Read e-book online A Voice Still Heard: Selected Essays of Irving Howe PDF

By Irving Howe, Nina Howe, Morris Dickstein

Man of letters, political critic, public highbrow, Irving Howe used to be certainly one of America’s such a lot exemplary and embattled writers. due to the fact that his loss of life in 1993 at age seventy two, Howe’s paintings and his own instance of dedication to excessive precept, either literary and political, have had a lively afterlife. This posthumous and capacious assortment contains twenty-six essays that initially seemed in such guides as the ny Review of Books, the New Republic, and the Nation. Taken jointly, they demonstrate the intensity and breadth of Howe’s enthusiasms and diversity over politics, literature, Judaism, and the tumults of yankee society.
 
A Voice nonetheless Heard is key to the knowledge of the passionate and skeptical spirit of this lucid author. The ebook varieties a bridge among the 2 parallel corporations of tradition and politics. It exhibits how politics justifies itself via tradition, and the way the latter activates the previous. Howe’s voice is ever sharp, relentless, frequently scathingly humorous, revealing Howe as that rarest of critics—a actual reader and author, one whose readability of fashion is as a result of his disciplined and candid mind.

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One can only be relieved, therefore, at knowing a few critics personally: how pleasant the discrepancy between their writings and their lives! But it is Original Sin that today commands the highest prestige in the literary world. Like nothing else, it allows literary men to enjoy a sense of profundity and depth—to relish a disenchantment which allows no further risk of becoming enchanted—as against the superficiality of mere rationalism. It allows them to appropriate to the “tradition” the greatest modern writers, precisely those whose values and allegiances are most ambiguous, complex, and enigmatic, while at the same time generously leaving, as Leslie Fiedler once suggested, Dreiser and Farrell as the proper idols for that remnant benighted enough to maintain a naturalist philosophy.

Liberalism dominates, but without confidence or security; it knows that its victories at home are tied to disasters abroad; and for the élan it cannot summon, it substitutes a blend of complacence and anxiety. It makes for an atmosphere of blur in the realm of ideas, since it has a stake in seeing momentary concurrences as deep harmonies. ” And when the dominant school of liberalism, the school of realpolitik, scores points in attacking “the ritualistic liberals,” it also betrays a subterranean desire to retreat into the caves of bureaucratic caution.

This prevalence of liberalism yields, to be sure, some obvious and substantial benefits. It makes us properly skeptical of the excessive claims and fanaticisms that accompany ideologies. It makes implausible those “aristocratic” rantings against democracy which were fashionable in some literary circles a few years ago. And it allows for the hope that any revival of American radicalism will acknowledge not only its break from, but also its roots in, the liberal tradition. At the same time, however, the dominance of liberalism contributes heavily to our intellectual conformity.

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