A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald

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Dwight Macdonald's biographer has brought together in one volume a comprehensive selection of letters from the correspondence of one of the most astute observers of American politics, society, and culture in the twentieth century. Macdonald's letters span his lifetime, from his education at Exeter and Yale in the twenties through his career as an editor of Partisan Review, founder of Politics magazine, staff writer for the New Yorker, columnist for Esquire, and cultural critic and essayist for other major publications. The scope of his interests was extraordinary as was the diversity of friends and colleagues who became his correspondents. He had an instinctive grasp of the important fact and important thought, and an uncanny ability to bring an issue before the intellectual community, of which he was a prominent member. Macdonald consistently had his eye on what he felt was a change in the moral temper of the times and a prevailing dehumanization of the individual. Few spoke more eloquently against the mechanized terror of the modern world and of the separation of means from ends. His letters, always spirited and engrossing, trace the life of an upper-middle-class white male, schooled in the elite institutions of the WASP establishment, who managed to jettison the prejudices and provincialism of his class and, through the force of an inquiring mind, become a penetrating critic of mid-century American civilization.