NEW PALTZ — Professor Gerald Sorin’s new biography, Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent, chronicles the life of the politically prolific Howe, whose contributions as a writer and activist made him an important figure in the development of 20th century political and social thought.
Howe’s achievements include a 40-year position as editor of the political journal Dissent, as well as his book World of Our Fathers. “I’d been reading Howe for most of my adult life,” said Sorin, “his work always had a resonance with me.” Donna Seamen, editor of Booklist, writes: “Sorin’s deep understanding of Howe… enables him not only to portray a great intellectual but also encapsulate a key era in American politics and critical thought.”
Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent tracks Howe’s political career from his early days as an anti-Stalin activist in the 1930’s to his involvement in the political revolutions of the 1960’s and beyond. “Howe rose from Jewish immigrant poverty in the 1930s…his journey to renown in the fields of literary criticism, radical politics, and Jewish culture involved many rich and intersecting paths,” Sorin explains.
Sorin’s book, to be reviewed in the New York Times on Sunday, March 2, explores his Jewish heritage as a possible factor in the development of his worldview; what Seamen calls a “seminal perception of secular Jewishness as a commitment to social justice.” Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent provides considerable insight into the life of a man dedicated to what Howe himself called, “the work of politics, pressure, persuasion.”