Terry Teachout, Arts Critic With a Wide Range, Is Dead at 65

4 days ago 80

He called himself a “well-informed amateur,” and helium wrote astir everything from bluegrass to ballet.

 omnivorous, humane, worldly without being pretentious. 
Credit...Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Clay Risen

Jan. 14, 2022, 9:10 p.m. ET

Terry Teachout, a taste professional who, successful his columns for The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News and different publications, brought his all-encompassing intellect to carnivore connected Broadway, ballet, bluegrass and practically each creation signifier successful between, died connected Thursday astatine the location of a person successful Smithtown, N.Y., connected Long Island. He was 65.

His brother, David, confirmed the decease but did not specify a cause.

Mr. Teachout was 1 of a vanishing breed of taste mavens: omnivorous, humane, worldly without being pretentious, often leaning blimpish successful their authorities but wholly wide successful however they approached the satellite and its dizzying array of peoples and cultures. He wore his erudition lightly, enjoying it and hoping that, done his prose, others mightiness arsenic well.

He was comfy penning astir Haydn and Mencken, Ellington and Eakins, Bill Monroe and Balanchine. Born successful a tiny municipality successful Missouri and aboriginal earning an undergraduate grade successful euphony journalism, helium called himself a “well-informed amateur” and an aesthete — idiosyncratic who loved quality successful each its forms and believed it was his occupation to find it and explicate it.

He was prolific: For the past 30 years, it has been a uncommon agelong of days successful which his byline did not look somewhere, and not lone due to the fact that of his play obligations astatine The Journal. He was a professional astatine ample for Commentary; helium blogged for Arts Journal; helium co-hosted a podcast for American Theater magazine; and for galore years helium wrote freelance publication reviews for The New York Times.



He besides wrote respective highly regarded biographies, including “The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken” (2002), “Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong” (2009) and “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington” (2013).

He took immoderate of what helium learned from digging done the Armstrong archives to constitute “Satchmo astatine the Waldorf,” a one-man, one-act play that had its premiered successful 2011 successful Orlando, Fla. Not to beryllium constrained by prose, helium besides wrote the librettos for 3 operas, each by the composer Paul Moravec.

An acolyte of William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Podhoretz, helium emerged from the scrum of young municipality conservatives energized by the Reagan presidency and anxious to instrumentality it further; helium erstwhile called for a “Ronald Reagan of culture” who could “present an affirmative imaginativeness of America’s communal culture.”

But helium took attraction to abstracted his authorities from his criticism, and helium derided those who mixed the two. Nor was helium a taste reactionary: He played bass successful a precocious schoolhouse stone band, loved the TV amusement “Freaks and Geeks” and welcomed the anticipation that movie mightiness person replaced the caller arsenic the ascendant storytelling medium.

“The older I get and the much wholly I immerse myself successful each the arts, the much definite I americium that there’s a larger, much cardinal consciousness successful which they each question to bash the aforesaid thing,” helium said successful a 2004 interview. “This heavy resemblance means that I recognize myself to beryllium applying the aforesaid benignant of aesthetic yardstick to, say, a ballet and a movie.”

Terrance Alan Teachout was calved connected Feb. 6, 1956, successful Cape Girardeau, successful southeast Missouri, and raised successful Sikeston, astir 30 miles south. His father, Bert, sold hardware, and his mother, Evelyn (Crosno) Teachout, worked arsenic a caput for an accountant.



It was, helium recalled successful his 1991 memoir, “City Limits: Memories of a Small-Town Boy,” an idyllic childhood, afloat of textbook Americana — large backyards and Fourth of July parades and football. His parent was a precocious schoolhouse quality queen. He loved it, and missed it, agelong aft helium had moved to New York.

“I stay a small-town boy, uprooted and repotted,” helium wrote, “and thing overmuch has changed astir maine but the spot wherever I hap to live.”

Still, helium was precocious capable to transportation his parents, erstwhile helium was 12, to subscribe to Soviet Life, a propaganda mag published by the Russian authorities — not retired of immoderate communist sympathies, but alternatively retired of curiosity astir beingness nether a totalitarian state.

He spent a semester astatine St. John’s College successful Annapolis, Md., earlier transferring to William Jewell College successful Liberty, Mo., not acold from Kansas City. He majored successful euphony journalism — a degree, his member said, that the schoolhouse created conscionable for him.

After graduating successful 1979, helium started penning euphony reviews for The Kansas City Star portion playing bass successful a jazz set and holding a bid of dead-end jobs. He wanted to go a big-time writer, but helium grew despondent implicit his chances of making it successful a Midwestern city. He began postgraduate schoolhouse successful science astatine the University of Illinois astatine Urbana-Champaign, but near earlier receiving a degree.

His archetypal marriage, to Liz Cullers, ended successful divorce. He joined Hilary Dyson successful 2007; she died successful 2020. In summation to his brother, helium is survived by his companion, Cheril Mulligan.

A interruption came successful 1981 when, to his surprise, Mr. Buckley accepted 1 of his submissions for work successful National Review. A fewer years aboriginal Mr. Podhoretz took a portion of his for Commentary. In 1985, convinced that helium had a changeable astatine a literate career, Mr. Teachout moved to New York.

He got a occupation arsenic an exertion astatine Harper’s Magazine, and successful 1987 helium moved to the editorial committee of The Daily News. That aforesaid twelvemonth helium began penning for The Wall Street Journal, a narration that would past the remainder of his life. In 1993 helium became The Daily News’s classical euphony and creation critic.

He besides fell successful with a gaggle of like-minded young conservatives who felt ostracized by the wide civilization astir them. He helped commencement a salon, the Vile Body; its sanction was taken loosely from a publication by the British writer Evelyn Waugh, who was past enjoying a renaissance among young right-wingers.

The salon became a regular haunt for 20- and 30-something conservatives located on the Washington-New York-Cambridge axis, including Bruce Bawer, Richard Brookhiser, David Brooks, Roger Kimball and John Podhoretz.

He edited a postulation of essays by 15 of them, “Beyond the Boom: New Voices connected American Life, Culture and Politics” (1990), with an instauration by Tom Wolfe.

Collectively, they argued that babe boomer liberalism was either a fizzled leftover of the 1960s or, arsenic Mr. Teachout wrote, “a frivolous affair” that hardly masked rampant materialism. The existent bequest of the babe boom, they wrote, was the ascendant conservatives similar themselves, who were poised to remake American culture.

At The Journal, wherever helium became the play professional successful 2003, Mr. Teachout developed a estimation arsenic an advocator for determination theater. Last period helium wrote approvingly of repertory companies successful Philadelphia and Providence, R.I., and their performances of “A Christmas Carol.”

Especially successful the past fewer decades, his penning became much generous, though helium kept a heavy reserve of ire for writers helium recovered flashy and affected. He called Norman Mailer a “nostalgia act” whose prose was “noteworthy lone for its flaccid awfulness.”

But that was arsenic acold into contention arsenic Mr. Teachout would typically go, and but for the occasional swipe astatine “victimhood” oregon multiculturalism successful his reviews, helium preferred to enactment successful an apolitical register, assessing creation and civilization connected their ain terms.

“Off the apical of my head, I can’t deliberation of immoderate important artists whose works I would shun solely due to the fact that of their politics,” helium said successful 2004. “Whether oregon not I’d judge a meal invitation from them is different story.”

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