Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

For Irving, Orwell was the model of a writer. For me, Irving was. They had much in common: passion, commitment, clarity, an eloquent simplicity. Both were plainspoken. Both trusted their instincts and judgments, and did not confuse emotion with prejudice. I usually wrote with him in mind, my ideal reader as well as ideal writer. When I hit on a phrase I especially liked, a particularly felicitous combination of adjective and noun, it was his eye and his ear, more than anyone else’s, that I wanted to please. His praise was by far the sweetest.

I admired his mastery of language, his effortful rewritings that produced, ultimately, an impression of effortless ease. Even more, I admired the way he came to a book. He knew how to read. He had no patience for literary fashions, just as he had no sympathy for doctrinaire politics. He never lost sight of the people politics were supposed to speak for, and he never lost sight of the text, so often obscured by one -ism or another. He would not impose any ideology or scheme on what he believed was a piece of art. He mistrusted intellectual constructs, knowing that art would be shoved and squeezed and

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Lima