Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

If I were to meet with Irving Howe today, in a New York coffee shop, or at Drenka Willen’s* lovely dinner table, or in our kitchen here in Budapest, where my wife and I would invite a few friends to meet Irving and liana, we would most certainly be interrogated. An intelligent, painstaking curiosity would like to know what is happening here, how we are faring, and just what sort of people are we, anyway? And it wouldn’t be simply the curiosity of a colleague or that of a critic, a friend of foreign dissidents. Irving was a little like the uncle we all seem to need, the uncle we can confide in, whose approval we crave; who can be skeptical and judgmental, not just supportive, even when we are among family. What Howe said had a ring of authority. He was one of the leaders, an elder, a paterfamilias, who had to remain true to himself and produce a life that was a coherent whole.

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Lima