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Alfred Kazin: A Biography Hardcover – January 28, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115055
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,961,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A smart, solitary boy who found sanctuary in books, Kazin emerged from the cave of Jewish immigrant poverty in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood primed to add his voice to literature’s grand conversation. He began as a reviewer and was 27 when his first book, On Native Grounds (1942), become a “stupefying success.” For more than five decades, Kazin continued to write fresh, lucid, and important reviews, criticism, and memoirs. Now, 10 years after Kazin’s death, first-time biographer Cook tells the intellectually rich and psychologically complex story of Kazin’s public triumphs, infamous literary dustups, failed marriages, and other private woes. Cook fully appreciates Kazin’s critical gifts, influence, and responses to the tumultuous changes of the times, fitting within his meticulous biography a vivid history of modern American literature studded with portraits of Kazin’s peers, including Edmund Wilson and Saul Bellow. Cook captures the heat of a truly vital book culture, which always circles back to the reader and the page. As Kazin’s widow, Judith Dunford, remembers, Kazin “never lost ‘the rapturous sense of possibility’ when first opening a book.” --Donna Seaman

Review

"A thorough, balanced, and very thoughtful life of one of twentieth-century America's premier critics and writers."—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

(Sean Wilentz)

"This is a splendid book, written with something of the verve of Kazin himself."—Denis Donoghue, author of The American Classics and Speaking of Beauty
(Denis Donoghue)

"[Cook] is attuned to his subject and understands the forces that made this complex and difficult man tick. . . . [Cook] is an intelligent interpreter of his political values, motivations and actions."—Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle
(Martin Rubin San Francisco Chronicle 2009-02-24)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Zak Dazen on September 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one of my favorite books from the past five years. It's long but worth it. One of my favorite aspects of the biography is learning that Kazin throughout his life, more than anything, felt like a failed writer because he was unable to succeed as a novelist. But there is also great stuff here on every aspect and decade of his adult years, his multiple wives, women, children, appointments, books, articles, and residences. Great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Jensen on February 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Without a doubt one of the most appealing biographies of a critic that I've read. Cook offers a sympathetic but not uncritical examination of a literary life of a significant mid-century American writer. One comes away with the sense of a major critic and first-rate talent who somehow never quite found his own literary form. Kazin's best books came only after long struggles to define his subject and give it shape, and he was not always successful at that. Cook relies heavily on the journals that Kazin kept throughout his life, which permits him to explore his inner life and personal relationships with some depth. Particularly good on the Jewish-American experience in the 20th century, on New York, and on academia, as well as on 19th-century American literature, Kazin's special area of expertise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen J. Whitfield on March 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Given the difficulty of writing the life of someone less colorful than, say, T. E. Lawrence or Jean Harlow, Prof. Cook did a truly splendid job. His biography of Alfred Kazin manages to be engrossing from beginning to end. Mysteries persist: how did a writer whose prose is so glowing and appealing lose so many friends in the course of his career? Why did no subsequent book equal the brilliance of his first, On Native Grounds? But still, this is a fascinating account.
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