John Leonard (critic)

John Leonard (Critic)

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John Leonard (critic)

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John Leonard (February 25, 1939 – November 5, 2008) was an American literary, television, film, and cultural critic.

Biography

John Leonard grew up in Washington, D.C., Jackson Heights, Queens, and Long Beach, California, where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. Raised by a single mother, Ruth Smith, he made his way to Harvard University, where he immersed himself in the school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, only to drop out in the spring of his sophomore year. He then attended the University of California at Berkeley.

An acerbic leftist, Leonard had an unlikely early patron in conservative leader William F. Buckley, who gave him his first job in journalism at National Review magazine in 1959. There, he worked alongside such young talents as Joan Didion, Garry Wills, Renata Adler and Arlene Croce. Leonard went on to be Drama and Literature Director for Pacifica Radio flagship KPFA in Berkeley, where he featured a then-little-known Pauline Kael and served as the house book reviewer, delighting in the torrent of galleys sent him by publishers. He worked as an English teacher in Roxbury, Massachusetts, as a union organizer of migrant farm workers, and as a community organizer for Vietnam Summer before joining The New York Times Book Review in 1967. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.“Writers and Editors War Tax Protest”...
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