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May 28, 2007

Invasion of the Pod Person

I've read quite a bit of work by and about Norman Podhoretz over the years, and am looking forward to an updated edition of DSM (the diagnostic handbook for psychiatrists) that will define the precise nature of this puzzling impulse.

Well, that's not quite fair. I take it back. Some of it anyway.

Doings and Undoings -- his first book, a collection of critical pieces, published circa 1965 -- is one that I used to study pretty closely, twenty years ago. If ever the chance comes up to conduct a seminar on whatever the hell it is I do for a living, selections from that volume would be among the assigned readings.

People who are semi-informed tend to insist that the New York Intellectuals (of song and legend) never paid attention to pop culture except to complain about it. But Podhoretz's essay on TV drama in the early 1950s is quite good. The piece on Updike still strikes me as on target.

Then there are, of course, the memoirs. His first two are of considerable value for understanding the emergence of neoconservatism proper (not to be confused with the essentially meaningless way that someone like, say, Matthew Continetti gets called a neocon). The last one, Ex-Friends, was an exercise in treading water. It did little besides reminding the public that Norman Podhoretz was still alive and that the names he can drop are impressive names indeed.

(My piece on it for the now-defunct Boston Book Review moulders in a stack of photocopies. It will be made digitally available if, and only if, Quick Study gets an intern. Holding of the breath is not advised.)

Ex-Friends was eight years ago. One suspects there will be another such opuscule any day now. But if so, for the love of mercy get the man a copyeditor.

Posted by smclemee at May 28, 2007 11:37 AM