So, John Podhoretz, son of Norman Podhoretz, was named editor of Commentary, succeeding Neal Kozodoy, who succeeded Norman Podhoretz, who held the job for roughly 40 years after getting it when he was 29, here.
There are a lot of ways one could go with this, as my files are bulging with material on the destruction this family has wrought on American intellectual life and politics, on Jewish intellectual life and politics, and on good manners generally.
There's the “John P. Normanson” angle, as he was so named for the way he was introduced when he worked at the Moonie Times.
There's the “podenfreude” angle. Writing in The New Republic, John's colleague Charlotte Hays reported that Podhoretz's self-infatuated prose was often read aloud “to the accompaniment of gales of laughter.” Charlotte Allen coined the term “podenfreude” to describe the enjoyable sensation one experiences while reading terrible writing.
There's the neoconservative-movement-as-a-family-dry-cleaning-business angle. (You can take the boy out of Bensonhurst ...)
As a subset of the above, there's the Kristol-family-business-kicks-the-ass-of-Podhoretz-family-business-every-time angle.
Think about it. Who would you rather be?
Irving Kristol or Norman Podhoretz?
Gertrude Himmelfarb or Midge Decter?
William Kristol or John Podhoretz?
Whoever Kristol's son-in-law is or convicted Iran-Contra criminal Elliott Abrams?
Also as a subset of the above, there's the right-winger-loves-the-free-market-but-can-only-get-hired-by-his-father's-friends-
and-paid-by-either-Sun-Myung-Moon-or-Rupert-Murdoch angle (allowing for brief, unhappy stints working for Mort Zuckerman or George H.W. Bush ... ).
There's the reverse-evolution angle -- this one works for the Bush family, too -- an angle I find particularly poignant as a Jew and a young reader of little intellectual magazines and later a contributor to them. I read every issue of Commentary published before 1951, along with every issue of most other significant magazines of the day back when I thought I was doing my dissertation on a related topic, and I thought, and still think, it was one of the best magazines ever published. (Rick Hertzberg's dad, Sidney, covered politics for it for a while.) It got even better when the then-brilliant literary critic Norman Podhoretz took over. At least for a while ...
Then something happened to Norman, and even more than his neocon (armchair) comrades -- well, it's too long a story to tell here. Recall the great Joseph Heller wrote a character based on Norman in Good as Gold and titled his chapter “Invite a Jew to the White House (and You Make Him Your Slave).” The upshot is that I haven't heard anyone mention anything he or she read in Commentary since the Reagan administration. The American Jewish Committee dumped it, thankfully, (leaving Murdoch to ride to the Podhoretz family's rescue once again), and last I looked, its circulation was well below 20,000. If synagogue libraries dropped their subscriptions, I imagine it could be distributed by hand. (When Podhoretz finally vacated the editor's chair, the magazine's stature had fallen so low that he had to organize his own tribute dinner. “Hello, did you know I got an A+ in Lionel Trilling's class? Promise me you'll tell everyone else ... ”) If another Podhoretz wants to help start another stupid war, my guess is it's going to have to come from Dad whispering in Rudy's ear. Today's equivalent of Jeane Kirkpatrick would have to defend authoritarianism somewhere else to get hired as anyone's U.N. rep, even, God forbid, Rudy's.
I guess my point is this -- neocons excel at two things: helping to start dishonest, counterproductive, ruinous Middle East wars and getting their children cushy jobs, no matter how far the fruit has fallen from the proverbial tree ...
As far as reading material on the above, allow me to suggest this brilliant profile of Mr. Normanson by Hanna Rosin from way back when, and Frank Foer's smart piece on the Stalinist ethic that guided his editing of The Weekly Standard's back of the book, here, before the events described in Rosin's piece led to his decamping from there, (and before, of course, he was asked to decamp from the job described in Rosin's piece as well. Boy, don't the staffers at Commentary have some fun times to which to look forward ... )
On a similar note, though it would take too long to explain, congrats to Matt, Garance, and Josh on the nuttiness of this particular New York Sun editorial. And when the Sun starts throwing around alleged circulation figures, please remember all this.
The best part of the recent Malkin-Limbaugh-O'Reilly media train wreck? They've become the face of the Republican Party. Read more here.
How to Censor Public Radio, here. “A public radio station here stopped running underwriting messages from Planned Parenthood and returned its $5,000 donation after the station's license holder, Duquesne University, decided the organization was 'not aligned with our Catholic identity.' ” Incredible ...
Marty Peretz, 9/19/06:
That the Palestinians are not quite rational in their political thinking has been obvious for years. But this schizophrenia takes the irrationality more than a few steps beyond the accustomed norm. The poor Europeans: They will have to make all this logical.
Posted by M. Duss
More on why Gawker sucks.
Alter-reviews: New/old Jazz by Eric
My friends at Concord have been keeping up the pace on their remastering and releasing of classic jazz, as I've mentioned here before, but perhaps more exciting are the new discoveries they are coming up with. I'm most excited about the new set of live recordings coming out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Concord has joined with the festival's own label to put out five live-at-Monterey albums, drawn from over 1,600 tapes with over 2,000 hours of music (and with plenty more to come).
Wave One includes an album by Louis Armstrong (headlining the first night of the festival in 1958); Miles Davis (previewing his soon-to-be-classic '60s quintet rhythm section in 1963); Thelonious Monk (with bassist Steve Swallow in 1964). There is also a release by Dizzy Gillespie (in 1965 with Kenny Barron and James Moody), and Sarah Vaughan (with a young Bill Mays, Bob Magnusson, and Jimmy Cobb in 1971). Look them all up here.
I'm also spending a lot of time with the newly released Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964. This ensemble is perhaps best-known for a historic European tour in 1964, which was launched on April 4 of that year in a Town Hall concert. This concert recording, Cornell 1964, was made two weeks earlier and showcases the concert debuts of many of Mingus' more important pieces. Playing with him is reedman/flautist Eric Dolphy, pianist Jaki Byard, drummer Danny Richmond, tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, and Johnny Coles, one of Mingus' favorite trumpet players. Mingus is heard shouting encouragement to this group throughout the two-hour-plus recording, which includes famous -- and politically charged -- songs such as “Fables of Faubus” and “Meditations.”
This recording is one of many preserved by Mingus' wife, Sue Graham Mingus, following the musician's death at age 56, in 1979. The album was released on Blue Note Records, and more information is available here.