Byline: William F. Pritchard, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Alfred Kazin, who died in 1998 on his eighty-third birthday, was one of the so-called New York Intellectuals - Lionel Trilling, Philip Rahv, Dwight MacDonald, Mary McCarthy and Irving Howe were others - who seem remote indeed from literary discourse as currently practiced in America. Certainly as practiced in the academy, where Kazin taught from time to time but always with the sense of really being somewhere else.
In "To Be a Critic," the essay Ted Solotaroff has chosen to conclude this selection of his writings, Kazin makes a list of 20th century critics in English who have been of use to him. It is a list of literary figures-T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Randall Jarrell, Edmund Wilson are some of them-who show, as Kazin thinks poets especially show, "the most intense personal consciousness of art." He adds pointedly that his list "would not include academics whose sense of their own authority has never instructed or even provoked me." One gathers that a list of the not-to-be-included would be heavy with current professors of literature, and the combative tone is worth noting.
"I had the …