By Alfred Kazin
Kazin starts off his tale in 1940, the place we see him first as a tender guy operating for The New Republic, then for Fortune during James Agee. We see him in wartime London; as traveller, after the conflict, in Italy, Germany, Russia and Israel. We see him as instructor and student; as husband and lover; as a author of profoundly influential serious works; as either observer of and player in the cultural historical past of his time.
Marvelous scenes of close-up encounters with literary figures abound. The younger Kazin, “summoned” to debate his just-published first booklet, will pay his first stopover at to the nice Edmund Wilson (he was once “merely impatient with my book”) and his spouse (“she went into my faults with nice care…she regarded appealing within the expanding crispness of her analysis”) Mary McCarthy. We see Lionel Trilling (“for Trilling i might consistently be ‘too Jewish’”); Saul Bellow, quickly after Augie March, already projecting a “sense of future as a novelist that excited every body round him”; Sylvia Plath as a pupil of Kazin’s at Smith. Kazin stocks the actual pleasure of being within the corporation of Hannah Arendt—Hannah at paintings, “brimming over with enthusiasm for the hot World,” and within the Morningside force condominium the place she and her husband, Heinrich Bluecher, lived “thought ruled” lives, and have been magnets for younger writers. We see young and old contemporaries—Robert Frost, Paul Goodman, T. S. Eliot, and others—freely expressing (and being) themselves.
Every photograph and incident is filtered via Kazin’s personal robust sensibility—powerfully educated through his Russian immigrant-socialist historical past, by means of the resurgent feel of his personal Jewishness, and by way of the “raw energy, mass, and quantity” of town he's unfailingly interested in. ny is itself a vital personality in his publication as in his life—a lifestyles fantastically informed, in a booklet that might be of fascination to every body attracted to American writing and writers.
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NEW YORK JEW by Alfred Kazin