Alfred Kazin: A biography.Alfred Kazin Alfred Kazin (June 5 1915 – June 5 1998) was an American writer and literary critic, many of whose writings depicted the immigrant experience in early twentieth century America. : A biography by Richard Cook
Richard David Cook (7 February 1957 – 25 August 2007) was a British jazz writer, magazine editor and former record company executive. , Yale University Yale University, at New Haven, Conn.; coeducational. Chartered as a collegiate school for men in 1701 largely as a result of the efforts of James Pierpont, it opened at Killingworth (now Clinton) in 1702, moved (1707) to Saybrook (now Old Saybrook), and in 1716 was Press, 2008, $35 cloth, ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 9780300115055.
Alfred Kazin (1915-1998) was one of America's most powerful literary critics at the height of his influence in the 1950s and 1960s. From the publication of his critical masterpiece, On Native Grounds, in 1942, this child of a Brooklyn ghetto rose to become one of our leading public intellectuals.
Kazin arrived on the literary scene as a twenty-seven-year-old wunderkind wun·der·kind
n. pl. wun·der·kin·der
1. A child prodigy.
2. A person of remarkable talent or ability who achieves great success or acclaim at an early age. with his critique that an inherent democratic strain was embedded in American literary tradition. The work appeared in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of World War II, when the nation was searching for just such an intellectual defense of its asserted ideals. "The age was wholly with me," Kazin wrote of his first book. Subsequent decades remained with him. Kazin became a powerful reviewer at publications such as The New Republic, Partisan Review Partisan Review was an American political and literary quarterly published from 1934 to 2003, though it suspended publication between October 1936 and December 1937. It was founded by William Phillips and Philip Rahv. , Commentary, and the New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Review of Books and went on to publish acclaimed books of criticism and of autobiography.
Considering his once tremendous influence, it is surprising how Kazin's legacy has diminished since his death. He was a critic who alienated many writers and was never comfortable with academia; many writers and professors now seem comfortable forgetting him. Richard Cook's biography--using Kazin's private journals spanning six decades--is an effort to salvage the writer from literary oblivion. Cook may not succeed, but his engaging book is an accomplishment regardless. Despite Cook's obvious affection for his subject, his book is not a hagiography hagiography
Literature describing the lives of the saints. Christian hagiography includes stories of saintly monks, bishops, princes, and virgins, with accounts of their martyrdom and of the miracles connected with their relics, tombs, icons, or statues. . We are presented with Kazin's many achievements. But we also get Kazin's unvarnished personal failings and profound insecurities, what Kazin himself described as "the personal darkness" and "my never-ending anxieties."
In his first memoir, A Walker in the City, about his Jewish immigrant childhood in Brownsville, Kazin wrote that the neighborhood was "a place that measured success by our skill in getting away from it." By that measurement, Kazin--the stuttering stuttering or stammering, speech disorder marked by hesitation and inability to enunciate consonants without spasmodic repetition. Known technically as dysphemia, it has sometimes been attributed to an underlying personality disorder. child of a house painter and a seamstress--became a tremendous success, moving from Brooklyn's remote slums to Manhattan's loftiest offices. His ascendancy was linked with an influential class of New York Jewish intellectuals of whom Kazin was one of the leading lights. Among the luminaries he befriended--and later usually alienated--were giants of twentieth-century American literature, including Edmund Wilson, Saul Bellow, Delmore Schwartz, Ralph Ellison, Irving Howe, and Hannah Arendt. By the late 1950s, Kazin had become a public intellectual, appearing regularly on television and radio. He traveled the world and taught across the country.
However, all was not bliss. Kazin's personal life was a mess, with rocky marriages, multiple affairs, and filial filial /fil·i·al/ (fil´e-al)
1. of or pertaining to a son or daughter.
2. in genetics, of or pertaining to those generations following the initial (parental) generation. estrangement. Kazin didn't just slug it out with his paramours. He warred with other intellectuals about his brutally honest reviews and their critiques of his works. His public jousting jousting
Medieval Western European mock battle between two horsemen who charged at each other with leveled lances in an attempt to unseat the other. It probably originated in France in the 11th century, superseding the mêlée, in which mock battles were held between with Lionel Trilling was infamous. Critics commonly attacked his essays as unscholarly, and Cook argues persuasively that Kazin was gifted at literary criticism not "in the required scholarly manner of academia but in a broad intellectual assessment."
By the 1970s, Kazin was prominent as an old lion of criticism but less in touch with the American (or at least New York) Zeitgeist he had once embraced. Up to the end of his life, Kazin wrote reviews and books, but his cultural grip had slackened. His books did poorly, and the times, once so with him, passed him by. When Kazin died in 1998, his family threw his ashes off the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River, the sluggish waters dividing the slums of his youth and the island of his greatest achievements. "How brief it has all been, how sudden, how much it contracts now," he wrote in his journal in 1987. "The river, the eternal river rushing on, but rushing us into eternity."
One weakness of the book seems to be a factor of time. While Kazin shaped several generations' understanding of "modern literature" with his assessments of Hawthorne, Whitman, Faulkner, and others, Cook makes little effort to assess the writer's lasting influence on American literature. Perhaps it is too soon to tell. This biography, one can hope, will ensure this giant of twentieth-century literary criticism gets his due.