Historical curmudgeons: Stanley Crouch and Charles Taylor

(Format revised 2019)
STANLEY CROUCH’S provocative (but, I think, thoughtful) essay can be found on the web within an archive.  http://rvannoy.asp.radford.edu.
I’ve put this in slightly more readable form in a PDF file that you can download:
The New Republic (1987) review of Beloved (Stanley Crouch)
Crouch misreads a great deal, but I think his criticism evokes the cultural context, the historical moment, within which Morrison was writing in the 1980’s.  I find this useful.

When Jonathan Demme’s movie of Beloved (starring Oprah) came out in 1998, an apparent admirer of Crouch, CHARLES TAYLOR, wrote a review for Salon that panned the movie.  Taylor has written film criticism for a number of years, in Salon, the NYTimes, Dissent, etc. — and is white.  His prose is more over-the-top than Crouch’s and his criticism sometimes strikes me as simplistic — clever rather than insightful.  But his irreverence may be an example of a new kind of contrarianism and perhaps illustrates some changes in our culture between the 80’s and the millennium.

I’ve assembled a PDF of excepts from his full review for folks who might like to see his comments about Morrison and Beloved but don’t want to read so much about Demme.

Excerpts – Beloved movie review, Taylor, Salon (1998)

For completeness, here’s the Internet link to his full review.

Or you can download a PDF of the same.  Beloved movie review, Taylor, Salon (1998).


… befitting his new status as an acclaimed Oscar-winning director, Demme has approached [Morrison’s novel] in the manner that has become de rigueur when talking about Toni Morrison – with bowed head and bended knee, incense burning. …

… Nothing is more inexplicable [in the movie] than [Thandie] Newton’s performance [as Beloved], which is one of the most appalling I’ve ever seen from a professional actor. It’s understandable that an actor might run into difficulties playing a literary device, a ghost who embodies her mother’s guilt over committing infanticide. What isn’t understandable is why Newton has chosen to play Beloved as a simpleton. (Morrison didn’t write the character that way.) Every time you look at Newton here, she’s acting up a storm, staring into space, drooling, smearing food around her face and talking so that the half-chewed bits fall out, letting her tongue loll into the side of her mouth and then speaking in a voice that sounds uncannily like the character of Crazy Guggenheim from the old Jackie Gleason show.

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