opinions &. ViewsnMorals & MannersnNorman Podhoretz: BreakingnRanks; Harper & Row; New York.nby Paul GottfriednJL he New York intellectual establishmentnhas long left its mark bothnupon American journalism and academicnopinion, yet few have thus farndiscussed it with as much knowledgenand critical insight as Norman Podhoretz.nAs editor in chief of Commentarynsince 1960, he was at first decisive innpushing this Jewish, formerly anticommunist,njournal into what became, bynthe mid-60’s, an identifiably radical-leftnposition. Although he later disavowednhis youthful radicalism, and in thenprocess broke with old friends, Podhoretzncan still evoke the past withoutnbitterness. Some of his personalitynstudies are particularly well wrought,nlike that of Jason Epstein, an enterprisingnpublisher and founder of thenNew York Review of Books. Like Podhoretz,nEpstein came out of a New YorknJewish business family and majored innEnglish at Columbia University. Therenin the late 40’s both Epstein and Podhoretznstudied with a renowned professor,nLionel Trilling. Like Trilling, hisntwo students supported the democraticnleft, while upholding high academicnstandards and denouncing communistnassaults on political liberty. By thenearly 60’s, however, Podhoretz, undernthe influence of cultural radicalism,nhad veered much further to the left andnwas followed a few years later by hisnyounger friend. Nonetheless, whereasnPodhoretz eventually turned againstnthe movement, Epstein remains evenntoday one of its most persistentnspokesmen.nThe growing discord between thesentwo can certainly be documented, butnfew traces of it mar these reminiscences.nDr. Gottfried teaches history at RockfordnCollege.n(inChronicles of CulturenIf they note the young Epstein’s pompositynand sybaritic tastes, they also payntribute to his professional skill andnmarital stability. They dutifully mentionnthat it was Epstein who initially warnednPodhoretz against association with thencounterculture. The author bends overnbackward, moreover, to be fair to anmorally disappointing teacher, LionelnTrilling. Despite Trilling’s lifelongnquest for social respectability, he alwaysnconsidered himself a man of the left.nAnd in spite of his principled anticommunismnand belief in academic decorum.nÃ¢â‚¬Â¢’I’ctiilant and i’mbarrassinj!ly self ri-walinj” . . .”norder soon after Hitler’s accession tonpower, was acting at least partially outnof ignorance. Nor did he have a safenopportunity afterwards to castigate thennazis, save by means of esoteric speech.nBy contrast, Trilling showed his failurenof nerve and moral imagination whilenliving in a free society. Despite his longwindedndefenses of the Great Heritage,nhe failed to oppose the thugs and ideologicalnfanatics who assaulted that heritage—andneven grew sentimental whenndiscussing them, so great was undoubtedlynhis misplaced tenderness. Yet Pod-n-Publisher.’! Weeklyn”. . . it ha.s lo make u.s wondpr if ihiTC- isn’t some truth lo tlv iiciusation that lifnIPodlioret/l sold out.”n— Sew York Timesn”Thf bixik is mean, vindiaivts without a tiact nf human amipassion. TIUTC is nonhumor hero, nor irony. TIK- ionc i.s maudlin.
January 1975April 21, 2022By The Archive