didion v kael


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 then-latest novel, A Book of Common Prayer (1977). Kael asked the host what he thought of it. “The editor reached for the novel, held it up as if it had healing properties, and pronounced: ‘It’s full of resonance.'” Wolcott adds: “I didn’t dare exchange glances with Pauline, for whom Didion was full of something, but it sure wasn’t resonance.”

more from Evan Hughes at The Awl here.