The Immortals, Minus One

by Jay Nordlinger

So, yesterday — a muggy afternoon — I trekked way, way up to W. 156th St. to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. They were having their annual ceremony. (I think annual.) I went for the purpose of gazing upon Leontyne Price. She was being inducted as an honorary member.

This was scheduled to happen very, very early in the program, meaning I would be out of there in no time. The ceremony was supposed to start at 3. It started about 3:35.

And there they were, some 125 members of the Academy, assembled on the stage. Grandees, sages, our Immortals. I saw Garrison Keillor, in bright red socks, to go with his bright red tie. David McCullough, very, very dapper, with a hanky in his pocket. Meryl Streep, who, to me, was surprisingly beautiful, and physically graceful. Ned Rorem, looking mischievous. Salman Rushdie, looking unafraid and prosperous. Steve Reich, in his trademark baseball cap. Pete Seeger, with a couple of musical instruments.

What was he going to sing about? The glories of North Korea? The Castro brothers? Who or what is his current totalitarian ideal?

Anyway, Price wasn’t there. Her brother, retired Army general George Price, who has repped the great soprano for years, sent a message. A few sentences long. It was read by Streep (nicely). And that was it.

Leontyne lives in the Village, and I’d like her to know I went all the way up to 156th for her. Would have gone even to 176th, and beyond (way beyond) . . .

P.S. Speaking of Immortals, there was a book party for Bernard Lewis last night. He has come out with his memoirs. He spoke about his life, and also about the current Middle East — and was his usual crisp, wise self. Looked like a million bucks, too. He will be on the National Review cruise next November. Worth the price of admission all by himself.

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