Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Professor Richard M. Cook

By Professor Richard M. Cook

Born in 1915 to slightly literate Jewish immigrants within the Brownsville component to Brooklyn, Alfred Kazin rose from close to poverty to develop into a dominant determine in twentieth-century literary feedback and one among America’s final nice males of letters. Biographer Richard M. cook dinner offers 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 various conversations with Kazin, he uncovers the whole tale of the lonely, stuttering boy from Jewish Brownsville who grew to become 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 number of courses undefined, together with A Walker within the urban and different memoirs, books of feedback, in addition to a flow of essays and studies that ceased merely along with his dying in 1998. prepare dinner tells of Kazin’s formative years, his afflicted marriages, and his family members with such figures as Lionel Trilling, Saul Bellow, Malcolm Cowley, Arthur Schlesinger, Hannah Arendt, and Daniel Bell. He illuminates Kazin’s considering on political-cultural matters and the routine method within which his subject’s own existence formed his profession as a public highbrow. specific awareness is paid to Kazin’s experience of himself as a Jewish-American “loner” whose internal estrangements gave him perception into the divisions on the middle of contemporary culture.  (20090224)

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Writers brought in from the slums farms and factories . . ’’ This was the deeper meaning of the new literary radicalism—a radicalism that consisted less of politics and ideology than of literary enfranchisement. Kazin shared personally in this democratizing tendency in the ‘‘starting out’’ of his writing career. He contributed directly to it with his reviews, helping bring to the attention of a nation apparently willing to listen the voices of people often ignored or forgotten—James T. ≤∫ Another tendency evident in Kazin’s early reviews is his penchant for responding to writers as historical actors and personalities whose moral qualities he closely associates with their literary achievement.

Kazin may have spent the thirties anticipating the coming Socialist revolution; but to follow his progress through that decade is to see that his vision of the future depended at least as much on a growing sense of his own possibilities—his literary ambitions, his developing connections with the publishing world, and his discovery of writers and friends—as on any Marxist theory of a ‘‘necessary’’ future. Indeed, as a young radical and hopeful litterateur out of Brownsville with eyes fixed intently on the world beyond the ghetto, Kazin was not about to entrust his future to any ideology (or ideologue) that would presume to define the meaning of his working-class past or the limits of his expectations.

Sail[ing] in after lunch with a tolerant smile on [his] face,’’ Cowley did not make a favorable first impression on Kazin, and the first impression soon hardened into active dislike. The reasons for the bad feelings are unclear. They seem to have come from Kazin’s side (Cowley later claimed to have been wholly unaware of them) and to have had their roots in the social divide between the two men, more accurately, in Kazin’s painful consciousness of the divide. ‘‘As a young reviewer and writer, I was invited everywhere,’’ he would later recall.

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