A feature-length documentary starring Fran Lebowitz, a writer known for her unique take on modern life. The film weaves together extemporaneous monologues with archival footage and the ... See full summary »
William F. Buckley,
A Liberal-Minded Documentary That Turns Out to be Quite Conservative in Tone
Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi's documentary looks at the 50-year run of the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. With Robert Silvers at the helm, the magazine has established itself as a vehicle for liberal-minded, independent thinking; it has never shied away from controversy. This is chiefly due to Silvers' policy of encouraging the best writers to contribute, irrespective of their socio-political views. The cast-list of contributors reads like a litany of great writers over the past five decades, including Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Colm Toibin, Robert Lowell, Derek Walcott, Noam Chomsky, Mary McCarthy and Timothy Garton Ash. The film includes extracts from several articles, attesting to the quality of the writing, as well as archive footage of interviews with many of the writers involved; there is a particularly juicy sequence from THE DICK CAVETT SHOW in which Mailer and Vidal go head-to-head over the issues of sexism and feminism. And yet there is a strong sense in which the magazine's commitment to liberal values is actually quite conservative in orientation: most of the writers originate from the Anglo-American literary and cultural traditions, and, while they are critical of certain issues, there is always a sense that they are in some way wise after the event. They seldom seem to engage in political or social issues, but remain on the outside, distilling their impressions for a bourgeois, middle-class readership. What THE NEW YORK REVİEW OF BOOKS OFFERS is a safe, comforting construction of liberalism designed for western audiences, based on consensus and peaceful protest. The fact that such values might not be shared by members of other cultures is not actively considered. While the documentary pays tribute to the work of many of its writers, its theme becomes rather repetitive. Perhaps the time has come for a change of editor, if only to introduce alternative - and perhaps antiliberal voices - into the magazine's literary conversations.
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