Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jack Richardson

Jack Richardson, 1934-2012

It is customary for novelists to serve as occasional or frequent literary critics, analyzing the work of others who write novels. The same cannot be said of playwrights, who rarely write prose about the theater and almost never about the plays of others. The singular exception to this was Jack Richardson, who began writing about the theater for COMMENTARY in the mid-1960s when he was still considered one of the up-and-coming playwrights in the United States. He died this week at the age of 78. He wrote for the magazine on and off for about a decade, as his own promising career in the theater dwindled and then died out—articles of exceptional interest, intelligence, and cultivation. In tribute to his passing, we are making available eight of his best, including two that weren’t about the theater—a memoir of life as a gambler and a brilliant review of Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift that angered Bellow because, I suspect, he knew Richardson saw through to that novel’s fatal weaknesses.

On Reviewing Plays, September 1966

Groping Toward Freedom: The Living Theatre, May 1969

Musical Wastes, February 1971

From Plato to Las Vegas, October 1974

The English Invasion, February 1975

Looking Back at “The Waste Land,”August 1975

Humboldt’s Gift, by Saul Bellow, November 1975

Alas, Poor Hamlet, April 1976

It is customary for novelists to serve as occasional or frequent literary critics, analyzing the work of others who write novels. The same cannot be said of playwrights, who rarely write prose about the theater and almost never about the plays of others. The singular exception to this was Jack Richardson, who began writing about the theater for COMMENTARY in the mid-1960s when he was still considered one of the up-and-coming playwrights in the United States. He died this week at the age of 78. He wrote for the magazine on and off for about a decade, as his own promising career in the theater dwindled and then died out—articles of exceptional interest, intelligence, and cultivation. In tribute to his passing, we are making available eight of his best, including two that weren’t about the theater—a memoir of life as a gambler and a brilliant review of Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift that angered Bellow because, I suspect, he knew Richardson saw through to that novel’s fatal weaknesses.

On Reviewing Plays, September 1966

Groping Toward Freedom: The Living Theatre, May 1969

Musical Wastes, February 1971

From Plato to Las Vegas, October 1974

The English Invasion, February 1975

Looking Back at “The Waste Land,”August 1975

Humboldt’s Gift, by Saul Bellow, November 1975

Alas, Poor Hamlet, April 1976

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