By Professor Richard M. Cook
Born in 1915 to slightly literate Jewish immigrants within the Brownsville component of Brooklyn, Alfred Kazin rose from close to poverty to develop into a dominant determine in twentieth-century literary feedback and considered one of America’s final nice males of letters. Biographer Richard M. prepare dinner presents a portrait of Kazin in his public roles and in his often unsatisfied inner most existence. Drawing at the own journals Kazin saved for over 60 years, inner most correspondence, and diverse conversations with Kazin, he uncovers the whole tale of the lonely, stuttering boy from Jewish Brownsville who turned a pioneering critic and influential cultural commentator. Upon the looks of On local Grounds in 1942, Kazin used to be dubbed “the boy ask yourself of yank criticism.” a variety of courses undefined, together with A Walker within the urban and different memoirs, books of feedback, in addition to a flow of essays and stories that ceased basically along with his demise in 1998. prepare dinner tells of Kazin’s formative years, his bothered marriages, and his family with such figures as Lionel Trilling, Saul Bellow, Malcolm Cowley, Arthur Schlesinger, Hannah Arendt, and Daniel Bell. He illuminates Kazin’s pondering on political-cultural concerns and the routine approach within which his subject’s own lifestyles formed his profession as a public highbrow. specific realization is paid to Kazin’s experience of himself as a Jewish-American “loner” whose internal estrangements gave him perception into the divisions on the center of recent culture. (20090224)
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Additional resources for Alfred Kazin: A Biography
And how to explain . . ’’ Kazin’s animus against Hook deepened over the years, especially after he felt Hook ‘‘libeled’’ him in his autobiography. But his distaste and resentment can be traced in no small part to City College and to his discomfort with an intellectual style he found offensively self-assured and wholly incompatible with his own less politically rigorous, more ‘‘literary’’ sensibility. In the coming years Kazin would often look back to the political culture at City College for clues to the ‘‘militantly knowing’’ elitism and ideological stridency of many of the intellectuals who started out on the hard left in the thirties and then turned hard right in later life.
Sitting in the Franklin K. Lane assembly hall, watching ‘‘the light dancing off the glasses of Theodore Roosevelt,’’ he could hardly have been aware of the lasting import of the impressions he was accumulating; he certainly could not have imagined that in ten years he would be on the verge of publishing a breakthrough literary history celebrating America’s storied democracy. As late as his junior year in college, he had no intention of becoming a literary critic, much less one concentrating on American literature.
Kazin, however, felt free in both magazines to review and support new writers, some from minority groups, as well as those writers on the left appearing in more radical magazines and newspapers. ≤∏ In fact, the reviews suggest that Kazin was happy to write on topics and writers that had little to do with contemporary politics—Elizabethan poetry, the philosophy of William James, British detective novels, German autobiography, contemporary criticism, American immigrant ﬁction. Religious subjects held a special interest for him, provoking thoughtful reviews of books on Saint Paul, Jesus, and Herod as well as works by the Russian mystic Nicholas Berdyaev and the Catholic theologian Jacques Maritain.