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Alfred Kazin's Journals Hardcover – June 1, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This generous selection from Alfred Kazin's (1915–1998) voluminous journals (7,000 pages in all), covering some 65 years, showcases two aspects of this cranky intellectual's mind and critical art. First, there is the unqualified gift for literary portraits. Second, there is a consciousness of Jewishness, class, and culture that has all but disappeared from intellectual discourse since the 1980s. (Kazin's attacks on the neocons are from the gut.) The publication of these journals, ably edited and annotated by Kazin's biographer, display all his passions. When Kazin liked an author, there was no stopping him, whether Dylan Thomas ("How much light goes out of this world with the passing of our wizard, our beautiful careless singer?") or his Smith student Plath ("the girl whose talent was so fully formed that when I met her, it was already outside her"). And when Kazin hates, he also goes equally all out, whether against Cynthia Ozick or Mark Van Doren ("inspires me with contempt and disgust"). Kazin wanted to publish his blunt, self-revelatory and often self-corrosive musings before he died, but the world had to wait. "What happened to the good old term, ÿman-of-letters?' " he asks rhetorically. These journals give us an intimate look at one of the great ones. (June)

Review

"This is a remarkable book, easily one of the great diaries and moral documents of the past American century."—Dwight Garner, New York Times
(Dwight Garner New York Times 2011-05-26)

“A profound and exciting book, more so even than the best of the dozen works of criticism and autobiography that [Kazin] published during his lifetime.”—Edward Mendelson, New York Review of Books
(Edward Mendelson New York Review of Books)

“[Kazin’s] deepest work . . . The journals' overwhelming note is passion. Kazin wrote with his whole being, from a ferocious intensity of hunger and joy.”—William Deresiewicz, Slate
(William Deresiewicz Slate)

"Kazin’s [journals], just now published by Yale University Press, may well turn out to be his greatest work."—Mark Shechner, Tablet Magazine
(Mark Shechner Tablet Magazine)

“With the publication of Alfred Kazin’s Journals, this Brooklyn-born son of Jewish immigrants is poised to join the literary giants who inspired him. . . . Kazin comes vibrantly alive in the journals.”—Chris Waddington, New Orleans Times-Picayune
(Chris Waddington New Orleans Times-Picayune)

“A monumental offering from one of the greatest and most challenging—and often underrated—literary minds of the 20th century . . . As essential as it is, perhaps, overdue.”—Jeff Simon, Buffalo News
(Jeff Simon Buffalo News)

“[This] richly, intimately detailed and meticulously kept journal, full of searing insights, punishingly honest confessions, acerbic assessments of others, and golden nuggets of timeless wisdom . . . serve[s] us as Kazin’s autobiography even better than do his three volumes of memoir.”—Gerald Sorin, Haaretz
(Gerald Sorin Haaretz)

“Richly unmediated expressiveness . . . a remarkable demonstration of how good writing struggles to emerge from the inner chaos with which we all live and that only a writer as talented as Alfred Kazin can bring to its knees.”—Vivian Gornick, Boston Review
(Vivian Gornick Boston Globe)

“Valuable glimpses into the man behind the intellectual warrior.”—Martin Rubin, Washington Times
(Martin Rubin Washington Times)

"Alfred Kazin's Journals is a profound and exciting book, more so even than the best of the dozen works of criticism and autobiography that he published during his lifetime. . . . Some of Kazin's journals reveal only their author's private darkness, but far more of them open onto vistas of literature and history illuminated by his intelligent excitement."—Edward Mendelson, The New York Review of Books
(Edward Mendelson The New York Review of Books)

“[A] robust and enveloping selected volume, from which the intensity of Kazin’s engagement with life beams forth . . . . Frank about sex, scathing in his portrayal of his peers, prescient about world events, and passionate about literature.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist
(Donna Seaman Booklist)

"The book's informative scholarly apparatus—particularly the explanatory footnotes—provides excellent guidance to Kazin's references and relationships. This noteworthy book is vital for understanding this eminent literary critic. Highly recommended."—S.L. Kremer, Choice
(S.L. Kremer Choice)

“[F]illed with expression of direct experience of life by a keen observer of much of the twentieth century.”—Esther Nussbaum, Jewish Book World
(Esther Nussbaum Jewish Book World)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 632 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030014203X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300142037
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This volume was reportedly created from material that was approximately six times its length. However, if readers are looking for a sustained and coherent narrative in this work, they will be disappointed. Alfred Kazin's work requires a strong introduction. He was a complex man and, in my opinion, a first-rate American writer who struggled with certain aspects of his life. Consider starting with On Native Grounds, A Walker In The City, Starting Out in The 30s, Writing Was Everything, New York Jew or any of the other later books that demonstrated his remarkable talents as an essayist and critic. Google his brilliant review of Norman Mailer's Armies of The Night that ran in the New York Times Book Review in 1968. Richard Cook's biography is brief but generally rewarding and it certainly provides more context.

Kazin reveals a great deal of himself in this journal. We read about his painful slights and his struggle to overcome a melancholy childhood and harsh teenaged years in Depression era Brooklyn. We witness his troubled, painful and frequently ambivalent relationships with the women that he loved or found overwhelmingly physically attractive. Perhaps most interesting of all, readers will get a richly personal look at The New York Intellectuals and some of the Partisan Review crowd. It is Kazin's view (and by no means definitive) but it is a colorful and memorable one. He has much to say about Lionel Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow and several other outstanding figures of that period. It is a shame that he never got around to writing a book about these men and women and the post war artists and intellectuals that he interacted with so intensely and competitively. He also discusses his and others' passionate political beliefs, the frustrations of establishing a scholarly career in American universities and what it means to him to be Jewish and American in the United States.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've slogged my way through about half the Kazin book and I'm doubting it should be called a diary. Though it has dated entries, though it does sometimes reveal what Kazin is doing or feeling, though it is repeatedly described as imperative to his well-being, it doesn't read like diary. It's mainly notes for his books, it seems to me, interspersed with justifications for his personal failings and harsh remarks about colleagues or his wives. Tiresome, really, and choppy. Perhaps the fault is in the editing. I keep wondering what is in the missing five-sixths of it. I think I will abandon it, disappointed. I've had enough.
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