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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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... culture. In the aquarium with Jarrell, to be more precise at the Bloomington, Indiana School of Letters, one of his several groves of academe over the years, were Jacques Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, AlfredKazin, 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 ...


Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing

19 September 1985
... editors – in short, both those who have given and those who have received. There is a half-hearted attempt to elevate the proceedings by including testimony from the likes of Irving Howe and AlfredKazin, 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 ...
10 February 1994
Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World 
by Carol Brightman.
Lime Tree, 714 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 413 45821 0
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... tendency to ‘strip ideas of their abstract character and return them to the social world from whence they came’, even when she’s impressed by it. McCarthy’s authority, according to AlfredKazin, increased in relation to ‘the growing conviction of meaninglessness in the air’, and the climax of this process was The Group, where she’d planned what she described as a ‘compendious ...

To be like us isn’t easy

Emily Cooke: Dorothy Baker

20 June 2013
Young Man with a Horn 
by Dorothy Baker.
NYRB, 185 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 59017 577 4
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Cassandra at the Wedding 
by Dorothy Baker.
NYRB, 241 pp., £8.99, September 2012, 978 1 59017 601 6
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... her husband and child – and another on the way – and didn’t write another book for a decade. The fourth and final novel, Cassandra at the Wedding (1962), did better, winning the admiration of AlfredKazin and Carson McCullers. Still, a good portion of the 1962 interview concerns Baker’s sense of failure. Twenty-five years into her career, she was not among the handful of writers considered the ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr

8 February 2018
Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... Ted Sorensen, but a handful of lesser writers. The JFK White House was a hagiography factory from the get-go. Intellectuals were back in vogue. Schlesinger brokered lunch between Kennedy and AlfredKazin (their exchanges appear to have been weightier than the mutual flattery of those between Obama and Marilynne Robinson). But Schlesinger’s main duties kicked in after the assassination. A Thousand ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth

23 March 2006
Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... than a touch of black farce in the novel’s stage management, especially during the final catastrophe. Above all, the translated Yiddish dialogue is splendid: ‘almost too splendid’, according to AlfredKazin, who wrote the introduction to a 1991 edition of the novel, since it makes everyday idioms sound impossibly elevated. ‘Even the fixed word wavers, eh?’ Albert snarls when he thinks he’s ...


Steven Shapin: The Pseudoscience Wars

8 November 2012
The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe 
by Michael Gordin.
Chicago, 291 pp., £18.50, October 2012, 978 0 226 30442 7
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... till the end, is a wishful thinking that fills the textbooks … And so it is only wishful thinking that we are living in a safe, never perturbed, solar system and a safe, never perturbed past. AlfredKazin, writing in the New Yorker, understood that this was part of Velikovsky’s appeal, and tellingly linked the great pseudoscientist with the Doomsday warnings of orthodox atomic scientists ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’

24 January 2019
The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... and literary cohorts had turned on him, or he on them, a mutual aggravation society. Some, like Shils, found sustained exposure to Bellow’s vanity and droit de seigneur too hard on the eyes; so did AlfredKazin, who had known him when they were both terriers on the Partisan Review scene and was now put out by Bellow’s imperial aura of serene self-possession and superiority, ‘sitting congealed like ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren

17 September 1998
Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... the novel’s larger-than-life, innocently amoral, riproaring Bunyanesque hero, reproduce the Algren mise-en-scène as farce. ‘I don’t think his book has anything real about it whatsoever,’ AlfredKazin wrote in the New York Times, comparing Wild Side to the ‘harrowing and grimly honest’ Man with the Golden Arm, which ‘hurt like a blow’. The New York intellectuals now dismissed Algren ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch

7 November 2013
Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... and 1970s, which is more pungently caught in the oral biography Peter Manso produced in 1985, yet Lennon often puts his finger on the kind of detail that makes sense of Mailer’s character. Pearl Kazin (AlfredKazin’s sister) was an editor at Harper’s Bazaar and her manner was said to be quite superior. She deployed it over the years to get American novelists to jump through hoops. And when she ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides

24 October 2019
Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... intellectual milieu that Sontag broke into was mostly male and musty, an atomic cloud of cigarette smoke hanging over noisy rooms on the Upper West Side or Greenwich Village where Dwight Macdonald, AlfredKazin, Philip Rahv, Clement Greenberg and a supporting cast of kibitzers engaged in rhetorical (and, in Greenberg’s case, actual) fisticuffs. Like many men of ideas with impossibly high standards ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth

23 January 2014
Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... own. Was parochial hostility to someone showing Jews in a bad light really any more unexpected than winning the National Book Award for a first book? With Saul Bellow, Leslie Fiedler, Irving Howe and AlfredKazin in his corner – ‘four tigers’, as he describes them, of American Jewish literature – it might have been possible to ignore the fringe of pious malcontents, but appeasement has never ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... possible suicide, Bill’s own depression. And I talked to him about William James’s own breakdown and his resuscitation through faith. What in hell am I doing with all these theatre types? AlfredKazin’s journals, 26 December 1986 Discount Kazin’s weary, load-bearing sigh in this characteristic entry from his journals, which record him enduring party after party, decade after decade, as ...

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