Dwight Macdonald (1906–1982) was born in New York City and educated at Exeter and Yale. On graduating from college, he enrolled in Macy’s executive training program, but soon left to work for Henry Luce at Time and Fortune, quitting in 1936 because of cuts that had been made to an article he had written criticizing U.S. Steel. From 1937 to 1943, Macdonald was an editor of Partisan Review and in 1944, he started a journal of his own, Politics, whose contributors included Albert Camus, Victor Serge, Simone Weil, Bruno Bettelheim, James Agee, John Berryman, Meyer Schapiro, and Mary McCarthy. In later years, Macdonald reviewed books for The New Yorker, movies for Esquire, and wrote frequently for The New York Review of Books.

Vote for Keaton

I think that during the Seventies Buster Keaton replaced Chaplin as the master of movie comedy most admired by Americans seriously interested in cinema. The reasons are aesthetic and historical. College (1927) is generally considered the weakest of the twelve feature-length comedies Keaton made in the Twenties, his creative period.[^1] …

Revisiting Dorothy Day

Volume One, Number One of the Catholic Worker hit Union Square on May Day, 1933, with an ambiguous thud. The Marxian natives couldn’t classify this political chimera: its forequarters were anarchistic but its hinder parts were attached to the Church of Rome, whose American hierarchy then stood slightly to the …

“Reply to a Non-Reply”

The editors headed Michael Harrington’s piece last issue a “Reply,” but they should have pondered his own title: “An Open Letter to Men of Good Will (with an Aside to Dwight Macdonald).” Or they could have used their rulers. Out of a total eighty-two inches of type—he’s even more long …

An Open Letter to Michael Harrington

Dear Mike: Thanks for asking me, along with Noam Chomsky and Jason Epstein, to join a panel discussion on “Morality & Radical Political Action.” It’s an important, perhaps now the important political topic, and I hope they will accept. But I must decline for a reason they don’t share: I …

Birds of America

The funniest, toughest-minded, and most ingenious political satire I’ve read in years is Barbara Garson’s MacBird. A veteran of the Berkeley student wars, Miss Garson has had the excellent and obvious notion—obvious after she did it—of savaging our political Establishment with a burlesque Macbeth, all in Elizabethan blank verse—more blank …

Delmore Schwartz (1913–1966)

In the fall of 1937, when Partisan Review was about to be revived as a non-Communist literary magazine, a writer with the unlikely name of Delmore Schwartz sent in a short story, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” which I and my fellow editors had the sense to recognize as a masterpiece …

Parajournalism II: Wolfe and The New Yorker

“Newspapers are only as good as the ideas and information they succeed in conveying. And this means not only putting facts down on paper, but doing so in such a way that they get off the paper and, in a meaningful and orderly fashion, into the minds of the readers.” …

Parajournalism, or Tom Wolfe & His Magic Writing Machine

A new kind of journalism is being born, or spawned. It might be called “parajournalism,” from the Greek para, “beside” or “against”: something similar in form but different in function. As in parody, from the parodia, or counter-ode, the satyr play of Athenian drama that was performed after the tragedy …

A Day at the White House

“President and Mrs. Johnson are planning the most extensive arts festival ever held in the White House,” reported the New York Times on May 27th. It would last thirteen hours, there would be exhibitions of current American painting, sculpture, and photography; programs of American plays, movies, ballet, and music; and …

The Gielgud-Burton Hamlet: Notes on a First Night

“fiasco… 2. a complete or ridiculous failure, esp. of a dramatic performance, or of any pretentious undertaking.” —Webster’s Unabridged (2nd. ed.)— The first disappointment was the audience. I arrived early to find the place swarming with cops like a Hitchcock (or Mack Sennett) film, a hundred and fifty of …

The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After

Of the three political assassinations in my time that have most appalled me, that of President Kennedy was in some ways the most horrible. Gandhi and Trotsky were old men who had played out their historical roles: India was free, Russia was Communist. They were also disillusioned old men; the …

To the Whitehouse

Of the twenty essays here, written between 1949 and 1960 for a spectrum ranging from Partisan Review down to the Saturday Evening Post, six seemed to me excellent, nine poor, and five so-so. Quality was in inverse ratio to length and ambitiousness. Of the good ones, two are reportage: “Varieties …