‘A Voice Still Heard: Selected Essays of Irving Howe’

18foer-blog427Franklin Foer at The New York Times:

“A Voice Still Heard” appears at a relatively inert moment in American intellectual life and, therefore, at just the right time. Though Howe’s reputation dissipated quickly after his death in 1993, he was an American Orwell: our most thrilling dissident, a socialist with conservative cultural sympathies, a scything polemicist capable of the most tender, patient literary explication. Unlike Orwell, Howe never went on great foreign adventures — there was no journalism in him. And his standing will never be buoyed by his novels, because there aren’t any. But Orwell and Howe shared a romantic vision of their chosen path in life, and it’s that ­marrow-deep commitment to heterodoxy that makes the current climate feel uninspired and careerist by contrast.

Howe grew up in what Paul Goodman called decent poverty in the immigrant Bronx, although his family couldn’t even afford to hold his bar mitzvah in his neighborhood synagogue. It was socialism, with its radiant dialectics and its universalist promise of shared bonds with a world beyond the ghetto, that excited his young mind. (Not that he was alone in this obsession, especially not in the outer boroughs in the thick of the Depression.) He gravitated to the figure of the warrior-essayist Leon Trotsky.

Socialism did plenty to distort his young mind.

more here.