Let us see just how typical Krim is .
He is New York-born and Jewish .
He spent one year at the University of North Carolina because Thomas Wolfe went there .
He returned to New York to work for The New Yorker , to edit a Western pulp , to `` duck the war in the OWI '' , to write publicity for Paramount Pictures and commentary for a newsreel , then he began his career as critic for various magazines .
Now he has abandoned all that to be A Writer .
I do not want to quibble about typicality ; ;
in a certain sense , one manner of experience will be typical of any given group while another will not .
But I've got news for Krim : he's not typical , he's pretty special .
His may typify a certain kind of postwar New York experience , but his experience is certainly not typical of his `` generation's '' .
In any case , who ever thought that New York is typical of anything ? ?
Men of Krim's age , aspirations , and level of sophistication were typically involved in politics before the war .
They did not `` duck the war '' but they fought in it , however reluctantly ; ;
they sweated out some kind of formal education ; ;
they read widely and eclectically ; ;
they did not fall into pseudo-glamorous jobs on pseudo-glamorous magazines , but they did whatever nasty thing they could get in order to eat ; ;
they found out who they were and what they could do , then within the limits of their talent they did it .
They did not worry about `` experience '' , because experience thrust itself upon them .
And they traveled out of New York .
Only a native New Yorker could believe that New York is now or ever was a literary center .
It is a publishing and public relations center , but these very facts prevent it from being a literary center because writers dislike provincialism and untruth .
Krim's typicality consists only in his New Yorker's view that New York is the world ; ;
he displays what outlanders call the New York mind , a state that the subject is necessarily unable to perceive in himself .
The New York mind is two parts abstraction and one part misinformation about the rest of the country and in fact the world .
In his fulminating against the literary world , Krim is really struggling with the New Yorker in himself , but it's a losing battle .
Closely related to his illusions about his typicality is Krim's complicated feeling about his Jewishness .
He writes , `` Most of my friends and I were Jewish ; ;
we were also literary ; ;
the combination of the Jewish intellectual tradition and the sensibility needed to be a writer created in my circle the most potent and incredible intellectual-literary ambition I have ever seen or could ever have imagined .
Within themselves , just as people , my friends were often tortured and unappeasably bitter about being the offspring of this unhappily unique-ingrown-screwedup breed ; ;
their reading and thinking gave an extension to their normal blushes about appearing ' Jewish ' in subway , bus , racetrack , movie house , any of the public places that used to make the Jew of my generation self-conscious ( heavy thinkers walking across Seventh Avenue without their glasses on , willing to dare the trucks as long as they didn't look like the ikey-kikey caricature of the Yiddish intellectual ) .
'' At other points in his narrative , Krim associates Jewishness with unappeasable literary ambition , with abstraction , with his personal turning aside from the good , the true , and the beautiful of fiction in the manner of James T. Farrell to the international , the false , and the inflated .
Krim says , in short , that he is a suffering Jew .
The only possible answer to that is , I am a suffering Franco-Irishman .
We all love to suffer , but some of us love to suffer more than others .
Had Krim gone farther from New York than Chapel Hill , he might have discovered that large numbers of American Jews do not find his New York version of the Jews' lot remotely recognizable .
More important is the simple human point that all men suffer , and that it is a kind of anthropological-religious pride on the part of the Jew to believe that his suffering is more poignant than mine or anyone else's .
This is not to deny the existence of pogroms and ghettos , but only to assert that these horrors have had an effect on the nerves of people who did not experience them , that among the various side effects is the local hysteria of Jewish writers and intellectuals who cry out from confusion , which they call oppression and pain .
In their stupidity and arrogance they believe they are called upon to remind the gentile continually of pogroms and ghettos .
Some of us have imagination and sensibility too .
Finally , there is the undeniable fact that some of the finest American fiction is being written by Jews , but it is not Jewish fiction ; ;
Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud , through intellectual toughness , perception , through experience in fact , have obviously liberated themselves from any sentimental Krim self-indulgence they might have been tempted to .
Krim's main attack is upon the aesthetic and the publishing apparatus of American literary culture in our day .
Krim was able to get an advance for a novel , and time and opportunity to write at Yaddo , but it was no good .
`` I had natural sock '' , he says , ' as a storyteller and was precociously good at description , dialogue , and most of the other staples of the fiction-writer's trade but I was bugged by a mammoth complex of thoughts and feelings that prevented me from doing more than just diddling the surface of sustained fiction-writing '' .
And again , `` how can you write when you haven't yet read ' Bartleby The Scrivener ' '' ? ?
Krim came to believe that `` the novel as a form had outlived its vital meaning '' .
His `` articulate Jewish friends '' convinced him that education ( read `` reading '' ) was `` a must '' .
He moved in a `` highly intellectual '' group in Greenwich Village in the late forties , becoming `` internationalized '' overnight .
Then followed a period in which he wrote reviews for The New York Times Book Review , The Commonweal , Commentary , had a small piece in Partisan Review , and moved on to Hudson , The Village Voice , and Exodus .
The work for Commonweal was more satisfying than work for Commentary `` because of the staff's tiptoeing fear of making a booboo '' .
Commentary was a mere suburb of Partisan Review , the arch-enemy .
Both magazines were `` rigid with reactionary what-will-T. S. Eliot-or-Martin Buber-think ? ?
'' Partisan has failed , Krim says , for being `` snob-clannish , overcerebral , Europeanish , aristocratically alienated '' from the U.S. .
It was `` the creation of a monstrous historical period wherein it thought it had to synthesize literature and politics and avant-garde art of every kind with its writers crazily trying to outdo each other in Spenglerian inclusiveness .
'' Kenyon , Sewanee , and Hudson operated in an `` Anglo-Protestant New Critical chill '' ; ;
their example caused Krim and his friends to put on `` Englishy airs , affect all sorts of impressive scholarship and social-register unnaturalness in order to slip through their narrow transoms and get into their pages '' .
Qui s'excuse s'accuse , as the French Jewish intellectuals used to say .
Through all this raving , Krim is performing a traditional and by now boring rite , the attack on intelligence , upon the largely successful attempt of the magazines he castigates to liberate American writing from local color and other varieties of romantic corn .
God knows that Partisan and the rest often were , and remain , guilty of intellectual flatulence .
Sociological jargon , Germano-Slavic approximations to English , third-rate but modish fiction , and outrages to common sense have often disfigured Partisan , and in lesser degree , the other magazines on the list .
What Krim ignores , in his contempt for history and for accuracy , is that these magazines , Partisan foremost , brought about a genuine revolution in the American mind from the mid-thirties to approximately 1950 .
The most obvious characteristic of contemporary American writing , apart from the beat nonsense , is its cosmopolitanism .
The process of cosmopolitanism had begun in earnest about 1912 , but the First War and the depression virtually stalled that process in its tracks .
Without the good magazines , without their book reviews , their hospitality to European writers , without above all their awareness of literary standards , we might very well have had a generation of Krim's heroes -- Wolfes , Farrells , Dreisers , and I might add , Sandburgs and Frosts and MacLeishes in verse -- and then where would we be ? ?
Screwed , stewed , and tattooed , as Krim might say after reading a book about sailors .
When Partisan and Kenyon set up shop , Mencken was still accepted as an arbiter of taste ( remember Hergesheimer ? ?
) , George Jean Nathan and Alexander Woollcott were honored in odd quarters , and the whole Booth Tarkington , Willa Catheter ( sic ) , ) Pearl , Buck , , Amy Lowell , William Lyon Phelps atmosphere lay thick as Los Angeles smog
over , the , country -- .
Politics , economics , sociology -- the entire area of life that lies `` between '' -- literature and what Krim calls experience -- urgently needed to be dug into .
The universities certainly were not doing it , nor were the popular magazines of the day .
This Partisan above all did ; ;
if it had never printed a word of literature its contribution to the politico-sociological area would still be historic .
But it did print good verse and good fiction .
If , the editors sometimes , dozed and printed pretentious , New , York-mind , dross , they , also printed , Malraux , , Silone , , Chiaromonte , , Gide , Bellow , , Robert Lowell , Francis Fergusson , Mary McCarthy , Delmore Schwartz , Mailer , Elizabeth Hardwick , Eleanor Clark , , and a host of , other good writers .
Partisan Review and the other literary magazines helped to educate , in the best sense , an entire generation .
That these magazines also deluded the Krims of the world is unfortunate but inevitable .
It is a fact of life that magazines are edited by groups : they have to be or they wouldn't be published at all .
And it is also a fact of life that there will always ( be youngish half-educated people around , who will be dazzled by the glitter of what looks like a literary movement .
( there are no ) literary movements , `` there are only writers doing their work .
Literary movements are the '' , creation of pimps who live off writers .
) when Krim says mine was as severe a critical-intellectual , environment as can be imagined , he is off his rocker .
He indicates that he has none of the , disciplines that criticism requires , including education ; ;
the result was his inevitable bedazzlement through , ignorance .
He wasn't being , `` educated in '' those Village bull-sessions , as he claims .
No one was ever educated through bull-sessions in anything other than , to quote him again , `` perfumed bullshit .
Only '' a New York hick would expect to find the literary life in Greenwich Village , at any point , later than Walt Whitman's day .
The highly intellectual minds that Krim says he encountered , in the Village did their work in spite of , , not because of , any Village atmosphere .
But Krim's complaint is important because not only in New York , but in other cities and in universities throughout this country , young and not , so young men at
this moment are being bedazzled by half-digested ideas .
Those who have quality will outgrow `` the experience ; ;
the '' , rest will turn beat , or into dentists , or into beat , dentists .
For the sad truth is that while one might write well without having read Bartleby The Scrivener , one is more likely , to write well if one has `` read it , and much else .
The most appalling aspect of Krim's piece is his reflection of the beat aesthetic .
He mentions the beats only once '' , when he refers to their having revived through mere power and abandonment and the unwillingness to , commit death in life some idea of a decent equivalent between verbal expression and actual experience , , but the entire narrative , is written in the tiresome vocabulary `` of '' that lost `` and '' dying cause , `` and in the '' `` sprung syntax that is supposed to supplant , our mother , tongue .
Krim's ( aesthetic combines anti-intellectualism , conscious and unconscious naivete ) '' , and a winsome reliance `` upon the '' , natural and upon experience .
Ideas are the thruway to nowhere .
My `` touchstones , had , been strictly '' literature and , humanly enough , American literature ( because that was what I wanted to write ) .
He alludes to something called direct writing , and he finds that criticism gets in the way of his truer , realer , imaginative bounce .