Picks and Pans Review: Intellectual Memoirs

UPDATED 07/20/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/20/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Mary McCarthy

This slim account of la vie de bohème in 1930s New York City is prefaced by literary critic Elizabeth Hard-wick's affectionate recollections of the literary luminary: "What often seemed to be at stake in Mary's writing and in her way of looking at things was a somewhat obsessional concern for the integrity of sheer fact....If one would sometimes take the liberty of suggesting caution to her, advising prudence or mere practicality, she would look puzzled and answer: But it's the truth."

Regrettably, Hardwick's foreword is more incisive and revealing than Intellectual Memoirs. The book does have illuminating moments, notably, a no-nonsense assessment of the Communist Party, while furnishing a sharp whiff of life among the burgeoning (leftist) literary elite. But too often, McCarthy's memoirs seem like a combination of Remembrance of Flings Past (she catalogs her lovers and the size of their sexual equipment) and a parody of a grad student's diary: "We all swam naked and argued about Henry James...." (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $15.95)

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