Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals

David Laskin, Author Simon & Schuster $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-81565-7
Laskin's well-researched, fast-moving group biography brings a new angle to a frequently studied set of writers. From the mid-1930s to the mid-'60s, the poets, fiction writers and political thinkers associated with New York's Partisan Review shaped the intellectual and literary climate of their era. Following the careers of Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Jean Stafford, Mary McCarthy, Philip Rahv, Edmund Wilson and Hannah Arendt, Laskin (A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence) reexamines their works and reputations, but focuses on their romances and their marriages, and on the roles of the women in particular--""the last generation of women before feminism,"" as Laskin says insistently. The women of the Partisan set believed in their own intellectual powers, but (with the sometime exception of McCarthy) felt obliged to follow traditional gender roles, caring for and cleaning up after men who sometimes behaved very badly. When full-fledged feminism arrived, Laskin argues, it left them behind. Laskin provides superb, evenhanded and never lurid coverage of the affairs and divorces almost all the Partisan writers endured: he follows their public careers in avid detail, adding new light on disputed occasions. (Some of his conclusions reflect his interviews with Hardwick, whose following this book ought to increase.) By design, Laskin attends to these writers' lives at times far more than to their writings. Readers seeking nuanced interpretations of individual poems and essays should look elsewhere; those hoping for facts and insights into the New York intellectuals' troubled and talented lives will have come to the right place. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-226-46893-8
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