In a recent Bookforum essay, Scott McLemee revisits Irving Howe’s perennial essay, “This Age of Conformity,” noting that for many of the mid-century critics, “the life of the intellectual freelancer had never been easy. It had been the product of a kind of double negation: the refusal of a refusal.”
The touted film adaptation of Starting Out in the Evening, Brian Morton’s 1998 novel, picks up this theme by capturing the life of a fictional New York Intellectual–the reclusive novelist Leonard Schiller. “One of [Director Andrew] Wagner’s themes (and also Mr. Morton’s) is the waning of that old, literary New York, the twilight of an idea of the city as a capital of the modern mind,” writes A.O. Scott. “The picture feels both intimate and immediate, a model for what smart young filmmakers can do with good material,” adds Stephanie Zacharek.