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The Intellectual Follies : A Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris - Lionel Abel

The Intellectual Follies

A Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris

Paperback

Published: 1st January 1987
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A member of that distinctive group of New York intellectuals who came of age during the thirties, Lionel Abel chronicles a half-century of ferment in politics, the arts, and the world of ideas. Along with his spirited analysis of issues and movements, he gives us vivid accounts of his talented contemporaries.

More political, philosophical, or cultural than "literary," and only briefly in Paris: a disjointed collection of freeform memoir/essays from Abel's 50 years among New York intellectuals - with thorny issue-wrangling usually overshadowing the anecdotes. Only in the opening chapter is the emphasis on personality, or on Abel himself - arriving as a neophyte in 1929 Greenwich Village, to be shown the sights (e.g., Max Bodenheim) by slightly-older, utterly cosmopolitan Lionel Stander. The next two chapters take up the much-chronicled problem of being a US leftist in the Thirties and after: to join or not join the Party; the Trotsykites vs. the Stalinists; the Partisan Review's break from Party domination, with the Rahv/Phillips tensions ("I think, too, that they depressed each other"); the difficulties in reconciling Socialism with WW II patriotism; the need to distinguish between the Nazi War crimes and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. (Typically, Abel digresses here to argue with Marcel Ophuls' film Memory of Justice.) Then, after a fragmented chapter on "The Surrealists in New York" (glimpses of Matta, Breton, Gorky), there's a tidbit of Sartre in the flesh, followed by a chunk of essay: "Let me here try to indicate in what respect Sartre's Being and Nothingness and Critique of Dialectical Reason may be regarded as ideologies of modern man." Most of the chapter called "As Paris Was (1948-1951)" is devoted to a study of the ideas of Russian-born Italian savant Andrea Caffi. Similarly, evocations of the Cedar Bar scene and Off-Broadway in the 1950s slide into dry lectures. ("I would like to take up again now in a more detailed way just what it means to say that society is a collaboratior to a greater degree in the success of a dramatic work. . .") And the closing chapters zero in on the Pasternak dispute among N.Y. leftists, on Abel's longtime opposition to the ideas in Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem. Throughout, there are glimmers of Manhattan-intelligentsia atmosphere, flashes of sardonic humor. But, with theories and issues dominating an unshapely grab-bag, this has none of the narrative charm that Irving Howe brought to A Margin of Hope - offering only modest, sporadic rewards to those already conversant with Abel's milieu. (Kirkus Reviews)

ISBN: 9780393303797
ISBN-10: 0393303799
Series: Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 1st January 1987
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 20.3 x 12.7  x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.39