Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Ruth R. Wisse pens a loving, lovely, and magnificent tribute to her friend and political adversary Irving Howe.
I was under the impression that Irving felt more comfortable in smaller spaces. He seemed attracted to socialism because he considered it a losing cause in America, and to Yiddish for the same reason, interpreting it as the culture of what he called the “little man.” When he toured to promote his book, he complained that the well-heeled audiences at synagogues and Jewish community centers were nothing like the garment workers and union organizers whom he had so lovingly portrayed in his book. I pointed out that he had memorialized only those parts of the Lower East Side that had not endured in America. His audiences were made up of the synagogue-goers, Zionists, and immigrants who had made good. The ironies of this ought to have been cause for celebration, but, for Irving, they were instigators of regret.