R.I.P. John Leonard, an irreplacable champion of literature

Jarrett

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John Leonard has joined Studs Terkel. He was only 69.From the AP:Literary and cultural critic John Leonard, an early champion of Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and many other authors, and so consumed and informed by books that Kurt Vonnegut once praised him as "the smartest man who ever lived," died Wednesday night at age 69.His stepdaughter, Jen Nessel, said Thursday that he died at the Mount Sinai Hospital from complications from lung cancer.A former union activist and community organizer, Leonard was an emphatic liberal whose career began in the 1960s at the conservative National Review and continued at countless other publications, including The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly. He was also a TV critic for New York magazine, a columnist for Newsday and a commentator for "CBS Sunday Morning."Kurt Vonnegut: ''When I start to read John Leonard, it is as though I, while simply looking for the men's room, blundered into a lecture by the smartest man who ever lived.''Meghan O'Rourke remembers Leonard and his years as the Times Book Review editor over at Slate.

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