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The Egg-Head’s Egger-On

Christopher Hitchens: Saul Bellow keeps his word (sort of)

27 April 2000
Ravelstein 
by Saul Bellow.
Viking, 254 pp., £16.99, April 2000, 0 670 89131 2
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... now presents us with Ravelstein, a hedonistic kvetch who manifests patience towards none. As is known to all but the meanest citizens of the republic of letters, the novel is an obelisk for the late AllanBloom, author of the 1987 shocker, The Closing of the American Mind. This book, which was a late product or blooming of the University of Chicago Committee on Social Thought, argued that the American ...
23 July 1992
The End of History and the Last Man 
by Francis Fukuyama.
Hamish Hamilton, 418 pp., £20, March 1992, 0 241 13013 1
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... impressed by Kojève’s objections to write a reply in an essay called ‘Restatement on Xenophon’s Hiero’. The revised and enlarged paperback edition of Strauss’s On Tyranny, which AllanBloom brought out in 1963, reprints the entire debate for the benefit of students on the initiation courses that Strauss’s followers run in a number of American universities. It was again AllanBloom ...

Swallowing goldfish

Alexander Nehamas

10 December 1987
The Closing of the American Mind: How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students 
by Allan Bloom.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 671 47990 3
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... individuals have issued scathing reports on the low quality of current educational schemes, dire warnings about their potential consequences, and mostly vague recommendations regarding their reform. AllanBloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, described on the New York Times best-seller list as ‘a critique of liberal arts education during the past twenty-five years’, has been widely ...
1 August 1996
No Passion Spent 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 421 pp., £20, January 1996, 0 571 17697 6
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... and the spread of media culture with similarly ahistorical and simplistic arguments about norms and values embodied in an unchanging canon. It’s like looking at twins: Steiner as a European AllanBloom, Bloom as an American George Steiner. Such an observation will not sit well with Steiner’s claim that ‘Europe and North America are, in crucial ways, increasingly distant from each other.’ His ...

Let every faction bloom

John Patrick Diggins

6 March 1997
For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism 
edited by Joshua Cohen.
Beacon, 154 pp., $15, August 1996, 0 8070 4313 3
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For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Oxford, 214 pp., £22.50, September 1995, 0 19 827952 3
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Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism 
edited by John Bodnar.
Princeton, 352 pp., £45, September 1996, 0 691 04397 3
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Buring the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy 
by Robert Justin Goldstein.
Kent State, 453 pp., $39, July 1996, 0 87338 526 8
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... The classical, imperial dictum of divide and rule has given way to a new dictum of divide and prevail by virtue of the demands of differential recognition. Identity politics lets every faction bloom while patriotism, now seen as the snare of subordination, perishes. During the Sixties, when the Vietnam War was raging, many young Americans made sure that they stayed in school in order to enjoy ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag

12 February 2009
Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... won a scholarship to the University of Chicago: under the unusual dispensation there, a qualified student could enter after the sophomore year of high school; precocious philosophical peers like AllanBloom (born 1930) and Richard Rorty (born 1931) were educated on the same programme. ‘I’ll really know what to do in Chicago when I get there,’ Sontag writes after recounting more adventures in ...
20 October 1994
Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... book – moderate though it is – is bound to be seized on by allies of the religious Right like William Bennett. Bennett and his fellow conservative intellectuals would like to persuade us that AllanBloom was right in suggesting that the universities are under the control of a ‘Nietzscheanised left’, and that the life of the mind in America survives only in conservative think-tanks. There is ...
8 April 1993
The Ethics of Authenticity 
by Charles Taylor.
Harvard, 142 pp., £13.95, November 1992, 0 674 26863 6
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... says that we ought neither to boost this culture (in the manner of the truly dreadful books produced by representatives of ‘the human potential movement’) nor knock it (in the manner of Lasch and AllanBloom). Instead, we should ‘fight over the meaning of authenticity’. In particular, we should keep reminding people that the selves to which they hope to be true are ‘dialogical selves’ – ...
31 October 1996
Adventures on the Freedom Road: The French Intellectuals in the 20th Century 
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, translated by Richard Veasey.
Harvill, 434 pp., £20, December 1995, 1 86046 035 6
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The Imaginary Jew 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Kevin O’Neill and David Suchoff.
Nebraska, 230 pp., £23.95, August 1994, 0 8032 1987 3
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The Defeat of the Mind 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Judith Friedlander.
Columbia, 165 pp., $15, May 1996, 0 231 08023 9
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... entertained by Finkielkraut himself) that this new humanism is simply a continuation of an Enlightenment tradition. In fact, his defence of the French mind, originally published at the same time as AllanBloom’s Closing of the American Mind, is a plea for Culture, not Reason – explicitly, it defines literature in opposition to science, and implicitly, the intellectual in opposition to the ...

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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... has acknowledged that Ravelstein is modelled closely on his intimate friend and colleague at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, AllanBloom. According to Atlas, Bellow is ‘unsparing about his friend’s self-destructive bent, his oblivious devotion to fine wine and rich food’. The fact is that as early as Augie March many of ...

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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... doted after a lifetime of dodging and weaving with his sons. Shortly thereafter, in 2000, at the age of 85, he brought out Ravelstein, its protagonist modelled on Bellow’s friend and colleague AllanBloom, whose twilight lament The Closing of the American Mind, endorsed with a foreword by Bellow (though what a snoozer of stale seminar hem-hawing that was: ‘It would be a pity if intelligent ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’

8 May 2003
Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... radicals’ (as Roger Kimball put it in his 1990 book), engaged in the promulgation of an ‘illiberal education’ (Dinesh D’Souza in 1991), dedicated to ‘the closing of the American mind’ (AllanBloom in 1987). The sense of embattlement is palpable in a recent anthology of articles from the New Criterion, whose editor, Hilton Kramer, gazes back on the founding of the magazine in 1982: The ...
21 January 2016
... essay had an unlikely origin. One day, as I was sitting in my office with the door open, two senior professors walked by, chatting loudly on their way to lunch. The man doing most of the talking was AllanBloom, who much later published a bestseller called The Closing of the American Mind, a rather fascinating and even intimidating figure. Unashamedly effeminate, and clearly favouring his male over ...

Women beware men

Margaret Anne Doody

23 July 1992
Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women 
by Susan Faludi.
Chatto, 592 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 7011 4643 5
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The War against Women 
by Marilyn French.
Hamish Hamilton, 229 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 241 13271 1
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... of Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, who created strong heroines – how much better-off are women who read detective stories than those who attend only to magazines, to serious self-help books, or to AllanBloom! But Disney studios made a mess out of trying to make a film about Sara Paretsky’s heroine, as they could not really believe in or approve of her. Television in the United States is almost ...

Education and Exclusion

Sheldon Rothblatt

13 February 1992
Hutchins’ University: A Memoir of the University of Chicago 1929-1950 
by William McNeill.
Chicago, 194 pp., $24.95, October 1991, 0 226 56170 4
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Robert M. Hutchins: Portrait of an Educator 
by Mary Ann Dzuback.
Chicago, 387 pp., $24.95, November 1991, 0 226 17710 6
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Jews in the American Academy 1900-1940: The Dynamics of Intellectual Assimilation 
by Susanne Klingenstein.
Yale, 248 pp., £22.50, November 1991, 0 300 04941 2
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... the multiversity even with its satellite ‘colleges of letters and science’ as Americans have customarily loved their socially superior, clubbish, intellectually high-minded ‘college’. See AllanBloom, who from the safety of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago mocks mass education in The Closing of the American Mind. That is, no one would love the multiversity in and ...

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