Wednesday, May 11, 2005


John Simon, Gogol's capacious overcoat

According to the Playbill website, John Simon has gotten the boot from New York after serving as the magazine's theater critic for forty (!) years. His propensity for the critical kidney punch has made him plenty of enemies, and yes, he's been capable of out-and-out nastiness. But Simon is never mushy, I'll give him that. And when he climbs onto the moral high ground, he stays there. In his recent review of Glengarry Glen Ross, Simon curled his lip at David Mamet for actually liking his crew of thuggish real-estate operators. Quoting his own review of the original 1984 production, Simon gives Mamet a disgusted slap on the wrist for the way "he revels in their brazen, agile crookedness. This strikes me as reprehensible, immoral." Old-fashioned? Certainly. Prissy? Perhaps. But I have to admire Simon for not budging from his position. At age 79, incidentally, he's determined to keep writing. Where he'll go next isn't yet clear.

In a snippet from a piece in the New York Review of Books (via Rake's Progress), Gary Shteyngart celebrates the Russian satirist Vladimir Voinovich, declaring:
If all Russian writers (as Dostoevsky said) are supposed to come "from under Gogol's 'Overcoat,'" Voinovich has come directly out of Gogol's 'Nose.'
Now, I had a vague memory of seeing that quote attributed to somebody else. And sure enough, when I plugged it into Google, I found it chalked up to Pushkin, Turgenev, and Chekhov as well as Dostoevsky. No hits yet for Boris Badenov, but I'll keep looking.

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