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Comment: 2001 Univ of Chicago paperback. Minor shelfwear/corner wear, minor cover rubbing w/ slight curling along edges & 1 pen note inside front. Binding tight & text clean. Ready to ship.
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Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals Paperback – April 10, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0226468938 ISBN-10: 0226468933 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226468933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226468938
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,055,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For the 25 years following its resurrection in 1937, Partisan Review reigned as New York's most influential intellectual journal, writes David Laskin in his group biography of its founders and core contributors. "The marriage of Marxism and modernism was not always a happy one ... but the magazine seemed to thrive on controversy, tension, upheaval, and dissent. High-toned, fiercely contentious, merciless, brilliant, rough, competitive and exclusive, PR was a world unto itself, both socially and intellectually." In Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals, Laskin focuses on an extraordinary quartet of women: Mary McCarthy, Jean Stafford, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Hannah Arendt. "They knew one another and they knew about one another; they read and reviewed one another; they measured with the exactness of peers and rivals one another's reputations, successes or failures in the marketplace, standing within the narrow yet tremendously significant world they shared." Drawing on their published works, letters, diaries, and recorded conversations to capture and convey the environment in which they lived and worked, the author presents a witty, racy, exhilarating world of passionate idealism, controversial politics, fiercely competitive writing, debate, art, and sex.

Key to understanding these tumultuous lives, Laskin believes, is recognizing that the women of the Partisan Review coterie were the last generation to come of age before the social and ideological revolution unleashed by feminism--and they never accepted the validity of "women's lib." Although they struggled desperately with their duty to protect the creative and thinking time of their Great Men husbands, and at the same time eke out time to work, it never occurred to them to question the justice or logic of the domestic arrangements they inhabited. And success often came at a terrible personal cost. Laskin quotes Delmore Schwartz: "All poets' wives have rotten lives." And, he adds, "when the poets' wives were themselves poets of some sort, their lives became 'rotten' in some truly strange and fascinating ways."

David Laskin writes about the New York intellectuals of the 1930s as if he'd known them--watched them found Partisan Review; drink themselves to blackout night after night; marry, support, divorce, criticize, and betray one another over three decades from a vantage point close enough for clarity but distant enough for fairness and thorough, well-disciplined research. He also definitively proves that gender need raise no barriers to insight and compassion for a writer with the requisite courage and imagination. His sympathy, respect, and admiration for his subjects shine through his book, and make the lives of these four women unforgettable. --Jan Bultmann --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Laskin's well-researched, fast-moving group biography brings a new angle to a frequently studied set of writers. From the mid-1930s to the mid-'60s, the poets, fiction writers and political thinkers associated with New York's Partisan Review shaped the intellectual and literary climate of their era. Following the careers of Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Jean Stafford, Mary McCarthy, Philip Rahv, Edmund Wilson and Hannah Arendt, Laskin (A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence) reexamines their works and reputations, but focuses on their romances and their marriages, and on the roles of the women in particular--"the last generation of women before feminism," as Laskin says insistently. The women of the Partisan set believed in their own intellectual powers, but (with the sometime exception of McCarthy) felt obliged to follow traditional gender roles, caring for and cleaning up after men who sometimes behaved very badly. When full-fledged feminism arrived, Laskin argues, it left them behind. Laskin provides superb, evenhanded and never lurid coverage of the affairs and divorces almost all the Partisan writers endured: he follows their public careers in avid detail, adding new light on disputed occasions. (Some of his conclusions reflect his interviews with Hardwick, whose following this book ought to increase.) By design, Laskin attends to these writers' lives at times far more than to their writings. Readers seeking nuanced interpretations of individual poems and essays should look elsewhere; those hoping for facts and insights into the New York intellectuals' troubled and talented lives will have come to the right place. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Lover of Good Books on March 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's hard now to imagine a world in which anyone paid this kind of attention to celebrities who weren't in the movies and couldn't dribble. But I found this book a delightful, if not particularly self-improving romp through the gossip of a vanished age.
The drinking! The seriousness about ideas especially politics! The promiscuity! The casualness with which poets and "poor" writers acquire antique homes in Connecticut and Maine, to say nothing of duplex apartments in mid-town New York!
The author, who writes with a female sensibility under a male name, does a very good job of portraying the frightening way in which physical and emotional abuse were accepted as just part of a normal marriage in the period before the emergence of true Feminism in the 1970s. His book reminds me of why I can never share Generation X's nostalgia for the 1950s. It was a terrible time to be female. Partisans makes it clear that even the female intellectual superstars portrayed in its pages had to put up with far more suffereing in terms of abuse, sexual infidelity, and having to do all the housework even when you were a world famous (woman) writer than any one of us would tolerate today.
Definitely worth reading!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I just loved this book. The miracle that David Laskin has performed is managing so much biographical information on so many diverse and original characters, and making them live so vividly as individuals.How could it be that these women -- Hardwick, McCarthy, Arndt, Jean Stafford --- could have such first rate minds yet be so dismissive of feminism? What a wonderful, complex intellectual-historical question and what a good job Laskin does of answering it. They were all, of course, male identified, to use the modern parlance and it was this that liberated them to act as men and to write in the muscular way of men, and this was probably necessary to free them of the chains of their cultural "femininity." Thanks for this wonderful book, which feels perfectly necessary to the understanding of how we've got where we are today.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on October 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's not initially evident how Laskin chose these particular authors. Wilson, McCarthy, Tate, Stafford, Woodburn, Arendt. The common thread seems to have been their alliance to the Partisan Review, but politics was never the prime impetus in their lives. They might be best described as political arrivistes in a variety of left leaning shades. None of their work resorted, thankfully, to rigid polemics, and in later forms showed a decided skepticism of all dogma. They could not be described as a literary school, even with a vague commitment to a never fully articulated 'modernism'. These poets, novelists and social commentators had individual interests and styles, with no common overarching credo. Lowell's Catholicism somehow coexists with Wilson's avowed Marxism, with little tangible conflict. What you do find is a writer's clique, which at times seemed only an excuse to engage in an exuberant circus of multiple marriages, affairs, heavy drinking and bourgeois tastes. These are consummate social clubbers, actuated by a discriminating sense of membership. A club founded, no doubt, on prodigious writing talent, but seemingly searching more for the legitimacy of membership than an invigorating intellectual culture.
The style of the book is gossipy but energetic. Its aspirations are more to the interplay of personalities than the literary output. Laskin still manages a coherent critique of the major works, but his intent does not provide for much depth to the analysis. The times form an interesting period in American letters, still very much in the thrall of the late 19th Century romantic idealism, but in a society on the verge of massive social change, for better or worse. All aspired to stable marriage, but systematically destroyed relationships through petty cruelties and mutual infidelity.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a startling and fascinating group biography. Partisans describes how many of the leading women writers from the 1930s to 60s -- people like Mary McCarthy and Elizabeth Hardwick -- argued, slept, partied, married and divorced their ways through the literary, political and gender battles of the times. Laskin describes the intersecting lives of these witty, rebellious people, both women and men, with respect but makes it clear how weirdly human and fouled up many of them were. One of his most interesting points is how these women were sort of proto-feminists, though most of them would deny it until their dying days. A great read! A great reading group book!
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
David Laskin's journalistic and scatter-shot approach to this group of significant American intellectuals is disappointing. The emphasis is on anecdotes rather than motives, psychology, ideas, or works created. The book is lightly documented, and if you already know anything about the individual writers or the movements they were part of, you'll look in vain for new insights. It's certainly readable, but because it treats the subjects with so little context, the reader wonders after a bit why one should care about these folk, who sound more like a bunch of dysfunctional celebrities of the nineties than the defining minds of a complex and fascinating historical era.
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More About the Author

David Laskin was born in New York in 1953 and educated at Harvard College and New College, Oxford. For the past twenty-five years, Laskin has written books and articles on a wide range of subjects including history, weather, travel, gardens and the natural world. His most recent book, The Children's Blizzard, won the Washington State Book Award and the Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for Nonfiction. Laskin's other titles include Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather, Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals, A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence, and Artists in their Gardens (co-authored with Valerie Easton). A frequent contributor to The New York Times Travel Section, Laskin also writes for the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, and Seattle Metropolitan. He and his wife Kate O'Neill, the parents of three grown daughters, live in Seattle with their two sweet old dogs.

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