Making It Critical Context - Essay

Norman Podhoretz

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

There are few books like Making It. Traditionally the autobiographical success story is done by a much older and indubitably important person. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1791) serves as the traditional model. In the 1960’s, however, a decade in which youth and audacity came to the fore in American culture, there were at least two other young men, both “successful” but neither venerable, who wrote similar volumes. Norman Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself has already been mentioned. In this audacious book Mailer presumes to set readers straight on what his work up to that point has meant, on who he is and what can be expected of him in the future. The other book, equally bold in a more genteel way, is North Toward Home (1968) by Willie Morris, another man in his thirties, another outsider (a Mississippian) who had achieved success at a good university, studied in England—in his case as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford—and come to New York to compete in the world of ideas and publishing. Morris, almost exactly Podhoretz’s age, became the editor of Harper’s Magazine at about the same time that Podhoretz became editor at Commentary and did his share to alter American magazine publishing in his time.