Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daniel McCarthy on Ramparts

I just read Daniel McCarthy's review of A Bomb in Every Issue. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this is one of the most careful and appreciative readings I've come across.

I certainly wasn't expecting lines like this, on the early days of the New Left: "Richardson doesn’t waste words moralizing. He draws a picture and leaves the reader to draw conclusions—one of which might be that you could hardly blame a young man for wanting to take a blowtorch to the entire puking establishment."

McCarthy's conclusion: "Somebody should have listened to Thomas Merton." Writing for Ramparts, the Trappist monk and bestselling author urged (white) liberals to support the civil rights movement, warned of “an eventual civil war that might wreck the fabric of American society,” and feared “there might be a danger of Marxist elements ‘capturing’ the revolution."

Consider, too, McCarthy's description of Ramparts' editorial line--or, at least, one of its elements. Borrowing a term from Benjamin Tucker, McCarthy detects an "unterrified Jeffersonianism." Perfect.

The cover image above is from a past issue, but it conveys a bit more of the magazine's iconoclasm.

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