Decline of the New

Decline of the New

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Product details

  • Hardback | 326 pages
  • 149.86 x 213.36 x 30.48mm | 544.31g
  • United Kingdom
  • 015124510X
  • 9780151245109

Review Text

Solidity is often mistaken for stolidity, the resolute man for the impassive one in the hi-speed literary and political worlds of today. Certainly this is the fate that has befallen Irving Howe, a critic who unfashionably, if no less polemically, still affirms the old modernist temper and the cause of democratic socialism, and thus currently reigns as bete noire for both the avant garde and the New Left. "Our literature is schizoid, flaring to ecstasy and falling to misanthropy, but rarely pausing at the middle level of realism and social engagement." The middle level is Howe's battleground, and he flies his standards with impressive vigilance, even majesty, in an important and, perhaps we might say, as he would no doubt hope, cautionary collection of essays. In any case, beneath the granite of appearance, the humorlessness of his attacks, the often insufferable self-righteousness of his summations, a genuine moral concern, one part wisdom, three parts pain, is evident throughout. Celine, Martin du Gard, Singer, James, Orwell, Silone, Wright, Baldwin, Ellison, Melville - of each of these varied American, European, and Jewish figures the same questions are asked, the eternal dilemmas posed: how are we to bear the world, "the burden of environment," "the anarchic impulse," as history explodes about us, values shatter, and "the underground man comes into his own and, like a rise of pus, breaks through the skin of tradition?" Of course, nothing is settled here, visions of barbarism, the eventual obliteration of culture suggest themselves (see the castigating piece on "The New York Intellectuals"); in the end, Howe, true to his stature, hopes the heroic intelligence will bridge the abyss. (Kirkus Reviews)
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