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The Norman Podhoretz Reader

A Selection of His Writings from the 1950s Through the 1990s


Norman Podhoretz (View Bio)
Hardcover: The Free Press, 2004.

The Norman Podhoretz Reader

"THE NORMAN PODHORETZ READER, edited by Thomas L. Jeffers, a professor at Marquette University, is full of samplings from the works of the fiesty former editor of Commentary magazine, as the title suggests. But it could also have been called: Norman Podhoretz, Reader. To dip into it is to be reminded what a fine reader of other people's prose Mr. Podhoretz is — and to feel a twinge of regret that politics and polemics, over the years, pulled him away from the literary studies with which he began his career as an intellectual and a writer.... Throughout this volume of highly readable essays and book excerpts, it is the critical works that stand out. If you want to know in advance posterity's verdict on, say, Philip Roth, Milan Kundera or Ralph Ellison, you could hardly do better than to read Mr. Podhoretz's thoughtful and judicious critiques herein." — The Wall Street Journal

"Podhoretz has enjoyed a career as varied as it has been long and distinguished.... [The book] provides a useful opportunity to take stock of his career and achievements.... Because Podhoretz is above all a sophisticated polemicist, the result makes for consistently lively reading. There is much here of lasting value." — Wilson Quarterly

"Drawn from a half-century of provocative output, this anthology traces both Podhoretz's personal intellectual journey from the Left to the Right, and his battles within the combative post-World War II intellectual elite, which he yearned to join and with which he became disgusted. As historian Paul Johnson notes in the introduction, 'Intellectuals play for keeps,' and Podhoretz takes no prisoners here.... Any appreciation of intellectual history would be incomplete without a sampling of Podhoretz's work." — Booklist

"The continually embattled Podhoretz has been an enduring figure over a period of fifty years. Even as a young critic in the 1950s, Podhoretz proved remarkably prescient.... Throughout his career, Podhoretz has exhibited almost reckless courage. The safest thing to do would have been what Harold Rosenberg once called 'the herd of so-called independent minds.' Instead, Podhoretz chose to take on the adversary culture, leaving in his wake a group of 'ex-friends.' The reasons were the intensity of his feelings and honesty.... The lucidity and muscularity of his prose guaranteed him a band of devoted admirers.... Podhoretz continues to remain a figure of importance, as his 2002 book on the Bible, THE PROPHETS: Who They Were, What They Are, showed, and will continue to pour out powerful work. But until Jeffers finishes his biography, THE NORMAN PODHORETZ READER will serve as the best introduction to all that he has accomplished." — The Weekly Standard

"Podhoretz's journey to become one of America's most prominent intellectuals is remarkable.... During the past five decades, Podhoretz has produced notable booksand essays on a variety of topics including literature, politics, Jewish thought and culture. This reader brings together a collection of these essays and book excerpts, tracking Podhoretz's journey from young literary critic in the '50s to leading provocative thinker in the '60s to prominent and influential neoconservative in later decades. Whether he writes about Saul Bellow, Vietnam or Larry Flynt, Podhoretz produces essays that share a common strand: in addition to their general persipacity and good writing, they are highly personal. Not only do these essays reflect the ideas of the time in which they were written but they also illustrate how those ideas have affected Podhoretz as a thinking person and as a human being. To confine Podhoretz, as many do, to a political camp is to misunderstand the man and his intellectual journey. While faithful conservatives will certainly appreciate this collection, anyone who is interested in reading or writing about ideas in a way that is meaningful should consider reading at least a sampling of Podhoretz's work." — Publishers Weekly

"A generous selection of writings from the distinguished critic and editor of Commentary from 1960 to 1995.... All of Podhoretz's essays...tend to feature their author without shading into autobiography. Which makes definition something of a challenge.... Podhoretz was original for reasons both intellectual and personal. In terms of profession...unlike contemporaries who were more easily pigeonholed by profession...Podhoretz is a polymath, a writing editor whose pen has engaged everything from the fate of the novel to the Old Testament Prophets. Yet with regard to his work, what set Podhoretz apart relatively early on was not just his catholic interests but also a style that he has elsewhere described as 'auto case-history.' It is not a felicitous wording, and he has yet to find anything better, but it gets to his insistence on measuring abstract ideas against the yardstick of personal experience.... Those coming to Podhoretz for the first time — and even those more familiar with his later years — might be surprised to see how much of the READER is devoted to literature. They are in for a pleasant surprise. But this is not such a discontinuity as might first appear. Early on Podhoretz had impressed on him that 'radicals who seek as earnestly to transform themselves as to transform society have generally been hostile to literature.' Which may be the key to understanding how the Columbia-educated son of a Brownsville milkman started out his career worried about the integrity of the modern novel and ended up realizing this was but one front in a much wider war." — The New Criterion

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