A friend whose opinion I greatly esteem points out that Rick Richman’s review of Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV may be the best review ever written of a Podhoretz book. Whether it is or not, Rick’s thoughtful review will deepen your understanding of Podhoretz’s important new book.
Rick has the wit to frame his review with illuminating invocations of Podhoretz’s Why We Were In Vietnam. In reading World War IV myself, I was intrigued by the autobiographical elements that link the it with Podhoretz’s memoirs, especially Breaking Ranks: A Political Memoir and Ex-Friends.
Podhoretz describes himself as going over some “familiar ground” regarding the evolution of the anti-Americanism of the left in the “Jackal Bins” chapter of World War IV. In that chapter he retells a story involving John Roche and Jimmy Breslin that he first told in Breaking Ranks. He also recalls his 1965 visit to the Oval Office with Lyndon Johnson at the invitation of Richard Goodwin to discuss Vietnam.
Podhoretz’s memoir Making It concludes with an appreciation of Norman Mailer. Ex-Friends updates Making It, concluding with a memorable account of the dissolution of Podhoretz’s friendship with Mailer. Now Mailer reappears in the “Jackal Bins” chapter of World War IV “still playing the enfant terrible closing in on his eightieth birthday[.]” To Rick’s brilliant review I would add only that the title of Podhoretz’s Why We Were In Vietnam presents itself as the answer to Mailer’s once celebrated (and now deservedly obscure) novel Why Are We In Vietnam?.
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