Friday, December 2, 2011
William Giraldi on Adam Kirsch on Lionel Trilling
....What makes Trilling such a complex subject is not his outstanding intellect that insisted on complexity and pluralism, but his steadfast resistance to being pigeonholed and his seeming contradictions of character. A career academic and critic, he was also, in Barzun’s words, “the very negation of an academic critic” in his freedom from Eliotic dogmatizing and method-making. A cloistered, lifelong New Yorker who got itchy whenever he left the five boroughs, he deigned to speak for all of human society in his infamous use of “we.” An unbelieving Jew reared in a conservatively Jewish household, Trilling held that being Jewish was a social rather than religious or cultural enterprise. An apolitical citizen who walked the middle road because “between is the only honest place to be,” he was a powerfully political reader and writer who contended that literature offered badly needed political and moral instruction. And, most splitting of all, Trilling the Apollonian critic of refinement yearned to be a Dionysian artist up to his elbows in the sweet blood of creativity...