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Norman Podhoretz: A Biography Hardcover – June 14, 2010

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Literature professor Jeffers, editor of The Norman Podhoretz Reader (2004), here narrates the life story of a major intellectual anchor of the neoconservative movement. It is, in part, a story of social mobility and intellectual development. Raised in working-class Brooklyn, young Podhoretz studied at Columbia and was noticed by Lionel Trilling, which opened the door to Cambridge and a place among New York’s intellectual elite, whose left-leaning politics he would later famously renounce. Intellectual combat is another major theme: it was the era of serious intellectuals and serious intellectual periodicals, and as editor of the conservative Commentary, Podhoretz was at the center of many of the twentieth century’s most vehement and consequential cultural debates and had the ear of powerful men like Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Jeffers notes some of Podhoretz’s more controversial moments—criticism of feminism and homosexuality, support for bombing Iran—but his exuberant praise for his subject seems to take priority over critical examination of his positions. The result is a flawed yet fascinating look at a profoundly influential thinker. --Brendan Driscoll


"Jeffers...skillfully weaves together these and other stories of Podhoretz's dramatic ascent to the peak of influence within the liberal intellectual world." -'David Linker, New York Times'

"In his insightful biography of Norman Podhoretz, Jeffers has captured the substance and conscience of a man difficult to categorize, who has been a figure of consequence in the political and cultural controversies of our time." -Dr. Henry A. Kissinger

"Very few journalists have led lives consequential enough to merit a full-scale biography. Norman Podhoretz is one of the few, and this book--intelligent, thorough, admirably fair-minded--does full justice to the story of his complex and controversial life." -Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal

"A literate, insightful and well-wrought portrait of one of the most important public intellectuals of the last half century. Thomas Jeffers has served both his audience and his subject well, and in doing so has made an important contribution to the history of our times." -David Horowitz, author of Radical Son and A Cracking of the Heart

"This is a first-class account of one of the most interesting and significant men in America. Norman Podhoretz is a leading intellectual whose contribution to public debate, over many decades, has been unrivalled for incisiveness and force. This biography will delight those already familiar with his work, and serve to introduce him clearly to newcomers." -Paul Johnson, historian and author of Modern Times and A History of the American People

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521198143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521198141
  • 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: #2,109,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While clearly distinguishing multiple strands in the literary, political, personal, and spiritual life of neoconservative author and Commentary editor (1955-1995) Norman Podhoretz, this elegant biography imitates his pugnacious attempt to grasp and shape those strands entire. It is a formidable attempt and largely succeeds. While small-scale skirmishes in NY literary salons and larger conflicts shaping a neo-liberal (a label Jeffers persuasively argues is more apt than neocon) politics occasionally threaten to overwhelm the larger narrative, Jeffers' prose and careful selections help the reader to continue to see the larger story.
From a 1970 spring epiphany to a multitude of friendships forged, stretched, and shattered (Trilling, Mailer, Baldwin, Moynihan), Jeffers clearly connects Podhoretz's personal and spiritual life to his writing, editing, and politics. You need not agree with any, much less all of Podhoretz's judgments to appreciate his story and its telling. The canvas as well as the portrait is larger: a fine account of an attempt to speak, work, hate, love, and live with integrity through fractured times. Anyone seeking insight into the tumult and legacy of our recent American past can read it with interest and profit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A first-rate treatment of a major American literary and political figure. Jeffers is especially adept at providing the political contexts--over decades--of Podhoretz' thought, and his skill at reconstructing this history is exceptional. Without these accounts, one would not be able to understand the dialectical responses of Podhoretz to the major ideas of his time. Jeffers' prose is adroit and smoothly presented. He makes complicated intellectual positions clear and presentable with a minimum of technical academic terminology.

A model biography, impressively organized and written .

Robert Kirschten, Ph.D.,
Director of Creative Writing,
Prairie View A&M University
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