence of an entire culture.

The Aesthetics of Norman Mailer

There have been times when writing was considered an act of grace, a form of almost supernatural intervention in the ordinary affairs of the human imagination. The modern masters, however, have made it clear that the merely inspired soon perish and that the writer and his book are best, if …

Chasing Reality

Toward the end of Saul Bellow’s last novel, Herzog’s wild ruminations are pierced by a very real horror when he wanders into a courtroom where a man and woman are standing trial for infanticide. The woman—semi-retarded, dim, brutalized—had, in a fit of fury, dashed her son to death against a …

The Black Arts

Just to set down the phrase “Negro Literature” releases in any sensible mind all the ambiguities of a situation that has become so viciously consuming, so semantically, aesthetically, and politically abrasive, that there might seem to be now no way of treating the works of black writers except as curious …

The Trouble I’ve Seen

William Gibson’s A Mass for the Dead is many things—it is an autobiography, a memorial to the author’s parents, a testament for his children, and a long musing on the continuity of generations. Primarily, however, it is, as the title suggests, a ritual; and, indeed, like the ecclesiastical form used …

I Don’t Want to Go Home

A curiosity of the American novel is the difficulty it seems to have producing young, adult protagonists. Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield prove it can manage quite well up through late adolescence, but as soon as its young heroes enter their early twenties something happens to them: all oddities of …

Prop Art

If Jack Kerouac’s Vanity of Duluoz and Jeremy Larner’s The Answer were put together between one cover they would make a saga on the regenerative powers of each generation to consider itself unique and to write about this with an ineptness and banality indistinguishable from its predecessor. Kerouac, in his …