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Ex Friends: Falling Out with Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer Paperback – July 1, 2000
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Ex-Friends is a nifty if one-sided sketch of the intellectual gang wars, and it captures people more two-faced than does a Cubist painting. After ideas, writes Podhoretz, the Family's second passion was "gossiping with the wittiest possible malice about anyone who had the misfortune not to be present." Podhoretz only discovered Hannah Arendt's faked friendship by reading the published letters of Arendt and Mary McCarthy, and he nails her for her German chauvinism and impenetrable arrogance. He trashes Allen Ginsberg, who published Podhoretz's first poem, for Ginsberg's outrageous grandstanding, and because homosexuality outrages him. He liked Lillian Hellman partly because she gave glamorous parties, and stomps her for loyalty to Stalin's party and her prose ("an imitation of Hammett's imitation of Hemingway"). He skewers many besides the celebs in his subtitle, including Joseph Heller, whose Catch-22 he helped make a hit. He won Jackie Onassis's affection by returning her put-down with a quick "F--- you," like the Brooklyn street tough he was and remains. Mailer betrayed him for not getting him invited to Jackie's party.
The Family had big ideas--and, as Podhoretz proves, egos as big as thin-skinned dodo eggs. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
There is a question raised by many readers of the morality of turning on old friends in this way, and writing as if one were the only righteous man among a bunch of misguided moral morons. Other readers point out the possible envy motive given the fact that all the people he writes about are probably considered by most to be more important ' creative figures ' than him. Certainly Arendt, and Mailer fit this category.
Podhoretz however should not be underestimated and he as a critic , and as a moral and literary guide is a person of considerable weight and stature. I would not say that everything here suits my taste, but there is a great deal of interesting writing about the intellectual life of the American fifties, and of some of its major characters.
This was when he began breaking with old friends, such as the ones named in the book's title. Most of these people (taken from Podhoretz's viewpoint) are not very pleasant. (Is there anything more vicious than an intellectual scorned?) But Podhoretz is very much on the defensive, and like the "lady who protests too much," makes the reader wary. Whether you go along with his politics or not, I thought it was a pretty interesting book anyway.
Mr. Podhoretz views on the recent intellectual and political history of the US (and broader) is brought forth through enlightening essays on these "Liberal Minds." His ability to enlighten me about the lives and the views of his subjects, as well as his own views, through his wonderfully clear and readable prose, is a blessing.
His views have made me think and rethink my own views and I look forward to hours of conversation with my own friends about the book itself.
Only one thing, while I understand Mr. Podhoretz' view that strong belief in contrary systems can lead to the breakup of friendships, I sincerely hope his book provides fertile ground for the cementing of new ones, rather than the breakup of old.
The book is quite good at explaining the subtle differences in opinion among left-wing American intellectuals of the time. Almost everyone had trifled with Communism or fellow travelerism, but out of that start grew many different points of view that Norman and his Ex-Friends would argue about again and again. Being philosophical writers, they would tend to explore many different avenues from one another. It's a wonder that any two writers remain life-long friends.
I grew less interested in these characters as the book progressed though. The pattern gave me the "heard it once, heard it a thousand times" feeling. By Hannah Arendt, I was tired from a long journey. But not because Mr. Podhoretz isn't a fine writer, he most certainly is. Only, I'll be ready for another subject matter from him next time around.
Refreshing in its bluntness, this a tonic for those who seek to explain changes of heart & mind.Otherwise, judgmental and self serving. But worth the read--my third.
The attendent nihilism that goes along with this break-down of mores and loss of virtue is far, far worse than someone like Podhoretz could imagine, I think, as he did not inherit these things. Nonetheless, his job at hand was to speak of his ex-friends, and he does so without pulling any punches. Allen Ginsburg is hit hardest, and deservedly so. Surely, it was the fame of men like Ginsburg who helped set the trend toward perversity in literature and in the media in general. Once nasty stuff like this makes its way into the vernacular, Pandora's Box is opened.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why do people quarrel? The writer claims his book is about a mere sample of ex-friends. His literary intellectual milieu was pre-dominantly Jewish and ex-friends are Jewish. Read morePublished on January 26, 2011 by Mary E. Sibley
Norman Podhoretz is a wonderful writer along with being one of the foremost intellectuals of our time. Read morePublished on December 25, 2010 by Bernard Chapin
Loaned this out from the library and have completed the introduction, the chapter on Ginsberg and am now in the middle of the Mailer chapter.
Love N.P. Read more
I found this book in a box of books someone put out for the trashman. I picked it up because I saw Ginsburg's name in the title though I had never heard of the author. Read morePublished on May 26, 2010 by abbie
Podhoretz, the man who recently said what's the big deal about a few thousand dead G.I.'s in Iraq considering what's at stake (without having a clue that nothing is at stake),... Read morePublished on December 5, 2004 by JackOfMostTrades
This highly readable book is going to be despised on the far left for exposing some of the key intellectual icons/godparents of the movement as insidious buffoons. Read morePublished on August 20, 2004 by G. Todd Jr.
I read this book because I had heard the name "Norman Podhoretz" bruited about in the odd book review here and there. Read morePublished on June 1, 2003
Born in 1930, Norman Podhoretz was one of the youngest members of New York's legendary "The Family". Read morePublished on January 13, 2003 by Amazon Customer