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Scarsdale Romance

Anita Brookner, 6 May 1982

Mrs Harris 
by Diana Trilling.
Hamish Hamilton, 341 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 241 10822 5
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... and the best I can say to you is, the best of luck. My italics. And Mrs Harris’s behaviour? Diana Trilling observed her to be prim, neat, busy and affectless. She scribbled notes to her defence counsel, whom she addressed from the witness-stand as ‘Joel’, she bristled at certain infelicities of procedure, but at no point did she reveal herself ...

The Heart’s Cause

Michael Wood, 9 February 1995

The Beginning of the Journey: The Marriage of Diana and Lionel Trilling 
by Diana Trilling.
Harcourt Brace, 442 pp., $24.95, May 1994, 0 15 111685 7
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... Slugging it out with Diana Trilling in the pages of Commentary, Robert Lowell remarked: ‘Controversy is bad for the mind and worse for the heart.’ Mrs Trilling, for all the world like Dorothea Brooke or some other 19th-century heroine of the strenuously examined life, replied: ‘I have never thought controversy bad for either the mind or the heart ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... Laskin relies most heavily in this relatively orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking ...

We Laughed, We Clowned

Michael Wood: Diana Trilling, 29 June 2017

The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling 
by Natalie Robins.
Columbia, 399 pp., £25, June 2017, 978 0 231 18208 9
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... seems to work for the whole book, which takes us from the start of the 20th century to its end. Diana Trilling was born in the East Bronx in 1905, and died in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1996. Trilling, née Rubin, went to Radcliffe College when she was 16, ‘one of three Jewish women in her freshman ...

On Robert Silvers

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

... 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 Nabokov, Lillian’s fight with ...

I am Prince Mishkin

Mark Ford, 23 April 1987

‘Howl’: Original Draft Facsimile 
by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Barry Miles.
Viking, 194 pp., £16.95, February 1987, 0 670 81599 3
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White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 89 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81598 5
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... all cutting their teeth in the New York literary scene under the approving auspices of Lionel and Diana Trilling, who led the charge against the Beats. ‘It is only fair to Allen Ginsberg to remark on the utter lack of decorum of any kind in his dreadful little volume,’ began Hollander in Partisan Review. Podhoretz’s was a more general attack on the ...

Big Pod

Richard Poirier: How Podhoretz Dumped His Friends, 2 September 1999

by Norman Podhoretz.
Free Press, 256 pp., $25, February 1999, 0 684 85594 1
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... was closely involved from the early Fifties until the early Seventies: Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Lillian Hellman and Norman Mailer. It was in the early years of this same period, the first five years of the Sixties, that what was often called the Family, a closely allied group of mostly New York intellectuals who published ...

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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... of the power couples of the Upper West Side intelligentsia – the junior version of Lionel and Diana Trilling. Kazin, a Commentary contributor going back to 1945, found himself in a bobbing sea of familiar faces but left in a sour funk, fed up with that old gang of his, the unseemliness of it all: The party is deductible, it is given by the ...

The Fame Game

Alan Brien, 6 September 1984

by Steven Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... promises. His lash falls on Barbara Cartland, who refuses to discuss Princess Di’ s periods, and Diana Trilling, who asks him an unwise favour to help polish her image. This seems not so much because of their evident vanities and occasional sillinesses but because they manage to survive his attacks, unscathed, protected by their own sense of ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Orders of Service, 18 April 2019

... Bowen’s novel The Death of the Heart.) ‘Secrecy was Goronwy’s habit and nourishment,’ Diana Trilling once wrote. ‘Like a familiar perfume, it announced and trailed him.’ Perhaps that is what orders of service are for: to distil the floating essence of a person before we go on without them. ‘He did have beautiful green eyes,’ Catherine ...


Frank Kermode, 24 July 1986

The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 208 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 224 02385 3
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... of ridicule that can be mustered. When it is necessary to be serious about serious people, he is. Diana Trilling, not easily flattered, might well be pleased to have it said of her that ‘you have to watch what you say when she’s around,’ to ‘weed out your lazier, sloppier thoughts’. And Amis’s favourite American seems to be ...

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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... about the enfeebling of European liberal humanism with cultural tonics of their own. Lionel Trilling declared after the war that ‘the great work of our time is the restoration and reconstitution of … the great former will of humanism.’ Greif writes insightfully about the canonisation of Hemingway and Faulkner, and the careful packaging of US soft ...


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

... 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 favourite subject, in the end, is money, and to follow the plot we need to involve ourselves quite early on in the drama of Mailer’s ...

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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... of a bitch is after my wife’), and up they troop, joined by March, Robert Frost and Lionel and Diana Trilling, not exactly the snappiest bunch. ‘Diana Trilling had the look of a woman who had just been struck a glancing but telling blow by a sledgehammer,’ Styron notes. The evening’s coup: ‘I spent most ...

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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... hard to come by in this book. He would have been 29, with one novel, Dangling Man, to his credit. Diana Trilling, who was to become an enthusiastic reviewer of later novels, didn’t much like this first one, but it did impress Philip Rahv, an editor of Partisan Review and, though less so, a fellow editor, Dwight Macdonald. Macdonald took the ...

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