Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) was a novelist, essayist, and critic. Her political and social commentary, literary essays, and drama criticism appeared in magazines such as Partisan Review, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books, and were collected in On the Contrary (1961), Mary McCarthy’s Theatre Chronicles 1937-1962 (1963), The Writing on the Wall (1970), Ideas and the Novel (1980), and Occasional Prose (1985). Her novels include The Company She Keeps (1942), The Oasis (1949), The Groves of Academe (1952), A Charmed Life (1955), The Group (1963), Birds of America (1971), and Cannibals and Missionaries (1979). She was the author of three works of autobiography, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957), How I Grew (1987), and the unfinished Intellectual Memoirs (1992), and two travel books about Italy, Venice Observed (1956) and The Stones of Florence (1959). Her essays on the Vietnam War were collected in The Seventeenth Degree (1974); her essays on Watergate were collected in The Mask of State (1974).

A Memory of James Baldwin

“Elegant” is a word that keeps coming to me in connection with Jimmy Baldwin. That was how he struck me the first time I met him, back in the late Forties in a midtown west-side restaurant—The Blue Ribbon, I think it was—and it is the word that came to the …

Looking Back on ‘Locos’

Fifty-two years ago, on June 27, 1936, I reviewed a book in The Nation. Very favorably. The author, Felipe Alfau, was said to be a young Spaniard writing in English. Spain was Republican then; the Franco revolt that turned into the Spanish Civil War began on July 19, three weeks …

The Forgotten People

Nancy Macdonald’s book Homage to the Spanish Exiles,[^*] on the refugees of the the Spanish civil war, is the story of a vocation—a calling, such as came to figures in religious history. It was a surprise to read in it that the organization she founded, Spanish Refugee Aid, got started …

The Unresigned Man

When Nicola Chiaromonte’s brilliant, searching book, The Paradox of History, was brought out in England in 1970, it got generally respectful, even laudatory reviews, which differed from each other only in their degree of deafness to what the author was saying.[^1] To his misfortune, “Signor Chiaromonte” had run up against …

In the Family Way

This collection of family letters—found, we are told, in various château-attics—constitutes a family portrait that may be representative, though one hesitates to think so, of an entire social class and period. The exchange of letters covers ten years—1892 to 1902—and considerable territory, from Normandy across to Burgundy and down to …

On F. W. Dupee (1904 – 1979)

“I have liked being miscellaneous,” Dupee roundly declares in the foreword to The King of the Cats (1965), sounding a note of defiance, of boyish stubbornness, where to the ear of a different author an apology might have been called for. “Fred” was taking his stand as a literary journalist, …

Novel, Tale, Romance

I want to distinguish at the outset three types of prose narrative—novel, tale, romance—which are currently thought to be indistinguishable. The only difference now recognized among types of fiction is one of length, which can help us tell a short story from a novel and helped (once upon a time) …

Watergate Over the Dam

The Watergate break-in of June, 1972, culminating two years later in the resignation and virtual flight of President Richard Nixon, had the effect of reviving my belief in the framework of our republic, i.e., in the Constitution as a practical political instrument. In me this brought on like a fierce …

The Rake’s Progress

Eleanor Perényi’s title is from Marvell: “Annihilating all that’s made / To a green Thought in a green Shade” (“The Garden”). Her genius here, though, is Johnsonian, and I mean it as a high compliment. These witty and useful sallies on the art and practice of gardening are arranged in …

Acts of Love

Calvino is a wizard. His last work of fiction, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, was inspired by two packs of tarot cards. The hero of the latest work is “the new Calvino”—in other words, itself. The novel the reader has opened is the same novel a Reader inside the cover …

For Jim Farrell’s Funeral

(James T. Farrell, 1904-1979) I’m availing myself of the voice of my brother Kevin to pay my respects to my valiant and valued old friend and fellow-writer. Respect is one of the modes of feeling Jim Farrell elicited quite simply and naturally, without any intention of producing that effect. As …

F. W. Dupee 1904–1979

Jaunty, wry, rueful. Flash of kingfisher blue eyes. Edmund Wilson liked to say there was something French about him. A person of courage and irony. Much self-irony. Voice ironical with a sort of slide in it. Wrote particularly well about elegant, dandyish writers—James, Nabokov, Malraux—if anyone as elephantine as James …

The Polish Resistance

What has characterized the situation in Poland over the past year is not so much the country’s grave economic crisis as the increasingly clearer manifestations of the resistance of society against the arbitrary behavior of the authorities. Having arisen and developed from different roots, this resistance is gradually taking on …

Saying Good-by to Hannah

Her last book was to be called The Life of the Mind and was intended to be a pendant to The Human Condition (first called The Vita Activa), where she had scrutinized the triad of labor, work, and action: man as animal laborans, homo faber, and doer of public deeds.

A Special Supplement: The Meaning of Vietnam

In early May, The New York Review asked some of its contributors to write on the meaning of the Vietnam war and its ending. They were asked to consider the questions of the responsibility for the war; its effect on American life, politics, and culture, and the US position in …

On Pirandello’s ‘Clothing the Naked’

“Let this be like a tribunal!” the Chief Actor shouts at the Director in Tonight We Improvise. He wants genuine improvisation, not the false article the Director seeks to impose on the troupe in rehearsal, and he appeals to the freedom of the theatre to back him up in his …

Nicola Chiaromonte and the Theatre

When Nicola Chiaromonte died in January, 1972—of a heart attack, just after taking part in a discussion program on Italian radio—there was a remarkable outburst of emotion. To his widow (Miriam, an American and a former teacher of English at Washington Irving High School in New York) in their Roman …

Postscript to Nixon

September 9, 1974. This morning we heard on the radio that President Ford had pardoned ex-President Nixon for any offenses he might have committed while in office “against the United States.” Immediately afterward came the announcement that Ford’s press secretary and long-time friend J. F. terHorst had quit in protest.

Watergate

It is five months now since I left the Senate Caucus Room. Helms, the former CIA director, was testifying before the Committee that Thursday—thin, elegant, debonair, the only witness insouciant enough to smoke cigarettes in the witness chair. He was followed by General Cushman, who was followed, on Friday, by …

On Colonel Risner

In Chapter XIX of The Passing of the Night, Colonel Risner describes a meeting with me in the Hanoi camp called the Plantation. This was on April 1, 1968—the day the bombing stopped over most of North Vietnam. I have spoken of the meeting in my book Hanoi. Two captured …

Lies

Even before Nixon went into Bethesda Naval Hospital, the estimate in Washington was that he could not weather Watergate. Yet this came at a time when the Senate hearings were faltering. The caucus room all week had a new atmosphere, of disaffection, boredom, almost disgust. The performances of the Ervin …

Watergate Notes

I get an appreciative chuckle whenever I tell people I am staying at the Watergate Hotel. Even before the break-in, the ten-acre aggregate comprising three cooperatives, the hotel, and two office buildings began to tickle the public fancy because the Mitchells lived here—in the cooperative known as. Watergate East—at the …

Sons of the Morning

What is the purpose of this book? Six hundred and eighty-eight pages of “colorful” narrative that seem to have been breathlessly dictated to a recording device and, except for the portions that appeared in magazines, never to have been touched by an editorial pencil wielded by the author or anybody …

The American Revolution of Jean-François Revel

The following will appear as an Afterword to Jean-François Revel’s Without Marx or Jesus, to be published by Doubleday. Listen to the first sentence. “The revolution of the twentieth century will take place in the United States.” Pow!!! The French reader is already seeing stars when the second sentence hits …