With the Lower Depths

With the Lower Depths

In The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe devotes a single passage to the way historical memory influences a certain kind of modern liberal sensibility. Wolfe’s Bronx assistant district attorney, Kramer, searching his political conscience, stumbles on the word “socialist” in the columns of the Village Voice (an enjoyable touch). And this word prompts a
private rumination:

Kramer had no interest in left-wing politics, and neither did his father. Yet in their house, when he was growing up, the word socialist had religious overtones. It was like Zealot and Masada. There was something Jewish about it. No matter how wrongheaded a socialist might be, no matter how cruel and vindictive, he possessed somewhere in his soul a spark of the light of God, of Yahweh.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels