Paula Marantz Cohen writes:
How much influence could a book review possibly have?
Judging from Norman Mailer’s review of Norman Podhoretz’s 1967 memoir, Making It, a lot. Serving as a catchall and a coda for the collective judgment of liberal intellectuals of the day, Mailer’s review would help turn Podhoretz against his progressive roots and harness his exceptional energy and intellect on behalf of neoconservatism, a movement that played a role in the election of Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes, and Donald Trump. (…)
There is much else that is original about the book that went unnoticed if it was not denigrated at the time it appeared: a probing analysis of the joys and agonies of writing; a wonderful apologia for the creativity of all literary genres, even book reviews; an explanation of the role of the editor and what it means to be a good one. Podhoretz also celebrates the delights of American culture at an earlier point than most intellectuals did — certainly earlier than the academy, which had yet to fully accept the field of American Studies. Finally, he addresses the importance of ethnicity which has become so central to the academic curriculum (ironically, now condemned as “identity politics” by neoconservatives).
Reading the book today and noting its many strengths makes the negative response to its publication seem almost perverse. It is shocking to see how uniformly the Partisan Review family excoriated the book. They were a lynch mob of intimates, and they determined what everyone else thought. (When I recently asked my 92-year-old father, a Partisan Review reader in his younger days, about his opinion of Making It, he grimaced, then admitted that he hadn’t read it, only the reviews.)