He loved lists, so let's make one in his honor. The late John Leonard was brilliant, witty, earnest, brave, erudite, stubborn, poetic and totally smitten by literature.
I never met him, but I can swear to the foregoing because I read his work for many years and — as I now know — his work reflected his soul. I know that because "Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008" (Viking), a forthcoming collection of Leonard's superb essays and book reviews, includes a portrait of the writer. At the end of the book, others — his wife, his children, authors and colleagues — offer perspectives on his character.
Gloria Steinem writes about "his intelligence and enthusiasm and sense of humor and sense of justice," adding that few who didn't know him personally will ever be able to appreciate "the depth of his kindness." His son writes that Leonard, unlike those petty critics who relish the verbal takedown and adore nothing so much as the writing of a viciously negative review, "loved to exalt, to spread the dazzle."