Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jewish Culture

I just finished a very interesting book by Norman Podhoretz called Ex-Friends. He's one of the neocons, a label that must be spoken with special venom in Obama's America. The book is about his break with other famous leftist literati in and about New York when he began his political swing from the anti-Stalin left (which often meant pro-Trotsky left) to America-first neoconservatism. The "Family" of which he speaks included authors like Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer. Many, many others were mentioned and the subject, the history of the Jewish intellectuals of New York in the 1950s to the 1970s is extremely interesting to me. I am especially interested in the similar milieu in the 1930s, when the fight really was Stalinism versus Trotskyism. So it occurs to me that I've enjoyed the books of a number of Jewish authors and others about Jewish high-brow culture, describing the Jewish intellectual community (and other things Jewish): I loved reading Rebecca Goldstein's The Mind-Body Problem and Incompleteness, Einstein in Love by David Overbye, Mark Helprin's short stories (especially "A Vermont Tale" and "North Light"), Arguing the World by Joseph Dorman, Night by Elie Wiesel, and so on. But for accident of birth, I think I would have made an enthusiastic Jew. Orthodox, probably. Neocon, definitely.

By the way, if Podhoretz is to be believed, the Trillings, Hellman, and Arendt were human beings with human failures; Ginsberg and Mailer were just slime.

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