Prodigal Sons

Prodigal Sons : The New York Intellectuals and Their World

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"A herd of independent minds," Harold Rosenberg once labelled his fellow intellectuals. They were, and are, as this book shows, a special and fascinating group, including literary critics Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, Philip Rahv and William Phillips; social scientists Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Nathan Glazer,; art critics and historians Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Meyer Schapiro; novelist Saul Bellow; and political journalists Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Their story winds through nearly all of the crucial intellectual and political events of the last decades, as well as through the major academic institutions of the nation and the editorial boards of such important journals as Partisan Review, Commentary, Dissent, The Public Interest, and The New York Review of Books. So deeply entrenched in our intellectual establishment are these people that it is easy to forget that most grew up on the edge of American society-poor, Jewish, the children of immigrants.
Prodigal Sons retraces their common past, from their New York City ghetto upbringing and education through their radicalization in the '30s to their preeminence in the postwar literary and academic world. As Bloom points out, there is no single typical New York intellectual; nor did they share all their ideas. This book is concerned with how the community came to be formed, that it thought important, how and why it moved and changed, and why it ultimately came undone.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 480 pages
  • 128.5 x 205.7 x 31.5mm | 571.54g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0195051777
  • 9780195051773

Review quote

"The first full-scale history of the old New York literary left. An"-The Detroit News "Impressively researched social history."-Newsday "For readers interested in New York intellectual life since the Depression, Prodigal Sons is a concise and highly readable guidebook to what was...very exotic and frequently perilous territory to traverse."-Kirkus Reviews "Nowhere has [the topic of the New York intellectuals] been rendered with the comprehensiveness and dispassion of Alexander Bloom's Prodigal Sons."-American Jewish Congress Monthly "A very successful work."-James Gilbert, The Nation "I doubt that a more informative book on the subject will be written."-Irving Kristol, The Washington Times "A serious, thoughtful and compendious work of cultural history....I doubt that a more informative book on the subject will be written."-Irving Kristol, The Washington Times "The most important and comprehensive study of this group to date."-Library Journal "[Bloom's] prodigious research has produced the first full-scale portrait of an era, and his zeal in combing every pertinent record and speaking with every person involved with the subject is quite impressive."-William Phillips, Partisan Review "[Bloom] writes with a mild irreverence rare in academic prose. He...manages to convey the lives behind the ideas."-Vanity Fair "Dilligent and ambitious...he has written an intellectual history that, drawing upon social and political history, as well as biography and even psychology, provides an accessible and comprehensive portrait of this dynamic, influential 'herd of independent minds.'"-The Boston Globe "An exceedingly thorough-going study."-Los Angeles Times "[A] superbly researched and readable account of Jewish intellectual life in New York from the 1930s to the present day."-Journal of American History
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About Alexander Bloom

Alexander Bloom is Associate Professor of History at Wheaton College
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8 ratings
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5 25% (2)
4 50% (4)
3 25% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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