"A herd of independent minds," Harold Rosenberg once labelled his fellow intellectuals. They were, and are, as this book shows, a special and fascinating group, including literary critics Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, Philip Rahv and William Phillips; social scientists Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Nathan Glazer; art critics and historians Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Meyer Schapiro; novelist Saul Bellow; and political journalists Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Their story winds through nearly all of the crucial intellectual and political events of the last decades, as well as through the major academic institutions of the nation and the editorial boards of such important journals as Partisan Review, Commentary, Dissent, The Public Interest, and The New York Review of Books.
So deeply entrenched in our intellectual establishment are these people that it is easy to forget that most grew up on the edge of American society--poor, Jewish, the children of immigrants. Prodigal Sons retraces their common past, from their New York City ghetto upbringing and education through their radicalization in the '30s to their preeminence in the postwar literary and academic world.
As Bloom points out, there is no single typical New York intellectual; nor did they share all their ideas. This book is concerned with how the community came to be formed, that it thought important, how and why it moved and changed, and why it ultimately came undone.
"This is sociology with a human face."--James Atlas, Vanity Fair
"An exceedinly thorough-going study."--Los Angeles Times
"Meticulously documented....The most important and comprehensive study of this group to date."--Library Journal
"For those interested in American cultural life of the period since 1935, Prodigal Sons is essential reading."--Publishers Weekly
"Impressively researched...Bloom has made a useful contribution to the history of ideas in 20th-century America."--Newsday
"A concise and highly readable guidebook to what was obviously very exotic and frequently very perilous territory to traverse."--Kirkus Reviews