Here's Kellow's account of Kael's relationship with the youthful David Denby:
"Already the legend of Pauline's inner circle of film proteges was building. Inclusion in the group was pursued, often desperately, by outsiders. But there were no guarantees of safety at any point. David Denby was a writer in his late twenties who had a burning ambition to become a critic. Pauline met him in 1967, while he was a student at the Columbia University School of Journalism. She got along well with Denby, who assumed an enviable position in the Kael circle, spending many late nights into the morning at the Turin, listening in rapt fascination as she debated with her other guests and, as Denby recalled, mowed down `the reputations of virtually every writer in town.'
At this point Denby felt that he had been inducted into the literary boot camp of his dreams. Pauline might endlessly hector him and her other proteges about their thoughts and opinions, constantly pressing them to go further and deeper in their writing, to sort out and sharpen their ideas on the page. She could openly badger them about what she considered their middlebrow taste, but she was so witty and engaging that `those who didn't turn away in anger were convinced she was rough on them for their own good. At least, that was the promise.' She enjoyed playing the role of the tough fourth-grade teacher that so many writers crave: She held the young critics she took up to a dizzyingly high standard, going over their articles line by line--endlessly devoted, it seemed, to showing them how to improve their work. About one article of Denby's that was in progress, Pauline said `It's shit, honey . . . and if you don't make it better I'll stick pins in you.' Toward the end of Denby's time at Columbia, she suggested him for a film critic's post at The Atlantic Monthly, and he got the job.
The problem was that, by Denby's own admission, he was so drawn to, so dominated by Pauline's voice on the printed page that it crept into his own writing. She recognized her influence, too, and few things rankled her more than the awareness that her acolytes were blindly devoted to her. She loved being surrounded by like-minded people, but slavish imitators eventually invited her contempt. As far as Denby was concerned, Pauline's followers had to go along with the general outline of her thinking, but they couldn't be too obeisant; they had to demonstrate that they could think for themselves. When Pauline noticed the imitative streak in Denby's writing, she wasn't pleased. At some point during her New Yorker stint in 1972-3, Denby recalled, she telephoned him to tell him that she didn't think he had the right stuff. `You're too restless to be a writer,' she proclaimed. A few hours later, knowing that she had wounded him, she phoned again, telling him `I've thought about this seriously, honey. You should do something else with your energy.'
In Denby's case the student had for some time begun to be suspicious of the teacher and revolt against the rules of Pauline's private academy. He had come to doubt some of her opinions (her rave for Fiddler on the Roof particularly baffled him) and claimed to have been present at a lunch at a Chinese restaurant in New York at which she had laid the director Nicholas Ray out flat, pitilessly analyzing his films one by one and altogether dismissing a good many of them, to the point that `Ray, his face cast down into his shrimp and rice, hardly said a word.'
So, when greeted with Pauline's announcement that he was not fit for a career as a writer, Denby nervously disagreed with her and did the only thing he felt he could do: He withdrew from her life. They continued to see each other at professional gatherings in the years that followed--Denby would be film critic for New York and later The New Yorker--but Pauline never recanted her opinion. Denby would later recall the acute discomfort of being cast out not only by Pauline but by many of her acolytes, whom he had mistakenly considered friends. He would go on to an enviable career as a critic and commentator, but the hurt and humiliation that Pauline's rejection brought remained with him for years."