I read Hilton Kramer before I met him. When I was in the Army, in response to an essay he published in 1959 in Commentary on the subject of James Thurber’s book on Harold Ross and The New Yorker, I wrote a letter-to-the-editor arguing against his attack on the magazine and its founding editor. Fortunately, Hilton did not respond to my letter, else I should have required a scalp transplant and might today be wearing a hairpiece, for he was, among his other talents, a powerful polemicist, one of the best in the business.

A few years later, working now at The New Leader magazine in New York, I edited Hilton, who worked briefly as that magazine’s art critic. I write that “I edited” him, but in truth there wasn’t much to edit, for his copy, as we call it in the trade, was lucid and free of errors. Although Kramer was often a Jewish name, the name Hilton was not. His first name and the...


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