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WESTSIDER NED ROREM
WESTSIDER NED ROREM
Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

6-17-78

The world has always been fascinated by artists who excel in more than one field. There was Richard Wagner, for example, who wrote the words and the music to all his operas. Cole Porter and Bob Dylan are two others who have proven their mastery of both language and composition.

But while these three men combined their talents to produce great songs,
Ned Rorem has employed his musical and literary gifts in a different way.
By keeping the two separate, he has gained a huge reputation as a
composer of serious music and also as a prose writer of formidable style.
In 1976 he won the Pulitzer Prize for music. And last month Simon and
Schuster published his eighth book, An Absolute Gift.

At 54, Rorem has become somewhat of a fixture on the New York artistic scene, who no longer sparks the controversy that he once did. But in Paris, where he spent nine years during his early career in the 1950s, Rorem was as well-known for his socializing as for his music. With his handsome, youthful good looks and boyish charm, his biting wit, and his wide knowledge of the arts, he became a close companion of many of the leading literary and musical figures of France.

His recollections of those years were carefully recorded in his first book, The Paris Diary, published in 1966 amid fanfare on both sides of the Atlantic. It was quickly followed by The New York Diary, which was more popular still. Since then, Rorem's books have appeared at fairly regular intervals, all of them either diaries or essays, or a combination of both.

In print, Rorem comes across as being somewhat disillusioned with life and art. In person, however, he is a warm, sincere host. With a tendency toward shyness that does not come through in his books. Rorem makes all of his remarks so matter-of-factly that nothing he says seems vicious or outrageous.

Leaning back on the sofa of his large Westside apartment, with one hand resting against his chin and the other stroking his pet cat Wallace, Rorem answers one of the first questions saying that yes, he is upset by the negative review that An Absolute Gift received in the New York Times.

"A bad review in the Times can kill a book," he explains. "It killed my last book. And I don't think it's fair that they gave my new book to the same reviewer. He made some of the same statements that he did last time, with almost the same wording. But just today I got a very good review from the Washington Post. And I hope there will be something in the New York Review of Books. That's even more important than the Times."

Rorem is considerably more versatile as a composer than ............
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