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Interviews with Dwight MacDonald

Edited by Michael Wreszin

208 pp.

157806533X (9781578065332)
Cloth $50.00S

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"It's everybody's right to be cultured but it's not everybody's duty to be cultured."

Michael Wreszin, the biographer of Dwight Macdonald (1906- 1982), has brought together this representative selection of interviews with Macdonald, one of the most acute observers of American politics, society, and culture in the twentieth century. A so-called "New York Intellectual," he edited Partisan Review for seven years. Many still consider Macdonald's consistently provocative journal Politics to be the best independent journal of opinion ever published in America.

These interviews, including one conducted by Diana Trilling, span the years 1960 to 1980. They show the wide and penetrating scope of Macdonald's interests--Trotskyism, anarchism, pacifism, literature, culture, education, the Holocaust and totalitarianism, film criticism, and anti-Vietnam War protest.

As a left-of-center thinker who could be both radical and conservative, Macdonald was intellectually equipped to engage in controversy and debate. He had an instinctive grasp of the significant fact and an uncanny ability to bring the issues before the public in marvelously precise and witty prose. His instinct for exposing cant and hypocrisy and his consistent candor have reminded many of George Orwell.

Macdonald decried the demise of literary and artistic standards and of the cheapening and vulgarizing of society. Thus, to his misfortune, postmodern critics too often classify this outspoken, extraordinary thinker as a cultural elitist or at best as a traditionalist. One of his unrelenting concerns was what now is called the "dumbing down" of America. Appalled at the "spreading ooze," he frowned upon America's eagerness to embrace "mass culture" and "popular culture," terms he is credited with coining.

In his view, the corruption of language and the commodification of art and literature were a great threat to society. For him, choosing the right word was not only an aesthetic matter. It was a moral choice.

Michael Wreszin is a professor emeritus at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His previous books include A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald (1994) and the edited collection A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald (2001), among others.

208 pp.