John Simon: Now That He’s Gone, the Image of the Critic as Hater May Have Died Out Too (Column)

  • Variety
When the critic John Simon died last weekend, at 94, virtually every piece written about him — one usually calls these pieces “tributes,” though in Simon’s case I’m not sure the word applies — dealt front and center with the quality that had made him a legend: his famous vitriol, the gleeful and reflexive nastiness that sloshed through the cartridge of his poison pen.

For Simon, toxic negativity wasn‘t a tool for reviewing an art form; it was the art form. At New York magazine, where he was ensconced as the theater critic from 1968 to 2005, and at the National Review, where he reviewed movies for decades, he pushed the role of critical hanging judge as far as it could go, to the point that it was the driving force of his identity. In 1967, he was fired from New York’s Channel 13 for writing reviews that were deemed too “misanthropic,
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