Pearl Kazin: Sister, Wife, Mother, and Critic

A well-regarded literary critic, editor, and occasional writer of fiction, Pearl Kazin (1922–2011) rubbed elbows with a who’s who of the post-World War II American literary scene, including the novelists Truman Capote and Ralph Ellison and the poets Elizabeth Bishop (one of her closest friends), John Berryman, and Dylan Thomas (with whom she had a love affair). She was also the sister of the writer Alfred Kazin and the wife of the sociologist Daniel Bell, two of the most prominent of the group known as the New York intellectuals. Her son, David Bell, describes what he has discovered about Kazin’s life and literary career from her correspondence, and reflects on her relationship with her own origins:

In 1943 she won a fellowship to graduate school in English at Harvard. . . . The years at Harvard left other marks. Her strong Brooklyn accent, she told me once, when I was a teenager, seemed physically to repel the other students and faculty. So she took elocution lessons and lost it. When I asked her to say something in her old accent, she spoke a few sentences in the broadest Brooklyn I had ever heard. Without thinking, I gasped, “Oh my God,” and a look of horror and shame crossed her face.

When I was a boy, at home my father would sometimes lapse into Yiddish, the language both my parents had spoken before starting school, but my mother almost never did. She never openly expressed any shame about the immigrant world she came from, but the genteel and reserved way she spoke, dressed, and carried herself—perfect posture, no hand motions, skirts and sweaters in muted colors—made clear that she had left that world behind forever.

[Thomas] also described her as an important editor with an elite education and an “air of professional sophistication.” My mother certainly tried to present herself this way, but she was still a Jewish woman not so far removed from a poor immigrant background, and prey to enormous insecurities.

Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, New York Intellectuals

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7