Writers and thinkers like Edmund Wilson and Lewis Mumford reached a diverse public, but today's intellectuals cluster in universities, producing monographs and articles read by a select few. Jacoby's thesis is that nonacademic intellectuals capable of a dialogue with a general, educated audience are an endangered species, nearly extinct. He notes that many 1960s New Leftists on campus were absorbed into the university, where they have produced a body of radical, feminist and neo-Marxist scholarship, but he finds their work ``largely technical, unreadable, and unread.'' Jacoby, whose books include Social Amnesia and The Repression of Psychoanalysis, links the decline of urban bohemian intellectuals to rising rents and living expenses. He suggests that rather than count the high proportion of Jews among the radical intelligentsia, we should take note of how few Jewish intellectuals have remained dissenters. His tract is bound to provoke heated debate. (September 28)
Where are the heirs of Edmund Wilson, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, C. Wright Mills, Alfred Kazin, the ``public intellectuals'' who have enriched American life in our century? Nowhere, says Jacoby, who finds that intellectuals of the postwar generation address a diminished audienceone another. His diagnosis traces this blight to the withering of urban bohemia, to the shrinkage of writing outlets, and above all to the suffocating growth of academic careerism. No matter that literature and social criticism are treated to the exclusion of science and the arts. Or that Jacoby is mainly concerned with intellectuals on the left. Vigorous, witty, controversial, this analysis of America's ``aging intellectual plant'' is a fine example of the very sort of book Jacoby fears has vanished. Essential for college and many public libraries. Robert F. Nardini, M.L.S., Chichester, N.H.