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Irving Howe - Socialist, Critic, Jew (Jewish Literature and Culture) Hardcover – April 22, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Jewish Literature and Culture
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; 1ST edition (April 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253333644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253333643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Howe was a major figure in intellectual life in the U.S. for more than 50 years. Politically, Howe was a staunch--even fanatical--supporter of Communism as a teenager in the 1930s. But by the end of World War II, experience and considerable intellectual inquiry had drawn Howe to socialism. Meanwhile, he was focusing his formidable critical abilities on topics literary, cultural, and political and producing a steady stream of books and articles. In 1954, he founded the democratic socialist magazine Dissent, which he would edit for the next 42 years. But Howe never forgot his Jewish roots, and they informed some of his best work, including the 1976 National Book Award winner World of Our Fathers, his examination of American Jewish immigrant culture. An insightful, balanced contribution to Indiana University Press' Jewish Literature and Culture series by a professor of English at the University of Washington. Brian McCombie

From Kirkus Reviews

A detailed and dogmatic intellectual biography of one of the leading American literary critics, political journalists, polemicists, and Jewish intellectuals of the past 50 years. Alexander (English/Univ. of Washington) seems to have read everything Howe (192093) wrote. His tripartite division of Howe's work (per the subtitle) is useful, though it would have been better had he proceeded strictly thematically, rather than using a chronological approach and shuttling back and forth among his categories. Alexander is most interesting and insightful on Howe as critic, tracing the influence of such intellectual precursors as Matthew Arnold, George Orwell, and Edmund Wilson on Howe's thinking and writing. Alexander traces Howes political evolution from antiwar Trotskyist polemicist in the early 1940s to a much more nuanced social democrat who cofounded Dissent in 1954 and battled the New Left during the late 1960s and early '70s. Unfortunately, Alexander's analysis of Howe's political views too often is tendentious or otherwise rhetorically overcharged. Alexander praises Howes Jewish commitments, particularly the six anthologies on which he collaborated with the American Yiddish journalist Eliezer Greenberg, though he has some justifiable reservations about the exclusion of a discussion of synagogue and other religious life among Lower East Side immigrants in World of Our Fathers. But when it comes to Howe's writings on Israel, particularly his proPeace Now pieces from 1979 until his death, Alexander waxes hysterical. He makes the untenable charge that Howe became involved in ``anti-Israeli American Jewish politics''untenable unless all critiques of Israeli policies are deemed ``anti-Israeli.'' In Alexander, Howe has found as rigorous, and sometimes sardonic, a biographer as he himself was a writer. But he also deserved someone far more attuned to all the dimensions of his life and his political commitments. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Edward Alexander is not going to win the hagiography (lives of the saints) award of the year but he just might capture the critical biography prize because his tripartite study of the intellectual condominiums that co-mingled in the mind of Irving Howe is work of meticulous scholarship, felicitous writing style and a literate feistiness. The latter is perhaps the most endearing part of this absorbing book: Alexander has chosen to write a biography of a man whose political views, historical understanding and religious thinking (or lack thereof) he does not share. In fact, in a personal communication with his future biographer, Howe once referred to Alexander as my favorite reactionary. It is therefore a tribute to Alexander's skill th! at he has been able to reconstruct Howe's remarkable contributions to the American socio-political agenda and the Jewish component thereof while at the same time offering his, Alexander's, editorial strictures of Howe's political, literary and cultural myopias and tunnel vision. In his youth adolescence and early 20s - a period that coincided with the rise of Nazism and the outbreak of World War II - Irving Howe (né Horenstein) pledged his troth to the Trotskyite vision of the world, that is to say, an anti-Stalinist yet totalitarian form of communism which filtered the all political events through the doctrinaire lenses of the party line. The contrition which Howe expressed later in life about this part of his career could not be anticipated in the ferocious advocacy he advanced in his numerous articles in Labor Action about a version of history in which only the workers' causes and the class struggle had any validity. In this shameful and embarrassing period Howe was able! to analyze World War II as a unidimensional clash between! two capitalist systems.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, illuminating both the life and intellectual development of Howe, one of this country's foremost literary critics, and the world of New York's literati much throughout the twentieth century. It gives insight not only into the thoughts and work of this serious, idealistic, and highly intelligent man, not only into his complicated, social, religious, and intellectual background, and his encounter with the new world, at times clashing against the values of his ancestors, but also into the riveting history of Jewish socialist ideas, stemming directly from the Pale, shaping the American political, intellectual landscape throughout the century. In the process, it reveals the widening split within the Jewish community, the potential of the developing "kulturkampf," and the winding path of the bitter struggle, still characterizing the polarized groups of the more traditional and the more radical academics of our time. Reading Alexander's work, one learns not only to appreciate Howe's vision and moral development but also to place them in the context of the history of Jewish intellectual thought in search for the Messianic age. One may even note some of the crucial commonalities between this search and that of a number of European Jewish literati in our century. Of course, Howe's paradoxical attachment to the "world of our fathers" was not an option there. As true children of the Enlightenment, some of the European intellectuals remained simply detached and alienated from the tradition; others became communists or "Catholic socialists," following the instructions of the Popular Front and struggling against the transgressions of Franco rather than paying attention to the threat against Jewish life and being in Nazi Germany.Read more ›
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