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Margin Of Hope: An Intellectual Autobiography Paperback – April 16, 1984


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (April 16, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156572451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156572453
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,608,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Irving Howe (June 11, 1920 – May 5, 1993), was an American literary and social critic. He was born as Irving Horenstein in The Bronx, New York, as a son of immigrants who ran a small grocery store that went out of business during the Great Depression. He never publicly explained his name change from "Horenstein" to "Howe."


Like many New York Intellectuals, Howe attended City College and graduated in 1940, alongside Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Upon his return, he began writing literary and cultural criticism for the influential Partisan Review and became a frequent essayist for Commentary, Politics, The Nation, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books. In 1954, Howe helped found the intellectual quarterly Dissent, which he edited until his death in 1993. In the 1950's Howe taught English and Yiddish literature at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. He used the Howe and Greenberg Treasury of Yiddish Stories as the text for a course on the Yiddish story at a time when few were spreading knowledge or appreciation of these works in American colleges and universities.

Since his CCNY days, Howe was committed to left-wing politics. He was a member of the Young People's Socialist League and then Max Shachtman's Workers Party, where Shactman made Howe his understudy. After 1948, he joined the Independent Socialist League, where he was a central leader. He left the ISL in the early 1950s. As the request of his friend Michael Harrington, he helped co-found the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in the early 1970s. DSOC merged into the Democratic Socialists of America in 1982, with Howe as a vice-chair. He was a vociferous opponent of both Soviet totalitarianism and McCarthyism, called into question standard Marxist doctrine, and came into conflict with the New Left after criticizing their unmitigated radicalism. Later in life, his politics gravitated toward more pragmatic democratic socialism and foreign policy, a position still represented in the idiosyncratic political and social arguments of Dissent.

Known for literary criticism as well social and political activism, Howe wrote seminal studies on Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, politics and the novel, and a sweeping cultural history of Eastern European Jews in America entitled World of Our Fathers. He also edited and translated many Yiddish stories, and commissioned the first English translation of Isaac Bashevis Singer for the Partisan Review. He also wrote A Margin of Hope, his autobiography, and Socialism and America.

A biography of Howe, entitled Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent, was published by Gerald Sorin.


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. N. Marks on May 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a superb work examining post-war ideology and political and social thought in the United States. Howe writes with authority as someone who not only watched Socialism evolve and ultimately decline, he also offers a marvellous vantage point for those of us who are fascinated by the rise and fall of American liberalism. You can understand how events both foreign and domestic altered the thinking of so many members of the "New York School" who remain salient and even sagacious voices in modern America: Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol among others. Howe takes you through conversations with Lionel Trilling and Hannah Arendt and you feel as you "listen" that these giants of post-war thought are just a little more human and familiar. In my opinion, that is a gift. There is also a wonderful moment where Howe speaks of discovering the fictional work of Isaac Bashevis Singer while editing a Yiddish literary anthology in the early 1950's. What a discovery! If you have not read either Singer's novels or stories, do!

If you are an aspiring academic or life-long student, Howe's peregrinations through the university environment are thought provoking and his engagement with the New Left vanguard in the 1960's expresses the cultural and intellectual divide between older Leftists (some loyal, some not) and their youthful counterparts. For example, men like Howe found it difficult to relate to the privileged "bourgeoisie" reformism of young lions like Tom Hayden when his own generation had seen first hand the depradations of working poverty. Irving Kristol, notably, has written about how poverty inspired he and his comrades to work harder to pursue and receive the blessings of the system.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Irving Howe was a man of many accomplishments. He is perhaps best known for his political writing, his founding of Dissent magazine his championing of a Socialism which did not degenerate into radical hatred of the West and of America. For close to forty years he was at the intellectual center of American life. He was also a great Yiddishist one of the main people in presenting the Jewish secular writing of Eastern Europe to the world. And he was a skilled literary critic , a man of broad knowledge and careful judgment whose special understanding was the realm where politics and literature interconnected. As a writer he was clear and competent. This autobiography it seems to me has very much the flavor of his general critical writing. It seems to me it lacks a deeper dimension of confessional feeling that the greatest autobiographies have. But it is a very workmanlike, responsible piece of craftsmanship.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George P. Shadroui on August 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Though my own inclinations, politically speaking, trend toward the right, I have nevertheless been impressed by the writings of Irving Howe, a socialist who denounced Stalinism, rejected much of the radicalism of the new left, and stayed true to his literary commitments. In short, Howe was a leftist who did not lose his capacity for self criticism. This memoir is a thoughtful look at his life and his relationships with a great many intellectuals of his time, mainly leftists or reformed communists. As the founder of Dissent magazine, Howe is a major force in the history of American letters. And though I still find his ideas on socialism left rather vague (to create a more just society? How, and what, would that be?)he is nevertheless one of the few leftist voices that does not seek to destroy tradition and the past in the name of constructing impossible utopian visions. He also does not have the knee jerk anti-Americanism so prevalent among his successors on the left. His memoir will take readers through his years as a student in New York and an emerging literary power in the world of New York intellectuals. He touches on writers such as Edmund Wilson, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling (and many others), not to mention the editors at Partisan Review, for whom he wrote at one time. An interesting read.
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