Carl Van Doren (1885-1950), biographer, historian, essayist, and literary critic, wrote during the golden era of literary and cultural criticism that flourished across the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. One of the nation’s most prolific literacy critics, Van Doren covered everybody who was anybody; he was in many ways The Man Who Knew Everybody. His personal and professional correspondence with the likes of Sinclair Lewis, Robert Frost, Elinor Wylie, and H. L. Mencken bring to life America’s literary and intellectual landscape across the first half of the twentieth century. The Pulitzer Prize winning Van Doren was, most simply, a man of ideas, a public intellectual in an era of modern American history when the Intellectual was itself an esteemed vocation.
Arriving in New York City with the wave of urban modernism that would come to define Manhattan as simply: The City, Van Doren began his career writing for The Nation and quickly moved on to include Scribner’s, Century, Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, the Saturday Review, and Good Housekeeping. He was the author of many books of American and literary history, was editor of the Literary Guild of America and the Readers Club, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on Benjamin Franklin. A self-described "lone hyena", he also suffered more than his share of personal tragedy, including the breakup of two marriages.
In this work, historian Robin Foster follows a literary career, and discovers a modern American life.