Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

It is very difficult to write about someone much celebrated, much admired, much mourned. I will content myself with this small anecdote.

A good friend was visiting one day when the mail came, bringing a letter from Irving in which he praised in lovely words a book manuscript I had shown him. I passed the letter over to my friend. “My God!” he said. “From Irving Howe! You must be ecstatic.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “When you get to be my age, you have read enough comments not to take them too seriously. The bad ones you shrug off, the good ones you apply a knowing discount to. Knowing Irving, I doubt if I’ll read this letter more than two or three hundred times.”