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Profiles of the Early Beats: Norman Podhoretz

April 7, 2017


Well, Norman Podhoretz wasn’t really one of the Beats. In fact, he represented the essence of Squaredom. Just as Kerouac, Ginsberg, and gang were stirring up the nation’s youth to wise Beatnickery, along came a spoil-it-all kid of the same generation who was developing what would become a distinguished career as a critic and journalist and doused the whole movement with a widely-read essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians.” Seymour Krim in his anthology The Beats reprints the essay and actually shows a modicum of respect for the guy. Here’s Krim’s profile:

“Podhoretz is a highly shrewd young guy who got an entrenched literary position at a very early—perhaps too early—age; position means responsibility means gray hairs means no rockandrolling in print. Norman is a little teacherish for his years, but he’s solid without quite taking himself for his own statue. He’s got a mature head, a wife, several kids. His perceptions are formidable and really illuminating when he lets his mind go to town; here he’s grinding an anti-beat axe which restricts him to the chalkline, but still is sharp. This was written in early 1958.”

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Paul Varner