Best Of The Web
“Bellow’s novel occupied a moment where the vector of history and the art of fiction, pitched to extremes, could define themselves best by defining each other. Yet the enormous tensions of this period registered little in the contemporary reviews of Augie March: admiring commentators tended to take the novel’s historical context so much for granted that they failed to interrogate it closely. The reasons for shortsightedness were themselves historical and aesthetic. Augie March’s later chapters would reflect the postwar present in their unseemly hurry to dispose of the realities of the prewar past. Not even the author himself seemed greatly invested in revisiting the unvarnished deprivations and frozen antagonisms of the Thirties, much less in speculating as to how they had helped give rise to striking scenes—scenes equal to the best in American, if not world, literature—at the heart of a book that was, otherwise, largely, disappointing.
It was at this point, in the glaring, still unvoiced gap between a book’s real and perceived values, that Norman Podhoretz’s first big public intervention would occur. Commissioned by Commentary at the fresh age of 23, the aspiring critic produced a 2,500-word review that dissented from the chorus of fulsome praise that had greeted Bellow’s novel. Where others saw a gleeful break from the constricting vise of modernist alienation, Podhoretz saw only the effort; where they heard a full-bodied, triumphant affirmation of American values, he sensed a void behind the boisterous positivity. In ensuring that Augie March struck a figure larger than life, Bellow had rendered him less than human; striving to encompass everything, he had signified nothing. “It is no disgrace,” his review concludes with a prominent sniff, “to have failed in a pioneer attempt.”
The review would ultimately do little to puncture Augie’s robust reputation, but the perceptiveness that it displayed did much to advance Podhoretz’s own. “What clinched it for me,” he revealed in his 1967 memoir Making It, “was a long review of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March.” In both cases “it” referred to his membership within an exclusive gang of book reviewers, art critics and political radicals, constituted primarily but not exclusively of second-generation Jews in America; though they would come to be memorialized as the New York Intellectuals, Podhoretz’s preferred term in his book is, simply, “the Family.” Headquartered at Partisan Review since the Thirties, the Family was coming into possession of a cultural authority far out of proportion to its narrow ranks. It would be a watershed moment in Podhoretz’s life to be numbered among them, and he knew it: his memoir is essentially an essay at plumbing the depths of that knowledge.”
JJ Best Of The Web
"...after five months of canceled meetings and muted statements of dissatisfaction by both countries, experts say there is no sign of progress toward the Singapore goal of so-called "denuclearization" of the North."
"The presidential news conferences have become frustrating to watch and, doubtless, are frustrating for President Trump to engage in. While we have freedom of the press in our country, we should not tolerate unprofessionalism."
"It's highly unlikely that Israel's center-left parties will form a coalition to run together in the 2019 election, but they should not abandon efforts to find common ground to fight for."
"Post Malone’s music is dead-eyed and ignorant, astonishingly dull in its materialism, an abandoned lot of creativity with absolutely no evidence of traffic in his cerebral cortex — and there’s also a negative side..."
"Wealthy nations have strong currencies. A strong dollar allows Americans to buy goods, services and resources from other countries at low prices."
"China’s leaders like the internet they have created. And now, they want to direct the nation’s talent and tech acumen toward an even loftier end: building an innovation-driven economy, one that produces world-leading companies."
"At an inaugural desert festival of yogis and spirit guides like Russell Brand, an exclusive industry grapples with consumerism, addiction, and the actual meaning of wellness."
"The confusing thing about Franzen is that even people who hate him admit that he is a great novelist, and even people who love him admit that his essays are often a little on the insufferable..."
"“And just like that” or “in the blink of an eye” are familiar captions on parenting milestone photos. But for me, while the days were long, not even one year flew by."
"How the Silicon Valley set fell in love with sourdough and decided to disrupt the 6,000-year-old craft of making bread, one crumbshot at a time."
"...everyone can — and should — learn quantum mechanics. It’s not rocket science — it’s a fundamental part of how our world works, and not as complex as you might fear."
"New Hebrew University initiative brings international students to Yoga studio run by Breslov Hasidim for course on 'Judaism and the Body.'"