Dwight Macdonald  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Dwight Macdonald ( March 24, 1906 - December 19, 1982) was an American writer, editor, social critic, philosopher, political radical and member of the The New York Intellectuals.

Biography

Macdonald was born in New York City and was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University. His first job was as a trainee executive for Macy's but he shortly moved to Time magazine, where he was offered a position by his fellow Yale alumnus Henry Luce. From 1928 Macdonald was an associate editor at Luce's ambitious Fortune, an ironic position for Macdonald and his Marxist principles.

He married in 1934 Nancy Gardiner Rodman (1910-1996), sister of Selden Rodman.

He resigned from Fortune in 1936 over an editorial dispute, when the magazine's executives edited his extended four-part attack on U.S. Steel. As an editor Macdonald went on to edit Partisan Review from 1937 to 1943, his own journal Politics from 1944 through 1949. As an editor he helped foster diverse voices such as Lionel Trilling, Bruno Bettelheim and C. Wright Mills. All along he was contributing to The New Yorker as a staff writer and to Esquire as film critic, gradually becoming well-known enough to perform movie reviews on the Today Show in the 1960s.

Macdonald deserted Trotskyism like many intellectuals of the time and moved on with characteristic cheer to pacifism and anarchism. In the 1950s, he was a fierce anti-Communist cold warrior. Later still, he was an even fiercer opponent of the Vietnam War and a great enthusiast for the student radicals of the 1960s like Abbie Hoffman. (See for example Norman Podhoretz, "Ex-Friends".) Showing characteristic unpredictability, he combined this newfound radicalism with a pitiless cultural conservatism that owed something to Theodor Adorno, though with a most un-Adorno-like wit.

Most often thought of as a writer for The New Yorker Magazine, Macdonald also published more than thirty essays and reviews in The New York Review of Books, starting with their first issue of February 1, 1963. When Hannah Arendt was asked to write a brief introduction to a reprint of Macdonald's Politics, her thoughts ("He's All Dwight") appeared in NYRB in the issue of August 1, 1968.

A sympathetic account of Macdonald's final years,his fight with alcoholism and writer's block and an account of his decade of psychotherapy, can be found in the James Atlas biography of the poet Delmore Schwartz.

Anecdotes

Leon Trotsky is alleged to have once said, "Everyone has the right to be stupid, but comrade MacDonald abuses the privilege"—a remark that reportedly delighted MacDonald.

Works

  • Fascism and the American Scene (1938) pamphlet
  • The war's greatest scandal; the story of Jim Crow in uniform (1943) pamphlet, research by Nancy Macdonald
  • The Responsibility of Peoples: An Essay on War Guilt (1944)
  • Henry Wallace: The Man and the Myth (1948)
  • The Root is Man: Two Essays in Politics (1953)
  • The Ford Foundation: The Men and the Millions - an Unauthorized Biography (1955)
  • The Responsibility of Peoples, and Other Essays in Political Criticism (1957)
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism (1960)
  • Neither Victims nor Executioners by Albert Camus (1960) translator
  • Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm - and After (1960) editor
  • Against The American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture (1962)
  • Our Invisible Poor (1963)
  • Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1965) editor
  • Politics Past (1970)
  • Dwight Macdonald on Movies (1971)
  • Discriminations: Essays and Afterthoughts 1938-1974 (1974)
  • My Past and Thoughts : The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen (1982) editor
  • A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald (2001) edited by Michael Wreszin





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Dwight Macdonald" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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