democratic, generous, angry and thoroughly in the American grain


Whenever anyone writes about the “New York intellectuals” — the group of male Jewish writers who came to prominence in the years after the Second World War — Kazin’s name is near the top of the list. And yet he wasn’t a typical member of the tribe. If you were drawing a composite sketch of a model New York intellectual, you’d make him an atheist, largely unconcerned with spiritual questions; a partisan of European literary modernism; and a creature whose political thinking had been forever marked by 1930s debates about socialism and Communism. Kazin, by contrast, was God-haunted (“I want my God back” is the next-to-last sentence of his 1978 memoir, “New York Jew”); unquenchably fascinated by American literature and American history; and politically radical, but in a fashion that owed less to Marx than to Whitman — Kazin’s radicalism was democratic, generous, angry and thoroughly in the American grain.

more from the NY Times Book Review here.