Writing Was Everything


Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
4.97 X 7.48 X 0.43 inches | 0.35 pounds
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About the Author

Alfred Kazin has lectured and taught at many prestigious universities in both the U.S. and Europe. His books include A Walker in the City, The Inmost Leaf, and Starting Out in the Thirties.


This fabulous genre, memoir and criticism, this Monday morning quarterbacking on history and culture and literature, surely must be the Tiffany watch we allow our lifelong literary critics. The name-dropping, the constellations reconfigured, the slights on which a career is made or broken, could anything be more delicious?...Kazin distills, with grace and sophistication, the nuggets he has carried with him from the great works; from Proust, from Richard Wright, from Simone Weil.--Susan Salter Reynolds "Los Angeles Times Book Review "
Most impressive is Kazin's continuing ability, already evident more than half a century ago, to quickly and convincingly characterize an author and place him or her in the context of the times. His discussions of writers like George Orwell, Edmund Wilson and Flannery O'Connor, to name the most bold and remarkable, reminds us of what literary criticism was--and should be today.--Dave Wood "Minneapolis Star Tribune "
Gives a splendid insight into the mind of this passionate New York intellectual...It is his power to communicate his enthusiasm for a life of reading that gives these lectures their distinction.--Anthony Curtis "Financial Times "
With his heart simultaneously bursting and broken, [Kazin] has had to ransack through books in search of what he loves but knows he cannot find--not small entertainments and pleasures but 'everything.' Never has a man turned to books with more ardor and hope! And, among the new books that I myself have read this year, his is the one I love the most.--Paul Berman "The New Yorker "
To delight in the dull and feel ecstasy in the presence of the commonplace is very much the privilege of youth. Alfred Kazin has captured more than a patch of that feeling in his short memoir, as he could hardly have done if it had not been there from the beginning.--Robert M. Adams "New York Review of Books "
[Kazin] takes up what it means to practice 'the curious business of being a critic, ' which amounts to grappling with the meaning of life--his and in general--and its relationship to literature. In the course of it, he discusses the writers he has admired and offers sketches of some he has known.--Katherine A. Powers "Boston Sunday Globe "
Alfred Kazin is our grand old man of letters, supreme keeper of the now-flickering literary flame...Prolific, indefatigable, ambitious on a scale that seems quaint in this day of academic specialization, Mr. Kazin has never been one to bore his readers with detail. He prefers the sprawling canvas, the hard-to-categorize narrative that mingles scholarship and reminiscence, polemic and personal history...One of Mr. Kazin's great strengths as a critic is the sheer passion he brings to his task: from the beginning, his books have been hymns to the centrality of literature, its capacity, as he puts it in Writing Was Everything, to 'make the world shine...In the end, what of [the legacy of Mr. Kazin's generation] will survive? To my mind, the novels of Saul Bellow, a handful of Delmore Schwartz's poems and the urgent, rhapsodic prose of Alfred Kazin.--James Atlas "New York Times Book Review "
[Kazin's] concerns are those of our bewildered and bewildering times: shrinking hope, the indirection of society and loss of faith...An impressionistic, unashamedly subjective tour of the most important writers of this century, Kazin...writes engagingly and provocatively...Writing Was Everything...[is] one man, a life-long writer and reader, and his views on what matters in literature.--Guy Lawson "Toronto Globe and Mail "
[Writing Was Everything is] satisfying in blending autobiography and literary reflection. Kazin tells his personal story by way to the books and authors that meant most to him...[There is] emotional power [in] Writing Was Everything.--Mark Krupnick "Chicago Tribune "
This is a relaxed and affectionate look back at [Kazin's] career from his early days as a free lance on The New Republic, when the New York Public Library inspired in him, as in so many others, an almost humanly personal affection, and gives account of his meetings with most of the notable American writers of the past half century.--Douglas Hewitt "Notes and Queries [UK "
Over nearly six decades of literary life, Kazin has met and read practically everyone, a fact which Writing Was Everything records in full measure. What remains amazing is the persisting freshness and generosity of his response to literary texts, contemporary thought, events and personalities. Above all, it is his insistence upon the moral implications of his experience that distinguishes his critical sensibility from that shaped by current critical practices...If experience is ever to regain a central place in our critical and theoretical efforts, then Alfred Kazin's work will be one of the most luminous reminders as to how it might be done.--Richard H. King "American Studies "
A list of the best writing on writing published in 1995 would have to include two beautiful little books from Harvard, [Writing Was Everything and Writing and Being]...Elegant...[Kazin offers] rich portraits and fluid sketches of his contemporaries...Kazin's power to blend biography, autobiography, history, and criticism does much more than deliver a coming-of-age story of his country's literature to a nation hijacked by Hollywood and television. It splashes a bucket of cold water on Critical Theory, that academic Goliath now presiding over the legions of philistines who have invaded our nation's colleges and universities...Kazin's and Gordimer's...new books are true criticism, which means they are work of art. Each of them overflows with music that could melt the stars.--James R. Hepworth "Bloomsbury Review "
Reflecting with graceful erudition on literature, litterateurs and his own work, noted critic Kazin...offers a distilled summa of his engagements with the word.--Publishers Weekly
In this brief, colloquial, lucid volume, which is at once autobiography, criticism, and history, Kazin, dean of American literary critics, reaffirms his faith in the ability of literature to recapture the ever-receding present...Kazin's three chapters...are at once witty, exuberant, and wise. From Dickens to Sartre, Kazin identifies in each chapter the writers and works that, during 60 years, have had a major impact on his intellectual growth. A summary both sweeping and detailed of his own life as a writer who still speaks to the common reader, Kazin's volume furnishes an overview of literature in our century. Highly recommended.--Library Journal
Writing Was Everything is drawn from lectures Mr. Kazin delivered at Harvard last year and, like all his work, it is well organized, thoughtful and thought-provoking...[and] concise and brilliant, a combination that few writers think is possible. After discussing authors whose lives and works he has studied, he continues to look ahead, searching for the writer 'who will have the inner certainty to see our life with the eyes of faith, and so make the world shine again.' In that quest is found the reason literature matters.--Philip Seib "Dallas Morning News "