John Simon, Wide-Ranging Critic With a Cutting Pen, Dies at 94


He denied being any of those things, and argued that no person or group was above criticism, especially those who, in his view, lacked talent and covered themselves in mantles of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity and used them to claim preferential treatment in the marketplaces of culture.

“I do not like uniforms,” Mr. Simon told the author Bert Cardullo in 2008. “I do not like people who are a professional this, that or the other. Professional writers, actors and singers are O.K., but I don’t like professional Jews, professional homosexuals, professional blacks, professional feminists, professional patriots. I don’t like people abdicating their identity to become part of some group, and then becoming obsessed with this and making capital of it.”

Mr. Simon liked the plays of August Wilson, John Patrick Shanley and Beth Henley. “From time to time a play comes along that restores one’s faith in our theater,” he wrote of Ms. Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart,” which won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize. He said Mr. Shanley’s “Doubt” (2004), about Catholic school scandals, “would be sinful to miss.”

He invited readers to see the world through the literary works of Heinrich Böll, Jane Bowles, Alfred Chester, Stig Dagerman, Bruce Jay Friedman, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Bernard Malamud, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Ferenc Santa and B. Traven, and through the films of Antonioni, Bergman, Fellini or Kurosawa — but only “at their best.”

In The Times, he hailed the 1971 film “Hoa Binh,” a story of two Vietnamese children by the French cinematographer Raoul Coutard. “‘Hoa Binh’ should be seen by everyone, but especially by those who don’t want to see it,” he wrote. “They should come and be surprised, for they will leave, I promise them, filled with gratitude.”



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