Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975

Hannah Arendt, Author, Carol Brightman, Editor, Mary McCarthy, With Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $34.95 (412p) ISBN 978-0-15-100112-5
Those who read Brightman's NBCC-winning biography Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World will remember the snippets of this correspondence as one of the highlights. Wise, eloquent and loving, the letters chronicled a quarter-century friendship between two women of widely differing backgrounds united by respect and a shared contempt for intellectual fraud. Their characters and their circumstances made for a rich exchange: Based in Europe, the American writer McCarthy (1912-1989) gave the German-born political philosopher Arendt (1906-1975) an earpiece into Europe, while Arendt, based in New York City and Chicago, served a similar function for McCarthy. McCarthy's carefully constructed, wonderfully perceptive letters and Arendt's more studious replies return time and again to moral philosophy, politics and shared friends (including many of the intellectuals of the time). But the letters are also models of the fine art of constructive criticism and the role of friendship. ``Workmanly friendship,'' as McCarthy says, describing Arendt's Men in Dark Times, ``of apprentices starting out with their bundle on a pole and doing a piece of the road together.'' That their bundle included a half-dozen important books and their road was an uneven one of critical kudos, unfavorable reviews, the popular success of McCarthy's The Group and the intellectual furor over Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem should not obscure the warmth or trueness of this deeply engaging exchange. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/1995
Release date: 01/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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