Dwight Macdonald was a devilishly fascinating figure. By the time I got to know him, he looked rather like Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner. There was the ambiguous twinkle in his eye, of which you couldn’t be sure whether it was benign or mischievous. But if leprechauns could grow middle-aged, that’s how they would have looked.

White hair, white moustache, white goatee, and, in between, a beaky nose topped by seriously framed eyeglasses. Also a penetratingly raspy voice and a solid build bespeaking toughness. Then again, as Erich Heller, himself an urbanely courteous gentleman, remarked, Dwight was capable of spending appreciable time at a party patiently answering the naïve questions of a nondescript elderly lady, one whom Heller (and I) would have given short shrift to.

He was a remarkable critic, a sort of lay academician, professorial of aspect but unusually hearty. And, without...


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