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David Horowitz's Reflections on Mortality and Faith

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on June 16, 2019 16:43

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The book "Mortality and Faith" isn't really about politics; rather it is an almost Proustian stream-of-consciousness meditation on age and the meaning of life...

FULL DISCLOSURE: I used to work for David Horowitz.

Now that's out of the way, I can recommend Mortality and Faith to anyone who wants to know about one of the most significant American intellectuals of our time.  

He's seen and done almost everything in American activism, from working on Bertrand Russell's war crimes trials during Vietnam, to promoting the Black Panthers, editing Ramparts, publishing leaked CIA documents before anyone ever heard of Julian Assange, writing best-selling celebrity biographies about the Fords, Kennedys and Rockefellers, breaking with the Left following the murder of his friend Betty van Patter, voting for Ronald Reagan, writing a best-seller about Donald Trump, and establishing the David Horowitz Freedom Center which promotes anti-Communist causes. 

But this book isn't really about politics. Rather, Mortality and Faith completes the account of Horowitz's life left unfinished in Radical Son as an almost Proustian stream-of-consciousness meditation on age and the meaning of life.

Despite continual protests that he'll soon be forgotten, this book is clearly Horowitz's bid for literary immortality...discussing his life and work in relation to Saul Bellow, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Plato, St. Paul, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman and William Shakespeare--a reminder of his book Shakespeare: An Existential View published in 1965, reviewed in the New York Times as:

"A brief, forthright discussion of Shakespeare from the contemporary existential viewpoint, by which David Horowitz means a viewpoint that focuses on the vicissitudes, contradictions, and ultimate absurdity of "lived experience."

In some ways, Horowitz is still an existentialist literary critic, and in its privileging of literature, Mortality and Faith reminds readers that its author's credentials are in English (BA, Columbia and MA, Berkeley) rather than Political Science.

Had political activism not overwhelmed his scholarship, Horowitz might well have become a tweedy English Professor discoursing at length on iambic pentameter versus blank verse. He clearly enjoys making literary allusions. His heart demonstrably belongs to literature, no matter how much his head may have been preoccupied with politics.

Indeed, Horowitz talks about dogs and horses almost as much as an English aristocrat in a novel by Trollope or Jane Austen.

Some of his chapters on illness read almost like Dickens, so vividly and clinically does he describe the Job-like series of ill-fated calamities which befell him and his family.

Yet he keeps going, never giving up, continuing to write, lecture, organize, meet, promote, plot, and even act as paterfamilias to an extended and huge and ever-changing blended family of white, black, Jewish, gentile, leftist, conservative, and apolitical Mishpocha...some of whom are billionaires or millionaires, others nurses or social workers.

Yes, Horowitz is the hero of his tale--but so were Dickens, Shakespeare and Saul Bellow.

Like any famous writer, Horowitz uses his life and experience as a mirror to reflect the world and speculate about the world to come.

Mortality and Faith serves as one more building block for Horowitz's monument, his literary version of Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral.

 

 

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on June 16, 2019 16:43

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Source: The Guardian

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