Richard M. Cook: Alfred Kazin; and Richard M. Cook (ed.): Alfred Kazin's Journals

The fate of America’s pre-eminent twentieth-century critic

Don Anderson


Alfred Kazin: A Biography
by Richard M. Cook
Yale University Press (Inbooks), $49.95 hb, 452 pp, 9780300115055


Alfred Kazin’s Journals
edited by Richard M. Cook
Yale University Press (Inbooks), $59.95 hb, 621 pp, 9780300142037


If his biographer and editor of his Journals is to be believed, by the early 1960s the Brooklyn-born Alfred Kazin was ‘arguably the most sought-after and widely published critic’ in the United States. Kazin (1915–98) claimed that 1956–61 was ‘the greatest period in my life’. Having returned from a teaching post in Amherst to New York City, he succeeded in making a living as a freelance literary critic and essayist, assisted by the occasional visiting professorship (a form of assistance unavailable to his predecessor of sorts, the hero of George Gissing’s New Grub Street). Kazin’s reviews and essays appeared in the Atlantic, Harper’s, American Scholar, the New York Times Book Review, Commentary, Partisan Review, Reporter, and Playboy. He would publish eighty-two articles in the New York Review of Books, of which he observed, possibly biting one of the hands that fed him: ‘Critic for NY Review of Books – someone who argues brilliantly on behalf of the most arbitrary personal prejudices.’

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Published in April 2012, no. 340

Don Anderson

Don Anderson is the author/editor of eight books, collections of essays and reviews, and anthologies of prose, largely of texts from the Americas, Australia, and Europe. For fourteen years in the 1980s and 1990s he was a regular literary columnist in the National Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. He was for thirty years a member of the English department at the University of Sydney, where he taught American, Irish, and Australian literature, and literary theory. He was for some years a member of the Advisory Panel of ABR.

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