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Making It

Making It

by Norman Podhoretz, introduction by Terry Teachout

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Norman Podhoretz, the son of Jewish immigrants, grew up in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn, attended Columbia University on a scholarship, and later received degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Cambridge University. Making It is his blistering account of fighting his way out of Brooklyn and into, then out of, the Ivory Tower, of his military service, and finally of his induction into the ranks of what he calls “the Family,” the small group of left-wing and largely Jewish critics and writers whose opinions came to dominate and increasingly politicize the American literary scene in the fifties and sixties. It is a Balzacian story of raw talent and relentless and ruthless ambition. It is also a closely observed and in many ways still-pertinent analysis of the tense and more than a little duplicitous relationship that exists in America between intellect and imagination, money, social status, and power.

The Family responded to the book with outrage, and Podhoretz soon turned no less angrily on them, becoming the fierce neoconservative he remains to this day. Fifty years after its first publication, this controversial and legendary book remains a riveting autobiography, a book that can be painfully revealing about the complex convictions and needs of a complicated man as well as a fascinating and essential document of mid-century American cultural life.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681370804
Pages: 272
Publication Date:


A frank and honest book...high-stepping brilliance...tactfully and touchingly revealing of the fearful ambitions of Podhoretz’s family.... Podhoretz has ‘allowed himself to be fully known’ and so may give the key to the B.Y.M. (Bright Young Men) of the next generation, which will allow them to shuck the iron mask of premature intellectual good taste and join in the common pursuit of self-knowledge and self-expression.
—Frederic Raphael, The New York Times

This masterpiece of American autobiography is the tale of a striving, self-mythologized, and nearly Melvillean figure crashing toward his own salvation—and more.... Nearly 50 years on, it’s clear that, to paraphrase Dostoevsky on Gogol, we all come out from Podhoretz’s overcoat.
—Lee Smith, Tablet

As a work of sociology, it’s surely one of the most important books any American has produced on what William James called 'the bitch-goddess SUCCESS,' the national worship of whom 'is our national disease.' As a meditation on writing, there are digressions that an aspirant to the craft would do well to consider...After 50 years and multiple readings, Making It continues to dazzle.
—Ian Tuttle, National Review

One can’t really understand the state of so-called highbrow culture today without first coming to terms with the career of Norman Podhoretz. Along with Jason and Barbara Epstein, Robert Silvers, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer and a few others (the ‘children’ of Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling and Philip Rahv), Mr. Podhoretz reconceived the very idea of what it means to be an intellectual.
—Robert S. Boynton, The New York Observer

Making It was a brave and original book.
—Robert Fulford, The Globe and Mail

Podhoretz’s analysis of the power of the family is penetrating.
—Andrew M. Greeley, The Reporter

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