In response to:
City Light from the April 30, 1964 issue
To the Editors:
Benjamin DeMott charges Norman Podhoretz with lapses of literary acuity and expression, but consider the damp straw in his own headpiece: his “literary scuffles for fame,” his “names that bounce…like ping-pong balls,” Dr. Arendt’s “pinwheels and rockets,” to mention only three of his abundant crudities. Mr. Podhoretz’s strength as a critic of literature and society lies partly in his skepticism of the clichés of literary criticism by which Mr.DeMott tries to judge him. It lies too in his refusal to indulge in the trivial illusion that the New York literary community, which DeMott obsessively describes, really exists or, if it may be said to exist, that it matters. With respect to the rules of what rustic cult can DeMott say within a single paragraph that I’odhoretz utters “simple, essential truths” upon which “sanity depends” while charging that he is a “writer whose literary taste and manner are undistinguished?” If “simple, essential truths” do not distinguish a critic’s taste and manner, what, according to Mr. DeMott, does?
Further, is it not remarkable that Mr. DeMott, who writes of the “malodorous autobiographical smog” emitted by certain writers who, he imagines, live in New York, should in a review in this paper of Richard Hofstadter’s recent book devote at least a third of his space to his own experiences as a soldier and veteran?
New York City
June 11, 1964