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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.

Lee Smith is the author of The Consequences of Syria.

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