THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY by Diana Trilling

THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY

The Marriage of Diana and Lionel Trilling
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A characteristically magisterial, cantankerous double portrait of peerless literary critic Lionel Trilling (1905-75) and his eminent reviewer-essayist wife (Mrs. Harris, 1981; Reviewing the Forties, 1978, etc.) that's also a memorial to a past generation of intellectuals, as well as an occasion to set many of them straight on the issues. A few months after the Trillings married, the stock-market crash wiped out Diana's father's wealth and ruined Lionel's parents, whom he continued to support by teaching, lecturing, and reviewing. The couple flirted with Communism but converted to anti-Communism by 1936, when Lionel's protest against the Columbia English Department's termination of his contract led to his triumphant long-term reappointment following the publication of his book on Matthew Arnold. Shortly thereafter, Diana began to review books for the Nation, where she remained through the end of the 40's, when she brings this volume to a close--except for brief flash-forwards to her appraisal of Allen Ginsberg in 1959 and Lionel's response to the Columbia demonstrations of 1968. Trilling is piercingly perceptive on Lionel's sacrifice of his novelistic gift to his ideals of decency--``Conscience had not made a coward of him, it had made him a critic''--and on her own need ``to be married to a man who was more successful than I.'' But even more memorable than Trilling's climactic recollection of the birth of her son when she was 43 or the concluding honor roll of New York intellectuals is her bristling certainty in correcting errors raised by Sidney Hook, Mary McCarthy, Philip Rahv, and Lillian Hellman, or in commenting on sexual mores at Radcliffe, contemporary opera performance, and neoconservatism. The Trillings' friends often wondered how such unlike people could stay married to each other. Diana's signal achievement here is to reveal the links between her political and social combativeness and Lionel's equally passionate, though more urbane, identification of himself through ideological conflict with the people closest to him. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-111685-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993