The Forum Remembers Great American Novelist E.L. Doctorow

The Forum is deeply saddened to hear of E.L. Doctorow’s passing just a few days ago. Considered a great novelist in American culture, Doctorow lived a long life full of prestige in the world of literature. His best-selling novels explored the American experience and reinvented historical fiction. Doctorow will be remembered as one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century. He was 84.

Named for Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow was born in New York City, attended the Bronx High School of Science, graduated with honors from Kenyon College, and did graduate work at Columbia University. In 1960, Doctorow published his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. Following this, he released his second piece of work, Big as Life, in 1966. Doctorow’s reputation as a respected novelist came with his third novel, The Book of Daniel, published in 1971. In 1983, the novel was made into a movie, Daniel. 

Doctorow has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howell Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal.

Doctorow was also a friend of the Forum’s and made his guest appearance in 2006 at a Conversation along with writer Tony Kushner. E.L Doctorow was an incredible addition to our program and we are very grateful to have known him. He will be deeply missed as we celebrate the life of a great American novelist.

Journalist Bob Simon Dies in Car Crash

The Forum is deeply saddened by the news that Bob Simon, one of the most accomplished journalists in American history, died yesterday in a car crash on the West Side Highway. Simon was a longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent and covered virtually every major foreign story in the last three decades. His contribution to the journalist profession cannot be overstated. He was 73.

Simon was a winner of 27 Emmy Awards and four Peabody Awards for his reporting on such stories as “The King of Sushi,” on the over-fishing of bluefin tuna; “Curveball,” the investigation of the Iraqi defector who provided the faulty testimony that eventually led America to war; “The Oil Sands” (2006), about extracting petroleum from Canada’s sand pits; “The Sea Gypsies” (2005), a report on the island-dwelling Moken peoples of Southeast Asia; and “Aftershock” (2005), about paramedics saving lives after an earthquake in Pakistan. Other winners broadcast on the Sunday edition are his profile of Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni (1999) and “Dirty War” (2000), a report about the Argentine government’s murderous campaign against dissidents. While at “60 Minutes II,” Simon received an Emmy Award (2000) and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (2001) for “Shame of Srebrenica,” a report on heinous acts of genocide in Europe, and another Emmy Award (2000) for “The Lost Children,” a report on orphaned children shipped to Australia. He also received an Emmy Award (2001) and an IRE certificate (2001) for his investigation into the fate of a Navy pilot shot down in Operation Desert Storm. Simon has been honored with a Peabody Award (2000) for “a body of work by an outstanding international journalist on a diverse set of critical global issues.” In 1996 he received an Overseas Press Club (OPC) Award, a Peabody Award, and two Emmy Awards for his coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and another OPC Award in 1991 for his coverage of the Gulf War.

Simon was also a guest of the Forum, speaking with actor David Strathairn and fellow journalist Sam Roberts to discuss Good Night and Good Luck at the 2012 Forum Film Festival. We are honored to have considered him a friend of the Forum, and he will be deeply missed.

Richard Price Releasing New Novel Under Pseudonym

Novelist and screenwriter Richard Price is featured in the New York Times today, as he will be releasing a new novel under the pseudonym “Harry Brandt.” Price has become a prolific contemporary writer of crime fiction, having penned the novel “Clockers” (and its screenplay adaptation), “Lush Life,” as well as a number of episodes for the groundbreaking HBO series “The Wire.” The Times profile discusses his latest work, “The Whites,” which he chose to write under a pseudonym “to inoculate himself against literary critics who might sneer at him for writing a slicker, more commercial book.”

Richard Price was also a guest of the Forum, having visited us for the 2012 Forum Film Festival for a post screening discussion of  Clockers. See a clip from the festival below (Price begins at 5:30):

Harper Lee to Publish Second Novel (Updated)

Update (Feb 9): Forum Director Thane Rosenbaum is featured in Slate today, discussing the legacy Atticus Finch has had on American legal education. The essay, titled “Atticus Finch is My Law Students’ Hero,” discusses the importance of Atticus Finch as a paragon of legal ethics—as much a role model for today’s profession as for lawyers of previous generations:

Atticus is the antithesis of the hired gun. (Although in the novel he is portrayed, surprisingly, as quite a shot.) He practices law alone, with only one three-piece seersucker suit. His clients generally remain in his debt, and he is surely not out for a fast buck. He can accept incremental advances in the law as victories, and he doesn’t insist on scorching the earth. He never screams at a clerk or intimidates a witness. He is reverent about the truth.

Atticus Finch wouldn’t be caught dead defending O.J. Simpson.

Read the full essay here.


It was announced this week that Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” would be publishing a second novel this July—more than forty years after “Mockingbird” was first printed. “To Kill a Mockingbird” remains a classic portrayal of race and justice in the American South, having sold over thirty million copies since it was released in 1960. A quasi-sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Go Set a Watchmen” is set once again in the fictional Maycomb, Alabama and recounts Scout Finch’s visit to her father, Atticus.

Few characters in American fiction have meant more to law and justice than Atticus Finch. The American Film Institute considers Finch—who was famously portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1963 film adaptation—as the greatest hero in cinema history.  Not surprisingly, therefore, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Atticus Finch have more than once been topics of discussion for the Forum. In 2007, the Forum Film Festival hosted a screening to “To Kill a Mockingbird” with Gregory Peck’s daughter, Cecilia. The following year, the actor Sam Waterston—who plays Jack McCoy on the long-running television series Law & Order—visited the Forum and was honored as “Atticus Finch in the Flesh.” Clips from both events are below.

The Forum Remembers Mario Cuomo

The Forum is deeply saddened to learn that Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York and a great friend of the Forum, passed away yesterday at his home in Manhattan. Cuomo enjoyed a decorated career in New York politics, serving as a three-term governor from 1983 to 1994. He remained a major figure in the Democratic party, a leader for Italian-Americans nationwide, and a champion of progressive politics thereafter. He will be remembered as a model public servant and a New York icon. He was 82.

Cuomo was an extraordinarily popular political figure throughout his three gubernatorial terms, boldly endorsing a platform of “progressive pragmatism” during the Reagan era. He promoted sweeping social reforms while simultaneously balancing the state budget. His “Rebuild NY” campaign sought statewide improvements in transportation and infrastructure. The first African-American, Hispanic, and female judges of the New York Court of Appeals were appointed while he was in office.

Cuomo was also a friend of the Forum, first gracing us for a Conversation in 2009. One of his last public appearances was at the 2013 Forum Film Festival’s screening of The Godfather; he lifted his 40-year boycott of the film and discussed Italian stereotypes in the media and popular culture.  We are deeply grateful for his contributions to the Forum and we mourn the loss of a great New Yorker.

Forum Guest Ron Klain Named Ebola Czar

President Obama announced this week that Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, will be appointed as the administration’s “Ebola czar.” Klain was a guest at the 2008 Forum Film Festival, where he spoke about his role in the 2000 Presidential election after a screening of Recount. (Kevin Spacey portrayed Klain in the film.)

Following the election, he served as the general counsel to the Gore–Lieberman Recount Committee, and was named a “Lawyer of the Year” by the National Law Journal for his efforts. Now Klain assumes the managerial role of ensuring that all the agencies involved in the federal response to the recent Ebola outbreak are acting in concert. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has described the position as an “important, high-level implementation role,” not unlike his recent work overseeing the appropriation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.



Opening Night of the Forum Film Festival Featured in Huffington Post, Washington Square News

The opening night of the 2014 Forum Film Festival, which featured an advanced screening of Camp X-Ray with actress Kristen Stewart and director Peter Sattler, has been featured in both the Huffington Post and the Washington Square NewsCamp X-Ray follows the moral dilemmas of Amy Cole (Stewart), who is assigned to Guantanamo Bay—where “prisoners” are subject to the Geneva Convention but “detainees” are not—after enlisting in the military.

The Forum would like to thank Kristen Stewart and Peter Sattler for sharing their thoughts on the film with the Forum patrons, students, and other guests at NYU’s Tishman Auditorium on Tuesday Night. The Forum Film Festival continues on Tuesday, October 21 with John Ford’s classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance followed by a post-screening conversation with United States Supreme Court Justice Hon. Stephen Breyer.


Camp X-Ray opens October 17.

2014 Film Festival Guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali On The Israel–Hamas Conflict

Somalian refugee and women’s-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently gave an interview to Israel Hayom, in which she defended Israel’s right to fight Hamas, argued that Benjamin Netanyahu should receive a Nobel Peace Prize, and asserted that no peaceful solution between Israel and Hamas will be possible so long as Hamas’ “philosophy on life and death” persists. Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia, where she faced the horrors of radical Islam first-hand before she gained asylum in the Netherlands. She will be a guest speaker at the Forum Film Festival for the screening of her 2004 film Submission; its director, Theo van Gogh, was tragically murdered in retaliation for the film’s portrayal of the violence committed against women in the radical Muslim world.

In the interview, Hirsan Ali discusses the growth of extremist violence following 9/11, arguing that critics of Israel will be forced to reconsider the danger as radical Islam spreads to Continental Europe. “It is so clear what is going to happen,” she notes. “All these countries that are now condemning Israel will find themselves in exactly the same position as Israel.” She further discussed the dangers of European-born citizens going to fight in Syria and returning back to their home countries, trained to kill by terrorist groups. Dismissing this as a small problem is major misstep, she argues: “This is not naivete anymore. This is called wishful thinking. They say that Islam is a religion of peace and compassion, but that is what we want, that is what it should be, it’s not what it is. There’s a difference. We’re just not being realistic.”

Hirsin Ali will be joined by Forum Director Thane Rosenbaum and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bret Stephens to discuss the film at the 92nd Street Y on October 22, 2014. For tickets and more information, please click here.