June 21, 2009
Today, the name MARY McCARTHY (1912-89) first brings to mind the frank bed-hopping and catty portraiture of The Company She Keeps and The Group, her biggest seller. But she was also an immaculate stylist, and excelled at cerebral satire — The Oasis and The Groves of Academe are novels of ideas in which all the ideas are either insincerely held or plain lousy — and even the randier books pause to cast a skeptical eye upon the Freudianism and Stalinism that pervaded McCarthy’s New York intellectual milieu. She was no less an iconoclast in public life and nonfiction, breaking from friends and lovers at Partisan Review as it listed rightward, founding the non-doctrinal politics with Dwight Macdonald, and executing crackling journalism on Vietnam and, while well into her sixties, Watergate. More alive to the link between temperament and intellect than many of her contemporaries, she once chalked up her antipathy for dogma (and love of fine distinctions) to her Catholic education: “I always enjoyed arguing with the clergy.”
READ MORE about members of the Partisan Generation (1904-13).