Saturday, January 29, 2011

Berman on Kristol

As I've used this phrase as an intro more than once or twice, I think perhaps I need to create a category of blogs titled, "If you're interested in such things..."  This one would go there.

Paul Berman, a member of the so-called liberal hawks, liberals who, at least at first, supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has written a review of a new collection of essays by the late Irving Kristol, famously "the godfather of neoconservatism."  I think it's worth a read.

As it happens, Berman takes more than a few shots at Kristol, perhaps trying to reestablish his liberal bona fides after supporting "Bush's Wars."   Nevertheless, the review, if nothing else, is a good way to learn something about American intellectuals who came of age in the 1940s, more or less, and then changed their mind, or didn't, Kristol being perhaps the preeminent example of the former.

But the review is more than that.  For one, it's a fine example of good writing.  Consider a couple of examples from the piece where Berman is trying to communicate the disillusionment of many left-wing American intellectuals after Stalin's serial crimes became undeniable.
To be filled with gloomy doubt, and to go limping forward, even so, in search of practical solutions, perhaps even harboring some last shrunken hope for a better world, like a man cupping a match — this was the animating inspiration of Kristol’s generation of intellectuals in their postcollege years.
"Like a man cupping a match..."  I like that very much.  And this also, describing the same men and the same spirit, but with different words: They "spent the 1950s writing books in the shadow of that same idea, discouraged but averse to despair."

Wish I'd written that.  Anyway, as I say, if you're interested in such things, do give it a look.

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