Dylan Brings It Home: Memoir Is a Ballad to the Beat Village

By Ron Rosenbaum The New York Observer October 14, 2004 Thaddeus Stevens? Who knew? One of the least-understood of Dylan mysteries has to do with influences: His music seems to come from everywhere, and from nowhere but him. You can listen to endless droning folk...

Thriller of the Century: The Third Man

By Ron Rosenbaum The New York Observer January 17, 2000 Wait a minute, I’m not finished. I was just getting started. I’ve got more awards to bestow for Bests of the Century. I was just warming up last month when I named Pale Fire Best English Language Novel of the...

The Worst Pop Singer Ever

By Ron Rosenbaum Slate January 23, 2009 This may seem an odd moment to bring up the subject of Billy Joel. But the recent death of the painter Andrew Wyeth revived a long-standing debate over whether his art is respectable or merely sentimental schlock. (Say it: good...

The Shadow of the Mole

By Ron Rosenbaum Harper’s October 1983 The big mole. The American Philby. Is he still among us, still a trusted figure operating at the highest levels of government, still burrowing ever deeper into our most sensitive secrets, as embittered exiles from our espionage...

The Method and Mystique of Jack Nicholson

By Ron Rosenbaum The New York Times Magazine July 13, 1986 Jack Nichols is singing “Three Blind Mice” for his visitor. Actually, singing might be the wrong word for the eerie droning intonations he’s producing; it sounds more like ritual chanting. Nicholson is...

Shakepeare’s Badass Quartet

By Ron Rosenbaum The Chronicle of Higher Learning February 7, 2016 Have you noticed that every few years a controversy arises over a claim that an old portrait found in someone’s attic is the true face of William Shakespeare? Most recently the British...

The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal

By Ron Rosenbaum The New York Times Magazine January 15, 1995 One afternoon in the late 1970’s, deep in the labyrinthine interior of a massive Gothic tower in New Haven, an unsuspecting employee of Yale University opened a long-locked room in the Payne Whitney...

The Subterranean World of the Bomb 

By Ron Rosenbaum Harper’s March 1978 Did anyone ever tell you about the last letter of Our Lady of Fatima? It’s more than a dozen years since the night it was revealed to me, but I remember the circumstances exactly. I was in an all-night place called the Peter Pan...

Novelist Edna O’Brien Explores the True Nature of Evil

By Ron Rosenbaum Smithsonian Magazine July 2016 Love and Evil. Two great mysteries that have obsessed the greatest writers and thinkers for as long as people have thought and written. For a long time Edna O’Brien, the celebrated Irish-born, London-dwelling writer, has...

Secrets of the Little Blue Box

By Ron Rosenbaum Esquire October 1971 The Blue Box Is Introduced: Its Qualities Are Remarked I am in the expensively furnished living room of Al Gilbertson*, the creator of the “blue box.” Gilbertson is holding one of his shiny black-and-silver “blue boxes”...

Salinger, the Swamis, and the Secrets

By Ron Rosenbaum The New York Observer June 27, 2013 I’m standing outside an imposing four-story graystone townhouse. Located on a leafy, blossoming block of East 94th Street in Manhattan, it’s the headquarters and worship center of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda...

The Last Secrets of Skull and Bones

By Ron Rosenbaum Esquire September 1977 Take a look at that hulking sepulcher over there. Small wonder they call it a tomb. It’s the citadel of Skull and Bones, the most powerful of all secret societies in the strange Yale secret-society system. For nearly a...