Vintage Dish

Saul Bellow And The Malevolent Friend

When Saul Bellow got an invitation to rejoin the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1958, he and his second wife, Sondra, were ready for a change of scene from their Hudson Valley house (“could use TLC”), and they needed the income too. Although Bellow had already won his first National Book Award with The Adventures of Augie March, he followed in a long line of writers who discovered that you could be famous without having money.

Nevertheless, Bellow put forward one condition before taking the job in Minneapolis. The university had to find a position for his closest friend, Jack Ludwig, a writer and a colleague from [...]


The Cordial Enmity Of Joan Didion And Pauline Kael

A column that resurrects the highbrow gossip of yore.

Here’s an anecdote from James Wolcott’s crackerjack new memoir of ink-stained ’70s New York, Lucking Out: Wolcott, then in his twenties and cutting his teeth at the Village Voice, tagged along with Pauline Kael for a drink at the townhouse of a top Newsweek editor. Kael was three decades older than Wolcott and miles above him then in the editorial food chain, but he wasn’t about to ask the most famous movie critic in America why she kept inviting him to screenings. (Whatta town.)

The only prominent item on the enormous glass coffee table at the editor’s house was Joan Didion’s [...]


The Architect, The "It” Girl And The Toy Pistol That Wasn't

One warm June night in 1906, Albert Payson Terhune could be found engaged in battle for a telephone booth in the old Madison Square Garden while wearing a tuxedo. He had forcibly removed a man mid-conversation, and now, as he shouted into the phone, he kicked out a leg and swung his free arm to fend off the displaced caller and another man wielding a chair. Moments before and one floor above, Terhune, filling in as a drama critic for the New York Evening World, had been a witness to the crime of the century, and he was calling in the scoop.

The movie version of his half of the [...]


Larry David's Rough Night Out With The Aging Literary Lion

A column that resurrects the highbrow gossip of yore.

In the "Seinfeld" episode "The Jacket," which aired in 1991, Elaine recruits Jerry and George to join her for a drink and dinner with her father, Alton Benes. He’s a cranky old writer, distinguished but well past his prime, and he’s impossible enough that Elaine says she needs a "buffer" to spend an evening with him. (This comment might mark the moment when we all started using the word "buffer" in this particular way. "Re-gifting," "double-dipping," "low-talker"—in the lingo of the educated urbanite, all roads lead to “Seinfeld.”) Elaine ends up being late, and Jerry and George face some [...]