Charles Van Doren’s obituaries will all inevitably lead with his role in the quiz show scandal in the 1950s, but he was an erudite scholar who went on to do many worthwhile things. He was also a friend of Robert Lax and kind to me when I interviewed him for Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. Among other things, he told me that Lax’s comforting note when the scandal broke meant more than any other he received. It was so precious to him, he kept it all his life–and sent me a copy.
If you read anything about him (such as on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Van_Doren) be sure to read the later paragraphs too. Like all of us, he deserves to be remembered for more than one mistake.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State is hosting an exhibit dedicated to the creative works of Thomas Merton and Robert Lax. According to The Public, an alternative publication covering Western New York, “The exhibit materials include framed literary items—mostly poems—and photos, and vitrines containing some of their books and other published works.” You can read more of The Public‘s write-up about the show here.
The exhibit, titled “Merton & Lax: Image and Word,” is an expanded remounting of the Lax exhibit displayed at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University last year. Among its highlights are rarely-seen issues of Pax, the limited-circulation broadsheet Lax produced in the 1950s and 1960s with poems by friends such as Merton, Jack Kerouac, Mark Van Doren, and E.E. Cummings, and illustrations by painter Ad Reinhardt and graphic artist and publisher Emil Antonucci.
The exhibit, which runs through August 26, is curated by Anthony Bannon, two-time director of the Burchfield Penny Art Center, and Paul Spaeth, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian at St. Bonaventure University, who is also the curator of the Thomas Merton and Robert Lax Archives at St. Bonaventure. For more information, see the exhibit posting on the Burchfield Penney website.