D.J.R. Bruckner, who attended Creighton University, was a Rhodes scholar and had a long career as a writer and journalist, died Friday in New York.
He had retired as a book and theater reviewer for the New York Times, where he wrote and edited for 25 years. He also worked at the University of Chicago and for the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Sun-Times.
Bruckner, 79, died of prostate cancer in a Manhattan nursing home.
Nancy Baker, a friend of Bruckner for more than 50 years, said he was an intelligent man with a terrific memory and interests in many topics. They included art, history, poetry, cooking, music and opera.
He spoke several languages and wrote or helped write books about art, type designer Frederic Goudy, the University of Chicago and cats.
“He was a real stylist,” said Baker, a philosophy teacher at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. “He also enjoyed playing, playing with words.”
Marion Wood, Bruckner's sister-in-law, said he grew up in Platte Center, Neb., graduated from Cathedral High School in Omaha and attended Creighton University and Indiana University before becoming a Rhodes scholar and studying at Oxford University.
He retained the curiosity of a young man even as he grew old, said Steve Langan, a cousin of Bruckner. He was “not into small talk,” Langan said. “He was into big talk.”
Baker said Bruckner “could be very sharp if he didn't like what you were doing or saying. ... He never hesitated to just speak his mind. I think a lot of people were intimidated by him.”
Baker said she asked Bruckner why he never married. Bruckner answered that he was too difficult, she said.
Langan said Bruckner was an editor of the New York Times Book Review who loved to review plays performed by smaller New York theater companies. Langan, of Omaha, said Bruckner collected books and that his Manhattan apartment was filled with them, from “floor to ceiling in some areas.” They ranged from contemporary poetry to medieval theology, and fiction to Roman history.
One piece he wrote for the New York Times described the challenge of moving his collection of books. “Into boxes stacked eight high in 20 rows go all my old friends. They have taken me to places time has locked up forever, and some of my life in turn has tucked itself away in them,” he wrote. “Where I go, they go.”
Bruckner had no immediate survivors.
A memorial service in New York hadn't been arranged yet, Langan said. A service eventually will be held in Platte Center or Omaha. Bruckner wanted his ashes placed near his parents' graves, Langan said, in the Platte Center cemetery.