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Writer John Gross Dead at 75

January 12th, 2011 at 2:13 pm | No Comments |

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Tom Gross writes:

My father, pilule the writer and critic John Gross, advice died (through illness, aged 75) on Monday afternoon.

He was an exceptional person and a wonderful father.

Since there are many people who know me personally on this list, as well as hundreds who knew (or knew of) my father, as a change from the Middle East, I attach five of the obituaries published of him yesterday and today, from The New York Times, Daily Telegraph, Times of London, Guardian and New Statesman.

The Times of London also has a lead editorial about him on page 2 today, titled “A man of letters” which I also attach below:

An exemplary literary journalist and theatre critic leaves the stage

In his book The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, John Gross identified the task of literary criticism. “The first qualification for being a good critic”, he wrote, “will always be an interest in literature for what it is, rather than for the ends which it can be made to serve.”

Gross’s career as a literary journalist, which ended this week with his death at the age of 75, exemplified that principle. He had little time for narrowly specialist scholarship (“How can anyone who tries to keep up with Wordsworthian studies find time to read Wordsworth?” he wrote). Nor was he sympathetic to the type of abstruse modern theorising that shows more interest in radical politics and laboured wordplay than in books. His erudition was founded on nothing more complicated than a love of literature.

As Editor of The Times Literary Supplement in the 1970s, Gross upheld the highest of standards while speaking as fluently to general readers as he did to scholars. It was a time of declining circulation for most periodicals, while restrictive practices by trade unions made it almost impossible to publish a newspaper profitably. Yet he was among the most notable of TLS editors, ending the practice of anonymity of reviewers.

Gross was proud of his immigrant Jewish roots, and his book Shylock illuminated social as well as literary history. He described how successive generations had interpreted this most controversial of Shakespearian characters, including early diabolic incarnations of the Jew and strongly philo-Semitic productions of the Victorian age.

Gross would have been a great academic. But he conveyed his voluminous knowledge to a far wider readership, whose mental lives he enriched.

Click here to read the rest.

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