Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

I met Irving Howe in 1970; I had written a review of a book about campus radicals and sent it unsolicited to Dissent; a few days later a postcard came back that was not a rejection, not a formal letter of some kind, but a postcard from Irving Howe in Truro saying it was good work: he couldn’t use it since a review of the book was already commissioned, but would I like to write something for Dissent—on some movies about campus radicals, if I was interested in movies?

That was a lucky hit for both of us; there was nothing at that time that interested me more. We met at the end of the summer at his apartment on Riverside Drive, and I don’t remember much of our conversation, most of which must have turned on politics, but at one point after hearing a string of allusions and prejudices he said, “You’re a literary critic!” The tone was as if to say, How amazing and interesting that literary critics are still coming into the world. A touch of irony was in it along with the warmth of palpable pleasure; a blend very common in Irving, and also unique to him.

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