van-doren

The Van Dorens were one of the most prominent literary families of the 20th century. Carl Van Doren won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for his biography on Benjamin Franklin. Mark Van Doren, Carl’s brother, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1940 for his Collected Poems: 1922-1938. He was also a prolific literary critic (he wrote celebrated books on Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Dryden, and many others) and a professor at Columbia University, inspiring–among many others–Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But it’s Mark Van Doren’s son, Charles Van Doren, who became the most famous (or perhaps infamous). Charles Van Doren wrote a number of wonderful books, including The History of Knowledge, How to Read a Book, and The Joy of Reading. But today if he’s remembered at all, it’s for his (large) part in the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Robert Redford’s 1994 film Quiz Show is about his rise to and fall from fame.