Friday, September 18, 2009

Irving Kristol, 1920–2009

Irving Kristol, founder and editor of Encounter and the Public Interest, former managing editor of Commentary, and author of Reflections of a Neoconservative (1983) and Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (1995), died earlier today from complications of lung cancer in Arlington, Va.

Although he did not write a lot, he was a “crafter of English prose almost without peer in his time, strong and bold and authoritative,” John Podhoretz observes in a moving tribute on Commentary’s blog Contentions. And he influenced an entire generation of intellectuals, including me. My copy of Reflections of a Neoconservative is one of the most heavily underlined books in my library. I read it for the first time the year after the public reaction to Israel’s War in Lebanon provoked me to break with the Left at last. Kristol almost singlehandedly converted me to neoconservatism. That I never had a chance to meet him is one of the chief regrets of my life.

Kristol was the husband of the intellectual historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and the father of William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. His place in the history of American political ideas is permanent and secure.