During his career as a neoconservative thinker, Norman Podhoretz has been asked no question more often than “Why are so many Jews liberals?” In this provocative book he sets out to solve this puzzle. He first offers a fascinating account of anti-Semitism in the West to show the historical roots of Jewish mistrust of the right. But, Podhoretz argues, since the Six Day War of 1967 Jewish allegiance to the left no longer makes sense, and yet most Jews continue supporting the Democratic Party and the liberal agenda. Reviewing the history of Jewish political attitudes and examining the available evidence, Podhoretz argues against the conventional explanations for Jewish liberalism—finally proposing his own.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Founded by the offspring of immigrants, Commentary began life as a voice for the marginalized and a feisty advocate for civil rights and economic justice. But just as American culture moved in its direction, it began—inexplicably to some—to veer right, becoming the voice of neoconservativism and defender of the powerful.
This lively history, based on unprecedented access to the magazine's archives and dozens of original interviews, provocatively explains that shift while recreating the atmosphere of some of the most exciting decades in American intellectual life.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
?Based on interviews with many of the leading figures and 10 years of extensive research
?Takes us behind the scenes at Commentary, Partisan Review, The Public Interest and other influential publications
Podhoretz was the trailblazer of the now-famous journey of a number of his fellow intellectuals from radicalism to conservatism -- a journey through which they came to exercise both cultural and political influence far beyond their number. With this fascinating account of his once happy and finally troubled relations with these cultural icons, Podhoretz helps us understand why that journey was undertaken and just how consequential it became. In the process we get a brilliantly illuminating picture of the writers and intellectuals who have done so much to shape our world.
Combining a personal memoir with literary, social, and political history, this unique gallery of stern and affectionate portraits is as entertaining as a novel and at the same time more instructive about postwar American culture than a formal scholarly study. Interwoven with these tales of some of the most quixotic and scintillating of contemporary American thinkers are themes that are introduced, developed, and redeveloped in a variety of contexts, with each appearance enriching the others, like a fugue in music. It is all here: the perversity of brilliance; the misuse of the mind; the benightedness of people usually considered especially enlightened; their human foibles and olympian detachment; the rigors to be endured and the prizes to be won and the prices to be paid for the reflective life.
Most people live their lives in a very different way, and at one point, in a defiantly provocative defense of the indifference shown to the things by which intellectuals are obsessed, Norman Podhoretz says that Socrates' assertion that the unexamined life was not worth living was one of the biggest lies ever propagated by a philosopher. And yet, one comes away from Ex-Friends feeling wistful for a day when ideas really mattered and when there were people around who cared more deeply about them than about anything else. Reading of a time when the finest minds of a generation regularly gathered in New York living rooms to debate one another with an articulateness, a passion, and a level of erudition almost extinct, we come to realize how enviable it can be to live a life as poignantly and purposefully examined as Norman Podhoretz's is in Ex-Friends.
A superb storyteller, Podhoretz takes us from his childhood as a working-class kid in Brooklyn during the Great Depression -- the son of Jewish immigrants singing Catholic hymns in a public school staffed by Irish spinsters and duking it out on the streets with his black and Italian classmates -- to his later education, his shifting political alliances, and his arrival at a happy personal and intellectual resolution.
My Love Affair with America shows us a gentler and funnier Podhoretz than readers have seen before. At the same time, it presents a picture of someone eager to proclaim, against all comers, that America represents one of the high points in the history of human civilizations. In this powerful, elegantly written, and poignant cautionary tale, Podhoretz pleads with his fellow conservatives not to fall, as some have lately done, into their own special brand of anti-Americanism, as he reminds them of the disastrous consequences that followed the assault by the New Left against the United States in decades gone by.
Warm in feeling and brilliantly perceptive, My Love Affair with America points the way back to a thoroughly unabashed love of country -- the kind of patriotism that has rarely been encountered in recent years and that is as invigorating as it is inspiring.
"Anyone interested in Howe's varied career, and the historical context that has given it its particular shape -- American radicalism, the Cold War and anticommunism, the New Left, literary modernism, Jewish life -- will profit handsomely from reading Alexander's respectful book." -- Wilson Quarterly
"Edward Alexander's captivating study of Irving Howe is illuminating andscrupulous; it is also temperate, generous, and deeply fair-minded. IfHowe were alive, he would thank the author -- and even now, in Paradise, heis surely doing so (while hotly continuing the discussion)."Â -- Cynthia Ozick
"... a singular achievement." -- Jerusalem Post
"... a masterpiece" -- National Jewish Post and Opinion
"... meticulous scholarship, felicitous writing style and a literate feistiness." -- Chicago Jewish Star
"An excellent work of insight and criticism, recommended for academic libraries." -- Library Journal
"An insightful, balanced contribution..." -- Booklist
"Edward Alexander's estimable intellectual biography... studiously avoids both undue sentimentality and overly harsh censure." -- Sanford Pinsker, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Edward Alexander's well-informed and engaging portrait of Irving Howe does full justice to the complexities of mind and the political passions of one of this country's leading intellectuals. This bracing, perceptive study honors Howe's admirable career by treating it with the same high degree of moral seriousness that characterized Howe's own work at its best." -- Alvin H. Rosenfeld
Irving Howe, author of World of Our Fathers, the prize-winning history of American Jewish immigrant culture, and founding editor of the influential magazine Dissent, was for over 50 years a dominant -- and controversial -- figure in American intellectual life. Through a clear and eloquent study of Howe's politics, writings, and thought, Edward Alexander constructs a sympathetic yet critical intellectual biography of this complex individual.
Today, relations between blacks and Jews may be at an all-time low. Hardy a month goes by without fresh outbreaks of hostility and conflict. Controversial figures like Louis Farrakhan, Khalid Mohammed, and Leonard Jeffries fuel Jewish fears about a rising tide of black anti-Semitism—fears that were horribly confirmed for many Jews by the anti-Jewish riots in Crown Heights in the summer of 1991—and blacks respond with bitter charges of Jewish hypocrisy and racism.
What went wrong between blacks and Jews? Historian Murray Friedman, also a long-time civil rights activist, takes this question as the starting point for the first authoritative history of black-Jewish relations in America. Friedman’s book traces this long and complex relationship from colonial times to the present, engaging the revisionists at every point. He argues that the future of this important American partnership lies in the outcome of the struggle currently under way between black radical nationalists and blacks seeking coalition with Jews and other whites. “Memory,” Friedman concludes, “is the only force that can bring about a reconciliation.”