Alfred Kazin's Journals

Selected and edited by Richard M. Cook. Yale Univ., $45 (632p) ISBN 978-0-300-14203-7
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, ‘man-of-letters?' " he asks rhetorically. These journals give us an intimate look at one of the great ones. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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