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National Review

John Simon, RIP

The stories about the late John Simon, critic of all things artistic, being a combination of the skunk at the party and the Wrath of God are so numerous, that I wanted to post a contrast.

During the long time that he reviewed movies for NR, my wife and I saw a performance of Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle at the Met — a first for me, the second time at least for Jeanne. John happened to be in the office the day after, and I mentioned it. His eyes lit up; the result was that the three of us had lunch soon thereafter, to which John brought a libretto, which he patiently and enthusiastically talked through.

Beneath that often ferocious exterior, there was a humility before the works he esteemed, and almost a shyness about praising them, maybe along the lines of the Biblical text, pearls before swine. Hard on the swine, but very devoted to the pearls.


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