Leo Durocher once boasted that he never lied to Branch Rickey, the stern, churchgoing president of the Brooklyn Dodgers—but that wasn’t out of respect. He always told Rickey the truth, Durocher explained, because he figured that “Mr. Rickey never asked a question he didn’t already know the answer to.”
Like a show jumper cantering toward a fence, Glenn Frankel finds himself wrongfooted at the beginning of his new book about the movie High Noon. As he began his work, he so wanted the movie to be an allegory about the House Un-American Activities Committee, the hunt for communists, and the Hollywood blacklist. His own research, however, showed him it just wasn’t true, whatever screenwriter Carl Foreman, director Fred Zinnemann, and producer Stanley Kramer would later claim. The movie began as a fairly simple Western, and only the warping of memory and the insistence of critics would turn it into Hollywood’s version of, say, The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials as allegory for anti-communism.
Neven Sesardic has written an unfortunate history of modern philosophy. That’s not to say When Reason Goes on Holiday is a bad book, although the prose is nothing to write home about. It’s not even to say that Sesardic has his facts wrong, since he doesn’t, for the most part. No, the publication of When Reason Goes on Holiday is an unhappy occasion primarily because of the moment in which it appears.
In 1959, a 19-year-old undergraduate tried to write a novel, as 19-year-olds with ambitions to be writers are wont to do. The next year, the 20-year-old had his novel published by Viking, a major press—which happens to many fewer of those would-be writers. Reviewed in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Daily Tribune, the book was received fairly well. The consensus seemed to be that it was clever, charming, and slight. Still, given the author’s age, the novel promised great things. If a young man could write this at 19, what wonderful things would he write at 30?
You’ve seen or heard the famous passage from Edmund Burke, of course. How could you not? “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”—and what a line it is. So balanced and Burkean. So pithy and wise. So applicable to any moment when people on our side (obviously the good guys) seem divided and ambivalent while folk on the other side (a.k.a. the bad guys) pursue their nefarious schemes unhindered. The line is so good, it seems almost petty to point out that Edmund Burke never actually said it.
So, here’s a quick, reasonably fun read—a young adult sci-fi adventure called Martians Abroad. The author, Carrie Vaughn, is known for her bestselling Kitty Norville books, a series of adult urban-fantasy stories about a werewolf who moonlights as the host of a Denver radio show. But in Martians Abroad, Vaughn tries her hand at the old Robert A. Heinlein genre of science-fiction “juveniles.”
I once spent a morning sitting with David Gelernter at Reagan National Airport in Washington—several hours waiting for the fog to lift and the shuttles to start flying again. I had edited him, met him at a few get-togethers, chatted with him over the phone, but never really spent time with him before.