Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 96%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $30.75   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   


"A herd of independent minds," Harold Roseberg once labelled his fellow intellectuals. They were, and are, as this book shows, a special and fascinating group, including literary critics like Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, Philip Rahv, and William Phillips; social scientists like Nathan Glazer; art critics and historians Clement Greenberg, Harold Rrosenberg, and Meyer Schapiro; novelist Saul Bellow; and political journalists Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Their story winds through nearly all of the crucial intellectual and political events of the last decades, as well as through the major academic institutions of the nation and the editorial boards of such important journals as Partisan Review, Commentary, Dissent, The Public Interest, and The New York Review of Books.

So deeply entrenched in our intellectual establishment are these people that it's easy to forget that most grew up onthe edge of American society—poor, Jewish, the children of immigrants. Prodigal Sons retraces their common past, from their New York City ghetto upbringing and education at Columbia and City College through their radicalization in the '30s to their preeminence in the postwar literary and academic world. The book examines their youthful efforts to ignore their Jewish heritage and their later rediscovery of this heritage in the wake of the Holocaust. It shows how they moved toward the liberal center during the Cold War and how the group fragmented in the 1960s, when some turned toward the right, becoming key figures in the Neo-Conservative movement of the 1970s and '80s.

As Bloom points out, there is no single typical New York intellectual; nor did they share all their ideas. This book is concerned with how the community came to be formed, and what it thought important, how and why it moved and changed, and why it ultimately came undone. We learn some of the ways in which intellectuals function and justify their own places and a great deal about the political and cultural landscape over which New York intellectuals passed.

A fascinating portrait of New York intellectual life over the past half-century

·Based on interviews with many of the leading figures and 10 years of extensive research

·Takes us behind the scenes at Commentary, Partisan Review, The Public Interest and other influential publications

Bloom's study of New York intellectuals--Lionel Trilling, Daniel Bell, and Saul Bellow among them--retraces their common past in the postwar literary and academic world.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
With an almost breathtaking clarity, Bloom (History, Wheaton College) charts the history of the so-called ``New York intellectuals,'' the mostly Jewish writers who were associated with the Partisan Review from the late 1930s to the 1950s. More than a history of any one intellectual journal, however, this study traces the political passions, ideological concerns, and personal battles of this unique intelligentsia from their mostly poor origins through their rise to prominence in American culture and political life to their ultimate loss of group cohesiveness as a result of the political vicissitudes of the rise of the New Left in the late Sixties. Through well-chosen selections from the writings of these individuals (e.g., Philip Rahv, Saul Bellow, Normel Podhoretz, and Lionel and Diana Trilling), Bloom recaptures some of the initial excitement their writings generated. The book is meticulously documented and is the most important and comprehensive study of this group to date. Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll . , Genesee Valley Regional Ctr., Rochester, N.Y.
From the Publisher
"This is sociology with a human face."—James Atlas, Vanity Fair. "An exceedinly thorough-going study."—Los Angeles Times. "Meticulously documented.... The most important and comprehensive study of this group to date."—Library Journal. "For those interested in American cultural life of the period since 1935, Prodigal Sons is essential reading."—Publishers Weekly. "Impressively researched...Bloom has made a useful contribution to the history of ideas in 20th-century America."—Newsday. "A concise and highly readable guidebook to what was obviously very exotic and frequently very perilous territory to traverse."—Kirkus Reviews
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195051773
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1987
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander Bloom is Associate Professor of History at Wheaton College.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)