Candid, breathless, arrogant, ambitious--here, in his own words, is Clement Greenberg, a young man of limitless intellectual appetite on his way to becoming the twentieth century's greatest art critic . Clement Greenberg was, and remains, America's most perceptive, prescient, and influential art critic. More alive than any of his contemporaries to the genius of art in his time, it was Greenberg who, in the 1940s and '50s, charted and celebrated the rise of Abstract Expressionism. The authority of his aesthetic judgment, and the force and clarity of his arguments, went far to establish those artists whose work he championed--Pollock, de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, David Smith. Before all that, however, he was a young man burning to become an intellectual, to make what he called "Important Discoveries" about art and life. His confidant during these early years was Harold Lazarus, a classmate at Syracuse University and a future professor of English. From 1928, when both were nineteen, until 1943, when they went their separate ways, the two exchanged honest, funny, deeply personal letters.
Greenberg's side of the correspondence, here collected by his widow, Janice Van Horne, is the intellectual memoir Greenberg never wrote, the chronicle of a great tastemaker forming his own taste among the social, political, and cultural turbulence of the early twentieth century.
"The Harold Letters distinguishes itself from other, more fallacious personal histories; his honesty unabashedly reveals the kind of unspeakable, grandiose desires that we all have for ourselves." -Jillian Dunham, The New York Times Book Review "A portrait of the critic as a bright and angry young man." -Publishers Weekly "The book works in large part because Greenberg is so chatty and what he writes about is often quite interesting, whether it's the books he reads or the art he views and music he hears, or his relationship (often acerbic) with the circle of intellectuals who write for Partisan Review, of which he became an editor in late 1939... The views and opinions that made Greenberg famous as an art critic - his unyielding insistence, for example, that the critic's duty is to identify and praise great art and condemn and dismiss bad art - appear only in shadowy form in even the latest letters in the collection and can be spotted only if the reader already knows what to look for. What is present [throughout], however, is Greenberg's steadily growing awareness that he had to develop a worldview from which to look at things if he were going to have any critical acumen at all. ' need... to put the firmness of earth under my feet; so that I will be able to stand off and slap the world from a Position,' he writes in 1931.... 'I now want to look and act and say and write what I am forever and ever,' Greenberg wrote in one of the last letters. More or less, that's just what he did." -Stephen Goode, The Washington Times"