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Ex-Friends: Falling Out with Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   244
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 25, 2000
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1893554171  
EAN  9781893554177  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Hanna Arendt, Norman Mailer, and Lillian Hellman-among the things these writers and intellectuals all had in common is Norman Podhoretz. With them Podhoretz was part of "The Family," as the core group of New York intellectuals of the 50s and 60s came to be known. And in Ex-Friends, he has written the intellectual equivalent of a family history-a sparkling chronicle of affection and jealousy, generosity and betrayal, breakdowns and reconciliations, and ultimately of dysfunctions impossible to cure. Ex-Friends is filled with brilliant portraits of some of the cultural icons who defined our time. Yet anyone who has followed Norman Podhoretz's career as a writer and editor and above all one of the leading controversialists of our time will expect more than just another fond memoir of literary alliances and quarrels, brilliant talk and bruised egos. Indeed, while Ex-Friends has some of the elements of a personal diary, it is also a journal de combat describing the intellectual and social turbulence of the 60s and 70s and showing how the literary living room was transformed into a political battleground where the meaning of America was fought night by night. Against this backdrop, Podhoretz tells how he left The Family and undertook a trailblazing journey from radical to conservative, a journey that helped redefine America's intellectual landscape in the last quarter of the 20th century and caused his old friends to become ex-friends. If there is a nostalgia in Ex-Friends, it is not only for lost friendships but also for a time of wit, erudition, and passionate argumentation. Norman Podhoretz bodies forth a world when people still believed that what they thought and wrote and said could change the world. Norman Podhoretz is also the author of a new Simon and Schuster book, My Love Affair With America. Editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine for 35 years, Norman Podhoretz has written seven books whose subjects range from autobiography to analysis of American foreign policy. Selected by the Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the Best Books of 1999 for autobiography

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Sparring intellectuals  Oct 18, 2005
Norman Podhoretz was a New York intellectual in the 1950's-60's, once editor of Commentary magazine. A left-leaning writer then, in the early 70's he began leaning right and became one of the "founding fathers" of neoconservatism. He was an anti-Communist who rebelled against the anti-American bent of the 60's radicals. (The thought of Jane Fonda all decked out in her love beads sitting down with the North Vietnamese leadership to trash all things American still gives neocons the heebie-jeebies.)

This was when he began breaking with old friends, such as the ones named in the book's title. Most of these people (taken from Podhoretz's viewpoint) are not very pleasant. (Is there anything more vicious than an intellectual scorned?) But Podhoretz is very much on the defensive, and like the "lady who protests too much," makes the reader wary. Whether you go along with his politics or not, I thought it was a pretty interesting book anyway.
A lively look at American intellectual life in the fifties  May 16, 2005
Norman Podhoretz is one of the most important American intellectuals of the Post- War period. His shift away from the Left toward a Conservative position helped mark a new period in American intellectual life. In this memoir he writes about the ' friends' of a former time, each of whom is a distinguished 'name' by themselves. Allen Ginsberg, Hannah Arendt, the Trillings, Lionel and Diana, Lillian Hellman and Norman Mailer. Podhoretz blends the personal anecodote with the ideological quarrel in explaining his estrangement from these friends. At one point he talks about how their radical indulgence in their own appetites led to a kind of moral chaos which he understood as destructive and damaging.
There is a question raised by many readers of the morality of turning on old friends in this way, and writing as if one were the only righteous man among a bunch of misguided moral morons. Other readers point out the possible envy motive given the fact that all the people he writes about are probably considered by most to be more important ' creative figures ' than him. Certainly Arendt, and Mailer fit this category.
Podhoretz however should not be underestimated and he as a critic , and as a moral and literary guide is a person of considerable weight and stature. I would not say that everything here suits my taste, but there is a great deal of interesting writing about the intellectual life of the American fifties, and of some of its major characters.
It takes an egotist to know one  Dec 6, 2004
Podhoretz, the man who recently said what's the big deal about a few thousand dead G.I.'s in Iraq considering what's at stake (without having a clue that nothing is at stake), Norman disparages the artist/intellectual/egotists of the 60's/70's that don't fall in line with his ideology while today he lauds the conservative egomaniacs that have brought our country to its low level of intellectualism and turned a nation founded by intellectual deists into a Disneyworld of McReligion. But it's all fine so long as we make the world safe for democracy. Norman seems to think there is something hypocritical about professing social justice and being a small time celebrity, when in fact, as Freud said, the partial motivation of any "artist" is fame and the love of women (speaking I assume of male artists). Einstein enjoyed the limelight; everyone enjoys the limelight and everyone has his or her weaknesses. Have you ever read Einstein's poetry? YUK! So to disparage the ones you don't happen to like is a bit disingenuous. The true irony is that only an attention-seeking egotist would write a book about such trivial nonsense. But this is all in keeping with a man who explains what writers should be writing if they only knew better, ex., he applauded James Baldwin's early career because he was on his way to being another Henry James; he condemns him when Baldwin's attention turned to racism in America. Imagine that: a black writer distraught over racism in America. The very idea! I think Norm's whole problem can be traced back to his youth, which he relates in his autobiography "Making It," talking about taking the subway from culturally challenged Brooklyn to Manhattan, growing up as a nice Jewish boy, the son of modest working class parents, attending college, and rising among the ranks of the intellectual New York crowd. Nowadays, Norm is comparing the invasion of Iraq to the invasion of Normandy, and explains that Iraq will become democratic by using as an analogy post-WW II Germany's quick transition to a modern democracy (of course, with the help of 2 1/2 million allied troops occupying it). How did this guy ever have friends to begin with???
Unusual journey of an ex-Leftist intellectual in New York  Aug 20, 2004
This highly readable book is going to be despised on the far left for exposing some of the key intellectual icons/godparents of the movement as insidious buffoons. A useful and brief companion book written years ago for some context would be Tom Wolfe's Radical Chic/Mau Mauing the Flakcatchers.
Norman who?  Jun 2, 2003
I read this book because I had heard the name "Norman Podhoretz" bruited about in the odd book review here and there. He is, or at any rate was, the editor of a journal called "Commentary", which I have only ever heard of in the context of the Woody Allen joke: "I heard that 'Commentary' and 'Dissent' have merged, and now they're called 'Dysentery'". It seems that the author once knew some people who are now way more famous than him, and he wants to tell us all about how he believes they went wrong.

It is not easy for a non-American reader to care more than two shakes of a lamb's tail about what this apparently well-known person thinks. He starts the book with what he obviously regards as a priceless witticism ("If I want to drop names, I just list my ex-friends"). If I had fallen out with the likes of Lillian Hellmann, Norman Mailer and Allen Ginsberg, I would be inclined to think that there was something wrong with me, but... He goes on to quote some not-terribly-interesting gossip about various writers, and seems to feel that he has said something extraordinarily important and significant by doing so. Who is this guy? What, exactly, is the sum total of his contribution to human joyfulness? I've never heard of him, outside the context of the odd book review (of somebody else's work), and I still don't understand why a presumably solvent publisher sees fit to print his dull grumbling about people who are obviously more talented than him.

What is this book for? I am as much a fan of literary chat as the next person, but this book is almost entirely about the private whinges of somebody I've never heard of. It doesn't tell me anything about American cultural life, except that the author is not interested in the subject. He's not even funny. Can somebody explain how this thing got published?


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