That Desolate Feeling

by Michael Novak

The abrupt absence of my friend of fifty years is preying on me, nearly two weeks after his death. Irving Louis Horowitz died March 21 after complications from heart surgery. He leaves behind his dear and sweet and brilliant wife, Mary Curtis.

Irving befriended me and Karen at Stanford, lo, these many years ago. He remained a faithful prod, booster, critic, and guide right until his death. He had put into the mail his newest book on Hannah Arendt (in whose name he held a chair at Rutgers) just days before he died. I had no idea he was going into the hospital. His last letter informed me that he had put the latest book of mine into production. His letter was as vigorous and ambitious and energetic as always.

What I cherished most in Irving was his catholicity of spirit — open, generous, reaching out, trying to include, always attempting to stretch the boundaries both of his profession of social science and of his generation’s intellectual horizon. He pushed everyone’s imagination. He needled. He prodded. He laughed. He gave about three creative ideas an hour. He was supremely realistic in counting pennies. He did not promise that his own baby, Transaction Publishers, would sell a ton of books, but he did promise that he would keep books in print. His list was staggering in its dimensions. His restless mind sought out new and fresh challengers in every direction.

#more#I doubt if any of his writers sympathized with the work of everybody else on the list. Maybe not even Irving did. The thing was, if it deepened the sense of truth and critical realism in the common American mind, it belonged on his list.

Irving Louis Horowitz is a model of the man who seeks the truth, the whole truth, and who is restless with truths too uncritically accepted. He was a born demolisher of illusions. Everybody’s illusions.

Irving, with Mary at his side, even came to Washington to cheer me up after my wife Karen’s death. And to give me sound advice about mourning. Irving knew Karen and her talents and her attractiveness. He bade me to mourn a year, and then let go. The imperative, he told me, is to live. Anything else would dishonor Karen, and displease her.

Easier said than done, Mary. Easier said than done.

The Lord God be with you, Irving, and Mary, and the fractious legions who are in your debt.