Toby Talbot


On her book The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies

Cover Interview of November 27, 2009

A close-up

In the section On Location, I recount the opening of the New Yorker Book Store with Pete Martin and Austen Laber.  Pete was the co-founder, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, birthplace of the Beat Movement and of the literary magazine City Lights, of which five issues were published that included Manny Farber, Pauline Kael, David Riesman, Pete Martin and Parker Tyler.  Our bookshelves were built by Manny Farber.  The bookstore showcased young neighborhood writers, carried poetry, art books, little magazines and a line of newspapers. Isaac Bashevis Singer, who lived in the neighborhood, came daily to pick up the Forward.

The section “Cinephiles” describes our patrons.  The theater became a hangout for film buffs from all walks of life: Columbia students Phillip Lopate and Morris Dickstein; critics Vincent Canby, Pauline Kael, Manny Farber, Richard Schickel, Eugene Archer, Andrew Sarris (proponent of the auteur theory), Jonas Mekas, Parker Tyler, Stanley Kauffmann, Peter Bogdanovich, Dwight Macdonald, and Susan Sontag; future film critic James Hoberman, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus; the musical archivist Miles Kreuger; Jules Feiffer and Bruce Goldstein.  Jules Feiffer did a mural that hung in our vestibule.  But most were ordinary moviegoers. Dan Talbot & Alfred Hitchcock.

I devote sections of the book to Sarris, Farber, Kael, Bogdanovich, and Canby, and to directors with whom we formed close relationships: Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, and Ousmane Sembene.  And I describe the genesis of Point of Order, made by Dan and Emile de Antonio, on the Army McCarthy hearings, and of Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s eight-and-a-half hour work on the Holocaust.