Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

In November of 1929, one month after the stock market crash which signaled the beginning of the Great Depression in the United States, eighteen-year-old Lionel Abel entered the world of Greenwich Village, a cultural mecca which attracted a wide assortment of interesting characters. During the years which followed Abel’s entrance into this world, groups of young radicals (adherents to Marxism in its many varieties) gathered in the various Village meeting places to discuss the implications of what they saw as an impending social revolution. Though they did not consider themselves a coherent group at the time, these young radicals have come to be known collectively as “the New York intellectuals.”

Lionel Abel became a member of the first generation of this group. He actively participated in the Greenwich Village intellectual life as a prolific critic, translator, and editor in the heyday of the New York intellectuals (the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s). Thereafter, he became a prize-winning playwright (his play Absalom won two awards as the best off-Broadway play of 1956) and essayist (he won a Longview Award for “Not Everyone Is in the Fix,” an essay on playwright Jack Gelber), as well as an influential commentator on modern theater with his book Metatheatre: A New View of Dramatic Form (1963). The Intellectual Follies contains Abel’s reflections on intellectual life as he experienced it from the 1930’s to the early 1980’s.

By definition, a memoir provides the reflections of its author on significant events and on the personalities and actions of other persons. The Intellectual Follies, then, takes shape not primarily as...

(The entire section is 694 words.)