Stefan Kanfer

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Stefan Kanfer
Born(1933-05-17)May 17, 1933
New York City
DiedJune 19, 2018(2018-06-19) (aged 85)
Sleepy Hollow, New York
OccupationJournalist, contributing editor, critic, author
LanguageYiddish, English
EducationNew York University
SpouseDorothy May Markey Kanfer
RelativesMyra Page (mother-in-law)

Stefan Kanfer (May 17, 1933 – June 19, 2018) was an American journalist, critic, editor, and author.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Stefan Kanfer was born on May 17, 1933, in New York City and raised there and in Hastings-on-Hudson. His family were Jews from Romania, and he spoke Yiddish. His father was a schoolteacher during the Great Depression during Kanfer's early childhood. He attended New York University.[1][3][4]


In the early 1950s, Kanfer served in an army intelligence during the Korean War.[1]

Experience included: "bohemian" in Paris, advertising, military interrogator, writer of cartoon captions, and TV gag-writer.[4]

In the early 1960s, he became a film critic, book critic, and senior editor at Time magazine for more than 20 years when Henry Grunwald ran the magazine. (When Grunwald retired, Kanfer spoke at his retirement party.[4]) Colleagues there included Lance Morrow. He left Time staff in 1987 and contributed articles for another five years.[1][2][3][4]

After Time, he became drama critic for The New Leader, and then contributing editor or writer on arts, culture, and politics for the City Journal (under managing editor Myron Magnet[4]), The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.[1][2]

Personal and death[edit]

Kanfer was married to Dorothy May Markey Kanfer ("May"), daughter of John Markey and Dorothy Markey (pen name Myra Page).[1][4]

His circle of friends included: Henry Grunwald, fellow Romanian Jew Elie Wiesel, Lance Morrow, Roger Rosenblatt, John Leo, Paul Gray, Ron Sheppard, Jess Korman, Chris Porterfield, Michael Walsh, B. J. Phillips, and Gerald Clarke. (With Morrow, Kanfer formed the "Chester A. Arthur Chapter of the Chuck Jones Fan Club of America.")[3]

With Wiesel, he served on the presidential Wiesel Commission on the Romanian holocaust.[4]

He served as mentor and supporter of younger writers, played the ukulele and musical saw, and held concerts and film presentations in his home.[1]

Kanfer died on June 19, 2018, age 85, in Sleepy Hollow, New York.[1]



Kanfer published 16 books and numerous articles, numerous songs, plays, essays, and reviews.[1][2]


  • Journal of the plague years (1973)
  • Eighth sin (1978)
  • Fear itself (1981)
  • International garage sale (1985)
  • Summer world: the attempt to build a Jewish Eden in the Catskills from the days of the ghetto to the rise and decline of the Borscht Belt (1989)
  • Last empire: De Beers, diamonds, and the world (1993)
  • Serious business: the art and commerce of animation in America from Betty Boop to Toy story (1997)
  • Groucho: the life and times of Julius Henry Marx (2000)
  • Essential Groucho: writings by, for, and about Groucho Marx (edited and introduction by Stefan Kanfer) (2000)
  • Ball of fire: the tumultuous life and comic art of Lucille Ball (2003)
  • Stardust lost: the triumph, tragedy, and mishugas of the Yiddish theater in America (2006, 2007)
  • Voodoo that they did so well: the wizards who invented the New York stage (2007)
  • Somebody: the reckless life and remarkable career of Marlon Brando (2008)
  • Tough without a gun: the life and extraordinary afterlife of Humphrey Bogart (2011)
  • Borscht Belt: revisiting the remains of America's Jewish vacationland (photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld, essays by Stefan Kanfer and Jenna Weissman Joselit) (2016)
  • Hell money (2018)


  • "The Yiddish Theater", The Atlantic Monthly October 9, 1963
  • "Meisterzinger", The Atlantic Monthly (December 1970)
  • "Soul Destroyed", Time (July 5, 1971)
  • ""Tolstoy was wrong" (review), The Harpers Monthly (September 1972)
  • "The trivialization of evil" (review), The Harpers Monthly (April 1973)
  • "American Chronicle", Encounter (November 1974)
  • "Lightning Has Once Hit Near Me" (review), The New Republic (December 15, 1979)
  • "Downstream" (review), The New Republic (September 6, 1980)
  • "Two Cheers for Zoroaster" (review) The New Republic (April 25, 1981)
  • "U.N. in Adidas" (review), The New Republic (September 16, 1981)
  • "The Politics of the Playpen" (review), The New Republic (December 23, 1981)
  • "The Perversity of G.S." (review), The New Republic (April 21, 1982)
  • "The Secret Modernist", The New Republic (May 26, 1982)
  • "Madame De Style" (review), The New Republic (July 30, 1984)
  • "Captain Marvel on Capitalism", The New Republic (February 25, 1985)
  • "The Anglo File" (review), The New Republic (August 11, 1986)
  • "Lost in Greeneland" (review), The New Republic (November 2, 1987)
  • "Isaac Singer's Promised City"", City Journal (Summer 1997)
  • "The Newest American Credo", City Journal (Spring 1998)
  • "Time Heals All Wounds", City Journal (Spring 1998)
  • "It's Their Money", City Journal (Summer 1999)
  • "The Dung Hits the Fan", City Journal (Autumn 1999)
  • "And on the Right, Charles Dickens", City Journal (Winter 1999)
  • "Good Literature Lives!", City Journal (Spring 2000)
  • "The Post Office Stamps Out the 1980s", City Journal (Spring 2000)
  • "The New Blacklist", City Journal (Summer 2000)
  • "Defending the Indefensible", City Journal (Autumn 2000)
  • "Elementary Con Job", City Journal (Autumn 2000)
  • "A Little Touch of Mozart in New York", City Journal (Spring 2001)
  • A Modest Proposal", City Journal (Spring 2001)
  • "The Scout Wars", City Journal (Summer 2001)
  • "The Consolations of History", City Journal (Autumn 2001)
  • "The Americanization of Irving Berlin", City Journal (Spring 2002)
  • "How to Trivialize the Holocaust", City Journal (Spring 2002)
  • "America's Dumbest Intellectual", City Journal (Summer 2002)
  • "Expurgated Exams", City Journal (Summer 2002)
  • "Fox Has Morals?", City Journal (Winter 2002)
  • "Why the Scouts Ban Homosexuals", City Journal (Winter 2002)
  • "Richard Rodgers", City Journal (Autumn 2003)
  • "See-No-Evil Journalists", City Journal (Autumn 2003)
  • "Rather Not", City Journal (Autumn 2004)
  • "Christo-mania", City Journal (Summer 2004)
  • "The Czarinas of Beauty", City Journal (Summer 2004)
  • "Just the Highlights", City Journal (Summer 2004)
  • "Yuck!", City Journal (Summer 2004)
  • "Sondheim vs. Sondheim", City Journal (Autumn 2004)
  • "The Columbian Cartel", City Journal (Spring 2005)
  • "Urbanities: Vaudeville's Brief Shining Moment", City Journal (Spring 2005)
  • "What Ails the Dems?", City Journal (Summer 2005)
  • "Poshlost at Ground Zero", City Journal (Autumn 2005)
  • "Peacenik Warmongers", City Journal (Autumn 2005)
  • "Play Balco!", City Journal (Winter 2005)
  • "Hi, Ho! Steverino" (review), The Weekly Standard (December 5, 2005)
  • "Stately McMansions" (review), The Weekly Standard (March 27, 2006)
  • "Soccer Louts", City Journal (Summer 2006)
  • "The Dynamo and the Jeweler", City Journal (Autumn 2006)
  • "Warrior Princess", City Journal (Autumn 2006)
  • "France vs. France", City Journal (Winter 2006)
  • "Love and Glory in East Aurory"", City Journal (Spring 2007)
  • "The Big Lie", City Journal (Winter 2007)
  • "Richard Pryor: Stand-Up Philosopher", City Journal (March 2009)
  • "The Gold Bubble", City Journal (June 2, 2010)
  • "City Lights", City Journal (September 2, 2010)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Obituaries: Stefan Kanfer". New York Times. 29 July 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "Stefan Kanfer". City Journal. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Morrow, Lance (22 June 2018). "Farewell, Old Friend: On 50-plus years of knowing Stefan Kanfer". City Journal. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Magnet, Myron (21 June 2018). "Irreplaceable Steve: In Memoriam: Stefan Kanfer, 1933–2018". City Journal. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Stefan Kanfer". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Stefan Kanfer". Book Reporter. Retrieved 5 August 2018.