Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wherefore art thou, Partisan Review?

At the Best American Poetry blog, Don Share writes of the demise of the prestigious Partisan Review, his employer—in one capacity or another—for eighteen years. It sounds like a scene from Kafka or, more appropriate, Orwell:
It wasn't pretty. The decision was made by people who probably didn't read or look at it. It had been around for decades, surviving literary, cultural, cold, and military wars. It was killed by university administrators. The deciders aren't even there anymore. And I never hear its name mentioned nowadays.
I'm not shocked to hear that Partisan Review isn't talked about much. It was staunchly liberal, though anti-communist, and funded by the CIA. Not a recipe for success in our (crumbling?) center-right consensus. In 2003, after the last issue was off the presses, Sam Tanenhause wrote at Slate:
To align yourself with Partisan Review was to oppose the defenders of the Moscow trials and to deplore Stalin's cynical pact with Hitler, which cleared the way for the Nazis to begin World War II. It was also to oppose the debasement of art into the low propaganda of proletarian novels (Clara Weatherwax's Marching! Marching!) and agitprop plays (Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty). 
It's no surprise that a journal founded on these rarefied principles attracted only 15,000 subscribers at its peak. Who cared? Every initiate knew that revolutions are created not by the untutored mob but by the vanguard, who see with clarity “what is to be done,” in Lenin's famous phrase, and know when the moment is ripe to do it. Bertram D. Wolfe's history of the Bolshevik Revolution—the best one to come out of the New York intellectual scene—was titled Three Who Made a Revolution. Three was enough, as long as they were the right three.

No home is complete without it.

2 comments:

Don Share said...

Please see William Phillips's respose to the accusations about CIA funding, published here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v22/n05/letters

Don Share said...

Please see William Phillips's response to that bit about CIA funding, published in the LRB in 2000:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v22/n05/letters