A Critic's Notebook

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Harcourt Brace, Sep 1, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 364 pages
Irving Howe was a major intellectual presence: winner of the National Book Award for his best-selling history, World of Our Fathers; editor of Dissent, an influential left-wing magazine of opinion; professor of English at Brandeis University, Stanford University, and the City University of New York. When he died in 1993, he left behind a collection of essays on fiction which he had been working on in the last of his life. Assembled by his son, Nicholas Howe, who also provides an introduction, these accessible, idiosyncratic essays, - which Irving Howe called his shtiklach (Yiddish for "little pieces" or "morsels") - explore such enduring literary concepts as character, style, tone, genre. Many address both literature and politics; but all originate from a passion, a moral striving, and an abiding faith in the common reader.

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Working on a miniaturized scale, Howe (The American Newness, 1986, etc.) masterfully surveys the literary field in this posthumous collection of essays. The author planned to amass a book from what he ... Read full review

A critic's notebook

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A distinguished teacher and literary/social critic, Howe left, upon his death in 1993, a group of brief, informal, exuberant, thought-provoking essays (he called them shtiklakh, or morsels) on ... Read full review


Introduction by Nicholas Howe
Anecdote and Storyteller
Mr Bennett and Mrs Woolf

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About the author (1995)

Irving Howe was born in the Bronx, New York on June 11, 1920. He became a socialist at the age of 14. He graduated from City College in 1940. During World War II, he served in the Army. After the war, he began writing book reviews and essays for several magazines including Commentary, The Nation, and Partisan Review. For four years, he earned a living writing book reviews for Time magazine. He taught English at several colleges including Brandeis University, Stanford University, Hunter College, and City University, which he retired from in 1986. In 1954, he and a group of close friends founded the radical journal Dissent. He was the editor for nearly four decades. Also in the 1950's, he met a Yiddish poet named Eliezer Greenberg and the two began a long project to translate Yiddish prose and poetry into English, eventually publishing six collections of stories, essays, and poems. He wrote several books including Decline of the New, Politics and the Novel, and an autobiography entitled A Margin of Hope. World of Our Fathers won the National Book Award in 1976. He wrote critical studies of William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson and a biography of Leon Trotsky. He died of cardiovascular disease on May 5, 1993 at the age of 72.

Nicholas Howe was Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Professor of English at The Ohio State University. He was the author of The Old English Catalogue Poems: A Study in Poetic Form, Migration, and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England, Writing the Map of Anglo-Saxon England, and of the Yale Guide to Old English Literature.

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