In the years of cultural and political ferment following World War II, a new generation of Jewish- American writers and thinkers arose to make an indelible mark on American culture. Commentary was their magazine; the place where they and other politically sympathetic intellectuals—Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, James Baldwin, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick and many others—shared new work, explored ideas, and argued with each other.
Founded by the offspring of immigrants, Commentary began life as a voice for the marginalized and a feisty advocate for civil rights and economic justice. But just as American culture moved in its direction, it began—inexplicably to some—to veer right, becoming the voice of neoconservativism and defender of the powerful.
This lively history, based on unprecedented access to the magazine's archives and dozens of original interviews, provocatively explains that shift while recreating the atmosphere of some of the most exciting decades in American intellectual life.
Former editor of Commentary, Balint introduces a guide of the magazine's evolution with a primary focus on Jewish history from WWI to the present, with parallel Commentary articles and writers providing crucial historical markers. The Holocaust gets extensive coverage, both through the eyes of its victims and of Commentary's editors and writers, complete with early critiques of the ignorance that created and fed the WWII machine. Balint ties the growth of the magazine to the influx of Jews to America following that war. As refuges built new communities, Commentary widened its focus from the Jewish religion, printing articles that expressed pride in Judaism and patriotism for America, making it acceptable for Jewish immigrants, who were ready to shed the past because of the extensive Nazi hatred, to embrace American culture while maintaining their Jewish identity and religion. Readers will appreciate this rare behind-the-scenes look into a prolific magazine that helped provide a positive outlet and shape a new community after an unthinkable atrocity.