AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
By Edward Alexander. Indiana University Press: Indianapolis, IN, 1999. 284 pp. $29.95
Edward Alexander is not going to win the hagiography (lives of the saints) award of the year but he just might capture the critical biography prize because his tripartite study of the intellectual condominiums that co-mingled in the mind of Irving Howe is work of meticulous scholarship, felicitous writing style and a literate feistiness.
The latter is perhaps the most endearing part of this absorbing book: Alexander has chosen to write a biography of a man whose political views, historical understanding and religious thinking (or lack thereof) he does not share. In fact, in a personal communication with his future biographer, Howe once referred to Alexander as my favorite reactionary. It is therefore a tribute to Alexander's skill that he has been able to reconstruct Howe's remarkable contributions to the American sociopolitical agenda and the Jewish component thereof while at the same time offering his, Alexander's, editorial strictures of Howe's political, literary and cultural myopias and tunnel vision.
In his youth adolescence and early 20s,--a period that coincided with the rise of Nazism and the outbreak of World War II--Irving Howe (ne Horenstein) pledged his troth to the Trotskyite vision of the world, that is to say, an …