A rebel in defense of tradition: the life and politics of Dwight Macdonald

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Basic Books, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 590 pages
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Here is the first full-scale biography of one of America's most gifted twentieth-century intellectuals - a classic American dissenter who was at the center of many of the major controversies and confrontations of his time. Writer, editor, publisher, intellectual street fighter, and intermittent political activist, Dwight Macdonald was an American original, a native-born dissident individualist in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau. An early editor of the Partisan Review and for years a staff writer at Fortune, the New Yorker, and Esquire as well as publisher of his own extraordinary journal, Politics, he was an enormously influential cultural critic whose friends ranged from Hannah Arendt to Czeslaw Milosz, from Albert Camus to Abbie Hoffman. T. S. Eliot considered his theoretical analysis of mass culture a seminal contribution to twentieth-century literature. Macdonald was not only an intellectual gadfly - in Irving Kristol's words, "everybody's security risk" - but a political activist (at various times a socialist, a pacifist, and an anarchist) and a vigorous exponent of civil disobedience in opposition to the Vietnam War. This book is the quintessential story of an American awakening. It is the tale of an upper-middle-class white male, schooled in the elite institutions of the WASP establishment, who managed to jettison all of the prejudices and provincialism of his class and through the force of his inquiring mind, to become one of the most penetrating critics of mid-century American civilization. Macdonald's papers add up to seventy-three feet of extraordinary correspondence, manuscripts, notes, printed matter, photographs, and memorabilia extending from 1920 to 1980 - a fullsixty years of vivid material. His correspondence is unusually rich and well catalogued, with letters to and from a variety of significant figures who have shaped twentieth-century intellectual and political history. An entire section is devoted to his Trotskyist period, and many of Macdonald's notes deal with the internal controversies among the membership of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. Based on these previously unpublished and undiscovered materials, as well as on interviews with Saul Bellow, William F. Buckley, Jr., Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and William Shawn, to name but a few, this book is a key source for rethinking the political and cultural dilemmas of late-twentieth-century America.

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A REBEL IN DEFENSE OF TRADITION: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Chummily calling his subject ``Dwight'' throughout, Wreszin (History/Queens College/CUNY) roots for Macdonald like a Cubs fan roots for the Cubs—knowing that he will be disappointed, heartbroken ... Read full review

A rebel in defense of tradition: the life and politics of Dwight Macdonald

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This is a first-rate biography of a seminal figure in American arts and letters. MacDonald (1906-82) is most often remembered for his critique of mass culture, his film criticism, and his critical ... Read full review


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