Nat Hentoff

Hentoff, who’s been writing a contrarian column in The Village Voice for nearly 40 years, describes himself as an atheist, but there’s a pungent aroma of religious zeal in his approach to subjects such as freedom of speech (he’s for it) and abortion (he’s against it). This sequel to 1986’s Boston Boy evokes Hentoff’s arrival in 1950s New York as a jazz critic and offers reverent portraits of Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Young, along with an irreverent one of the young Bob Dylan. At times it’s too obstinately contentious to work as a memoir, but it’s full of good stories about offending almost everyone (the FBI, black separatists, Vietnam hawks, antiwar radicals, feminists, his fellow Jews, and even his own ACLU allies). It also contains firsthand accounts of The New Yorker‘s descent into limbo and the uncivil wars at the Voice, where Hentoff, pacing outside the legendary mess of his office, is a familiar figure, looking like a bearded, gloomy Old Testament prophet. B+

Nat Hentoff
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