Why, I wonder, does Norman Podhoretz subtitle the latest installment of his impresssive emotional and intellectual autobiography a “cautionary tale”? Against what are we cautioned? Why should we be warned, like Belloc’s naughty children, by a touching account of the education in “Americanism” of a son of Jewish-Galician immigrants, or by the unabashed celebration of American patriotism it gave rise to? Is there a slight ironic joke here? Be careful, or you might find yourself becoming a patriot?

The real story of the book is not so much that of how patriotism was produced by Mr. Podhoretz’s experience of this country but of how that experience, or something pretty close to it, engendered both patriotism in him and its opposite in so many of his near-contemporaries. It wasn’t long ago that writing a book in praise of patriotism would have been thought an exercise in a class with preaching a...


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