Three Deaths

Angela Lansbury (1925 – 2022): Actor
Patrick Healy, theater reporter and deputy Opinion writer for The New York Times, recounts how the actor gamely and gracefully confronted the vulnerabilities of advancing age in pursuing her long career (1).

In the past year, I reached out to her team about whether she would write a piece for The Times… I heard back words of thanks from her, and kind regrets that the realities of age and memory would prevent her from writing.

There would be no covering-up by Ms. Lansbury, no ghostwritten pieces; if she could do the work, she would, and if she couldn’t — well, then.

(1) Patrick Healy, “A Phone Call With Angela Lansbury Changed Me,” New York Times, 10-15-22.

Peter Schjeldahl (1942 – 2022): Art Critic
Peter Schjeldahl credited a leaning towards poetry for his “not knowing what I have to say until I’ve said it.” A knack for waxing luminously obscure didn’t fade when “the art criticism ate the poetry,” as he put it. (1)

“I define contemporary art as every work of art that exists at the present moment… We look with contemporary eyes. What other eyes are there?…”

A reader could be left guessing as to where exactly an artist lay in his estimation. “Mr. Schjeldahl had… no real urge to pass judgment,” writes William Grimes, obit writer and book critic for The New York Times.

“In a way, the advancement of opinions is the least interesting thing about criticism for me,… but it’s one of the essentials to launch you into a situation, into a conversation.”

In a towering takedown of Schjeldahl in 1991 (cited by Grimes), the editor of The New Criterion conceded sniffily that he was often “witty and not infrequently astringently perceptive.” (2)

(1) William Grimes, “Peter Schjeldahl, New York Art Critic With a Poet’s Voice, Dies at 80,” New York Times, 10-21-22.
(2) Roger Kimball,

Alan Rickman (1946 – 2016): Actor
The third death features in a book review. (1) Dwight Garner, book critic for The Times, appraises “MADLY, DEEPLY: The Diaries of Alan Rickman,” (2) and opines without animus that they are “fantastically dull” (his italics). The piece doesn’t discredit the distinguished British actor in any way. Garner doubts that Rickman would have wanted the diaries published. Their appearance gives a seasoned reviewer the opportunity to show his stuff.

“… The entries are rarely fleshed out,” Garner writes. “Much of it reads like an aide-memoire, quickly jotted notes one might return to later for a different sort of book.”

Garner tosses off a nugget parenthetically:

(If Rickman had written “The Metamorphosis,” it would have been one line: “Woke as bug.”)

(1) When I first drafted this note as a solo post, I titled it “A Walk on the Terse Side.” It’s so fetching a title, I couldn’t bear to let it pass unnoted.
(2) Dwight Garner, “Alan Rickman’s Diaries: Bread Crumbs of a Fast-Moving Life,” New York Times, 10-17-22.

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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