Reflecting with graceful erudition on literature, litterateurs and his own work, noted critic Kazin (On Native Grounds) offers a distilled summa of his engagements with the word. Based on lectures delivered at Harvard, the book opens with a vigorous harrumph directed at postmodern critics. Indeed, Kazin learned from his childhood exposure to Dickens and from his apprenticeship as a book reviewer under Edmund Wilson at the New Republic that books matter, that they link authors-for example, Faulkner, Henry Roth and Richard Wright-to the passions of their time. Assigned in 1945 to report on the social crisis in Britain, Kazin entered a darker world, grappling with Orwell and Kafka, and also with Simone Weil, whose life and writing recalled for him the madness of Moby-Dick. Back in New York after the war, Kazin began walking his city and engaged with Rothko and Bellow, Arendt and Sartre. He ends with an inspirational look at Czeslaw Milosz, whose work not only recalls horrors Americans escaped but also addresses vital questions of faith and evil, setting an example, Kazin writes, in a country that has become ``cruel toward every human weakness... chauvinistic to the point of hysteria.'' (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/25/1998 Release date: 05/01/1998 Genre: Nonfiction
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