Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

I want to talk about the world of my father—the world that I knew best, that is Irving Howe as father and grandfather. I knew my father in many ways, but I will leave it to others to talk about him as a literary critic, as a man of politics and ideas. Rather, I want to talk about the personal side of my father, the less public part of his life.

One of my earliest and most vivid memories of my father took place on a sultry summer afternoon in the ruins of Ostia, the seaport of ancient Rome. I was about five years old and my brother, Nick, was about four. My mother was exploring the ruins and left the three of us behind under a tree. Nick and I had a wonderful time digging trenches in the dirt for our Dinky cars, while Daddy sat on a small ledge under the tree reading a book. I remember looking up and seeing him engrossed in his book. He was so much at peace as he read on this still, hot afternoon. It was one of my first memories of my father, and the book is a central theme in my image of him. I don’t know what book he was reading, and when I asked him several years ago, he no longer remembered. From this experience, I gained an appreciation that books had some kind of magical quality, that in some way they were a special gift. This is a very special gift I feel he gave to me and I know to many others as well.

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Lima