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His Generation

Keith Gessen: A Sad Old Literary Man, 19 June 2008

Alfred KazinA Biography 
by Richard Cook.
Yale, 452 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 0 300 11505 5
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... Alfred Kazin published his first and best book of literary criticism, On Native Grounds, in 1942, when he was 27 years old. It told, in highly wrought, dramatic prose, the story of American literature from what Kazin called ‘the opening struggle for realism’ in the 1890s to 1940 ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... as rivals and enemies, coming back to them obsessively. Worst of all the New York crowd was Alfred Kazin – ‘Saul Bellow called him the conductor on the gravy train. Wherever they were passing out money, honour, position, awards – there was Kazin. I didn’t read his memoirs. Well – I did read A Walker in ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox, 12 December 2002

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... considerable critical excitement. Desperate Characters (1970) was described as ‘brilliant’ by Alfred Kazin and Irving Howe; Lionel Trilling called it ‘reserved and beautifully realised’. Six years later Karl Miller found The Widow’s Children ‘a compelling and satisfying book’. All those endorsements, however, didn’t keep her novels from ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers, 20 April 2017

... of it in old New York. For me, the city didn’t just mean Frank Sinatra and Studio 54, it meant Alfred Kazin and Lionel Trilling, Lillian Hellman and Susan Sontag. I loved its papers, the swagger of the contributors, the New York intellectuals, with their neuroses, their arguments, their marriages, and their parties. Wilson’s disagreement with ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... In December​ 1963, the literary critic, essayist and lyrical memoirist Alfred Kazin filed a field report from an after party for a Commentary magazine symposium ‘on the Negro’. (Symposia on the Negro were popular in the 1960s, helping to keep white liberal panellists occupied and furrowed until the ferocious later phase of Black Power made them all squirm ...

The Education of Philip French

Marilyn Butler, 16 October 1980

Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling 
edited by Philip French.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85635 299 3
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F.R. Leavis 
by William Walsh.
Chatto, 189 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7011 2503 9
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... metropolitan intellectuals by events. Trilling’s story is told by other New Yorkers, including Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe and Norman Podhoretz, who between them seem to muster a greater range of ages, backgrounds and perhaps professional experience than the Leavis contributors. The atmosphere is more wide-awake than the English colloquium on the ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland, 3 February 1983

Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... least physical battery and certainly some come-uppance reviews) by burlesquing such mandarins as Alfred Kazin, Gore Vidal, Benjamin de Mott and – at inordinate length – George Steiner in the New Yorker (a bite at the hand which has, most famously, fed Updike): ‘An occasion to marvel once again that not since the Periclean Greeks has there been a ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... attempt to elevate the proceedings by including testimony from the likes of Irving Howe and Alfred Kazin, but even they tend to get dragged down into the mire. (Who else but a really professional ‘professional interviewer’ could have persuaded Diana Trilling to reveal that she has ‘often wondered what Norman was like in bed’?) The book’s ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... Letters, one of his several groves of academe over the years, were Jacques Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Kenneth Burke, Robert Fitzgerald, Leslie Fiedler and John Crowe Ransom – this last its founder as a school of literary criticism ‘to teach those who teach it’. Marianne Moore, in ...

Even if I married a whole harem of women I’d still act like a bachelor

Elaine Showalter: Isaac Bashevis Singer, 17 September 1998

Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... McCarthy. Perhaps that is why he thought it prudent to consign his text to the shadowlands.’ For Alfred Kazin it was a matter of social camouflage: Singer didn’t want his English-speaking Jewish audience to know how he had caricatured them in the novel. In his review of Shadows on the Hudson in the New York Review of Books (perhaps the last ...

The Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’, 27 August 2015

The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-73 
by Mark Greif.
Princeton, 434 pp., £19.95, January 2015, 978 0 691 14639 3
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Moral Agents: Eight 20th-Century American Writers 
by Edward Mendelson.
New York Review, 216 pp., £12.99, May 2015, 978 1 59017 776 1
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... precision, Mendelson traces similar private confusion and anxiety in Trilling’s coevals. Alfred Kazin marvelled in his journals at his own social and intellectual eminence – its high-water mark a lunch invitation to the White House – and sexual success. Unlike Trilling, he sublimates self-contempt into scorn for the neocons dying to break ...

How far shall I take this character?

Richard Poirier: The Corruption of Literary Biography, 2 November 2000

Bellow: A Biography 
by James Atlas.
Faber, 686 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 14356 3
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... more particular animus towards Jewish literary academics, eventually extending to admirers like Alfred Kazin and Leslie Fiedler? And why is this animus particularly pronounced when its targets are Jewish literary academics who teach in Ivy League universities like Columbia and Harvard? It is perhaps some measure of Bellow’s feelings in this ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... the world accepted him. ‘I suppose I shall have to take my pannings mercifully,’ he writes to Alfred Kazin in 1944, before reassuring the burgeoning critic that he belongs ‘in our camp’. Later: ‘The reviews are incredibly vulgar, so why read them?’ One can applaud a novelist for not reading his reviews, but not reading them and obsessing ...

In a Boat of His Own Making

James Camp: Jack London, 25 September 2014

Jack London: An American Life 
by Earle Labor.
Farrar, Straus, 439 pp., £21.99, November 2013, 978 0 374 17848 2
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The Sea-Wolf 
by Jack London.
Hesperus, 287 pp., £9.99, August 2013, 978 1 78094 200 1
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... as a riposte to previous biographers. ‘The greatest story Jack London ever wrote,’ Alfred Kazin said in On Native Grounds, ‘was the story he lived.’ But his afterlife has been uneven. Irving Stone was the first to tackle it, in Sailor on Horseback (1938), in which he more or less invented the evidence for London having killed himself ...

Dislocations

Stephen Fender, 19 January 1989

Landscape and Written Expression in Revolutionary America: The world turned upside down 
by Robert Lawson-Peebles.
Cambridge, 384 pp., £35, March 1988, 0 521 34647 9
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Mark Twain’s Letters. Vol. I: 1853-1866 
edited by Edgar Marquess Branch, Michael Frank and Kenneth Sanderson.
California, 616 pp., $35, May 1988, 0 520 03668 9
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A Writer’s America: Landscape in Literature 
by Alfred Kazin.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £15.95, September 1988, 0 500 01424 8
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... represented in Lawson-Peebles’s study, too, the confrontation posed problems of style. Only in Kazin’s wide survey are American writers at ease in their surroundings. A common response to the unexpected is a retreat to a hardened form of the familiar. Faced with landscapes that seemed to dissolve – topographies that outran the proportions of the ...

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