Navigate to Arts & Letters section

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, Delmore Schwartz (1938)

Forgotten genius was Lou Reed’s teacher, Saul Bellow’s inspiration

Adam Kirsch
September 17, 2013

Schwartz was the tragic prodigy among the group of midcentury American Jewish writers that includes Saul Bellow, who memorialized him in Humboldt’s Gift. Schwartz’s first book and by far his best, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, was published when he was just 25, at the height of his genius and his promise. Its stories and poems portray the experience of ambitious young New York intellectuals with matchless irony and insight. The title story, in which the narrator watches his parents’ courtship on a movie screen, knowing the disastrous marriage to come, is one of the classics of 20th-century American fiction.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.