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Whoopers and Shouters

James Morone: William Jennings Bryan, 21 February 2008

A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan 
by Michael Kazin.
Anchor, 374 pp., $16.95, March 2007, 978 0 385 72056 4
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... the role of Bryan and the director kept saying: ‘More pompous, Morone. Make him more pompous.’ Michael Kazin is a fine historian who specialises in the lost causes of the left. He has written sympathetic books on the Populist movement and the 1960s. In A Godly Hero, his life of Bryan, he now draws an unexpected conclusion: defying capitalists and ...

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, 30 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 the ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 17 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 Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’, 26 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 bread with the ...

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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... of personal history and the pretty stuff on the public record. Let’s take the spirit of J. Michael Lennon’s ‘double life’ of Norman Mailer and offer that doubleness back as subjective criticism. Mailer, after all, gave us the non-fiction novel, Lennon gives us the pseudo-objective biography, so why can’t I offer the confessional review? On the ...

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 ...

Mganga with the Lion

Kenneth Silverman: Hemingway, 2 September 1999

Hemingway: The Thirties 
by Michael Reynolds.
Norton, 360 pp., £9.95, October 1998, 0 393 31778 1
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Hemingway: The Final Years 
by Michael Reynolds.
Norton, 416 pp., £19.95, July 1999, 0 393 04748 2
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True at First Light 
by Ernest Hemingway.
Heinemann, 319 pp., £16.99, July 1999, 9780434008322
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... Michael Reynolds is the marrying kind of biographer: president of the Hemingway Society, he has published a 140-page annotated chronology of Hemingway’s life, a 2300-item inventory of Hemingway’s reading, and a monograph-length study of the creation of A Farewell to Arms, as well as three serial volumes of biography: The Young Hemingway (1986); Hemingway: The Paris Years (1989); and Hemingway: The American Homecoming (1992 ...

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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... as farce. ‘I don’t think his book has anything real about it whatsoever,’ Alfred Kazin 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 as a Thirties leftover. Although he himself had denigrated A ...

Catastrophism

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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... It was American scientists who went ballistic over Velikovsky, not historians, and one purpose of Michael Gordin’s probing and intelligent The Pseudoscience Wars is to ask why they responded to Velikovsky as they did. Putting that sort of question is a sign of changed times. Passions have cooled; circumstances have altered. Almost all previous books about ...

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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... his resuscitation through faith. What in hell am I doing with all these theatre types? Alfred Kazin’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 if it were his suffering ...

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