NR Digital

Mid-Century Mind

by Richard Brookhiser
Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, by Dwight Macdonald (NYRB Classics, 272 pp., $16.95)

Dwight Macdonald (1906–82) was a clamorous figure in 20th-century New York intellectual circles. Simply living here, one absorbed anecdotes about him, by osmosis: that an annoyed Trotsky said he favored revolution in one consciousness; that he gave nude cocktail parties on Cape Cod. He was a journalist who, over a long career, wrote pretty much everywhere: Fortune, Esquire, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, a flock of little magazines. Is he worth reading now? Almost. This collection of essays makes the best case for him.

Macdonald was a wayward leftist with a Tory sensibility: In an attack on the young National Review, he said the only feature he liked was Russell Kirk’s column. These essays highlight his Toryish side, as he takes on writers, books, and cultural trends.