Horowitz (The Rockefellers) has prominently charted his turn from leftism in Destructive Generation (both books co-written with Peter Collier), but here, he digs deeper to recount his intertwined personal and political odysseys. Because he has witnessed some elemental political battles, and because he tells his often painful story with candor and passion, his lengthy book remains absorbing. His teacher parents were New York City Jewish Communists full of angst and false conviction; young David emerged convinced at least that ideas were important. Married, Horowitz moved to Berkeley for graduate school, the New Left and Ramparts, the hot radical magazine. However, family man Horowitz was made uneasy by figures such as Michael Lerner and Robert Scheer, who rejected community; worse, though Horowitz found Huey Newton's courting of his advice seductive, he fell into "internal free-fall" when he realized that the Panthers were criminal thugs. His Jewish identity-at a time when blacks and the Third World were not allies-helped move Horowitz rightward, as did his disgust with dogmatic leftists. And in 1985, Horowitz and Collier publicly supported Ronald Reagan; the author considers himself a classical liberal. Particularly interesting is his score-settling with authors Todd Gitlin, Tom Hayden and Paul Berman, who, he argues, either sanitize '60s history or misrepresent his own views; now, with the help of foundations, he runs the magazine Heterodoxy and monitors what he views as liberal excess. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Horowitz has had three successful careers: as a Marxist critic of U.S. foreign policy, a best-selling biographer of the Kennedy and Rockefeller families, and a prominent critic of both Hollywood and academe. His autobiography describes each of these careers in turn, concluding with a vigorous defense of the contemporary Right as the best defense against communism, utopianism, and the "destructive fantasies" of the 1960s New Left. The most interesting material concerns the disintegration of the radical movements of the 1960s and the squalid behavior of some New Left and Black Power leaders. At times the rhetoric gets out of hand-for example, the author's blithe comparison of "the [Black] Panthers and their crimes" and "Stalin's crimes" is certainly hyperbolic-but the book provides a useful corrective to overly idealistic treatments of the politics of the 1960s. Recommended for collections with a special focus on the New Left, the counterculture, and/or contemporary conservatism.-Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
Radical Son is the most remarkable testament of its kind since Whittaker Chambers' Witness.
A sharply detailed, panoramic memoir of a "red diaper" baby and leftist activist who converted to political conservatism.
Born in 1939, journalist and biographer Horowitz (The Fondas, 1992; with Peter Collier, The Roosevelts, 1994; etc.) here turns in a study of intellectual development in a troubled time. He writes lovingly, but with some exasperation, of having been brought up by two Communist Party minor operatives; of a father physically and emotionally scarred by his own impoverished childhood, blacklisted and forced to leave teaching in the 1950s; of a mother who was trained as a lawyer but worked as a typing instructor, fearful of competing for work during the Great Depression. Horowitz continued their revolutionary tradition through the '60s and '70s, finally rejecting the left during the beleaguered Carter presidency. Along the way he recounts his years as an antiwar-movement leader and journalist (he was an editor at Ramparts magazine) and as an active sympathizer of the Black Panthers, with whom he later broke. Horowitz traces his disaffection to multiple causes, including the lunatic acts of violent groups like the Weather Underground and the lunatic rhetoric of the late-era Huey Newton, who called for the extermination of the "fascist insects" who stood in his way. He protests, however, that he did not, as one writer has charged, "escape into conservatism," and that, like Norman Podhoretz, he had to accept the label "neoconservative" because his preferred term, "liberal," had been coopted by the left. Horowitz is usually generous in his description of peers in the movement, although he clearly dislikes Tom Hayden and Todd Gitlin, and he is more likely to engage in self-criticism than to deride those who, in his view, have not yet seen the light.
Regardless of one's opinion on his present politics, Horowitz's searching reminiscences are a valuable contribution to the literature of dissent.