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Making It, Norman Podhoretz (1967)

Norman’s Conquest of Manhattan

Lee Smith
September 17, 2013

This masterpiece of American autobiography is the tale of a striving, self-mythologized, and nearly Melvillean figure crashing toward his own salvation—and more. Published in 1967, Making It charted Podhoretz’s course, from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood to Columbia; Cambridge, England; and then Manhattan’s literary firmament. What really made the New York intellectuals mad at the then-editor of Commentary wasn’t that the book named names (theirs), but that the guilt-free purity of the self-portrait implicated them all in an orgy of first-generation immigrant ambition, desperation, and opportunity. Climb. Be. Nearly 50 years on, it’s clear that, to paraphrase Dostoevsky on Gogol, we all come out from Podhoretz’s overcoat.