Cover image for Ex-friends : falling out with Allen Ginsberg, Lionel & Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer
Ex-friends : falling out with Allen Ginsberg, Lionel & Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer
Podhoretz, Norman.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Free Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
244 pages ; 25 cm
At war with Allen Ginsberg -- Going too far for the Trillings -- Another part of the forest: Lillian Hellman -- Hannah Arendt's Jewish problem: and mine -- Foul-weather friend to Norman Mailer.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS29.P63 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The author shares anecdotes about his significant literary battles, bringing alive such New York institutions as Norman Mailer and Lillian Hellman.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In today's political and cultural climate, it's easy to romanticize the New York intellectual world of decades past, when politically engaged writers feuded over the definition of anti-communist and when the new issue of Partisan Review was required reading before attending even a second-rate cocktail party. Podhoretz's latest memoir will fuel that romanticism for some, while reminding others that intellectuals often act even sillier than mere mortals. Podhoretz, notorious in New York intellectual circles for his dramatic turn to the right while editor of Commentary, here documents how his political about-face led to ruined friendships with many of the best minds of his generation, from Lionel Trilling to Norman Mailer. Podhoretz's determination to fight the old political battles one more time proves quickly tiresome (like your cantankerous uncle railing about how he was wronged by his conniving sister), but his recollections remain nonetheless compelling, both for their genuine insight into the minds of such fascinating figures as Trilling and Hannah Arendt and for--let's face it--the terrific gossip (Mailer's sexual gymnastics, Hellman's dishonesty). --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

The subtitle is an impressive list, and in the process of recalling his quarrels, most of which naturally revolved around matters political and literary, Podhoretz sheds a great deal of light on relationships within "the Family"‘that is, the mostly Jewish New York intellectual establishment of the 1950s and '60s. Podhoretz, even before he became editor of Commentary in 1958, was very much a part of the group and at first shared many of its radical ideas. As he became a family man (lower case), the Cold War heated up and the '60s youth rebellion turned many of his newly acquired values on their head. He moved rapidly to the right, to the point where he is now mockingly referred to by many on the left as "the Frother." Still, pace his many critics, he remains a lively writer, and these accounts of relationships gone awry are a fine blend of polemics and sharp character sketches. If it is difficult to imagine today's Podhoretz wandering the midnight streets in a haze of alcoholic good fellowship with Jack Kerouac or helping Mailer hide from the police after he had stabbed his wife, he assures us that these events took place. Podhoretz's position throughout is that, although he always began in admiration of his friends' imagination and vitality, their moral, political or aesthetic excesses eventually forced a rift. In Podhoretz's view, he had "finally come to my senses after a decade of experimenting with radical ideas that were proving dangerous to me and destructive to America." Although he concludes that "I much prefer who I am to what I was," Podhoretz concedes, elegiacally, that he misses the sense of shared community and excitement he once knew with so many notable ex-friends. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this memoir, Podhoretz, who edited Commentary for over 35 years, rehashes his political and literary battles with friends turned enemies. Like Sophocles' Creon, the author of Making It (LJ 1/68) and Breaking Ranks (LJ 1/80) seems intent on killing his corpses twice (the still-breathing Norman Mailer excepted). Nevertheless, the tenacity with which Podhoretz clings to his convictions‘as well as the clarity of his prose‘makes for interesting reading on the fierce ideological wars of his era. For the intellectuals of his generation who lived "by, for, and of ideas," the struggles of the Stalinists and Trotskyites, Communists and anti-Communists, liberals and neoconservatives were not abstract arguments but questions of life and death. Unfortunately, unlike his adversary Allen Ginsberg, Podhoretz's rigid mindset allows him little room for forgiveness.‘William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

One expects a book with such a title to include reflections of some depth on friendship, but Podhoretz (former editor of Commentary and now senior fellow at the Hudson Institute) asserts simply that people who care deeply about politics and literature cannot remain friends if they fundamentally disagree about those topics. This is his explanation for the great length of "the list of famous people whose friendship [he has] managed to lose or throw away." Though he intends an elegy for the vanished literary-intellectual "family" of writers associated in the 1950s and '60s with Commentary and Partisan Review, most of the book consists of self-centered gossip: Allen Ginsberg's "unremitting fixation" on Podhoretz; Lillian Hellman's possible resentment that Podhoretz never made a pass at her; Norman Mailer's second wife's pass at Podhoretz; etc. Podhoretz never denies his arrogance and ambition, so one expects egotistical name-dropping. Recommended for those interested in mean-spirited gossip (and who isn't?), but not for those interested in serious intellectual discourse on politics and literature. That eliminates academic libraries. G. Grieve-Carlson Lebanon Valley College

Table of Contents

Introduction: How Our "Family" Broke Up
1 At War with Allen Ginsberg
2 Going Too far for the Trillings
3 Another Part of the Forest: Lillian Hellman
4 Hannah Arendt's Jewish Problem -- and Mine
5 A Foul-Weather Friend to Norman Mailer
Afterword: Requiem for a Lost World