James Walcott at the London Review of Books:
In Making It, Podhoretz spun his local-boy-makes-good story as a Brooklyn lad who apprenticed under Trilling, F.R. Leavis and the polemical fight club of Partisan Reviewinto a living endorsement of the American Dream, taking a victory lap around his precocious career as a hotshot critic, magazine editor and merchant of ideas (what we would call today, if we hadn’t any shame, a thought leader). Putting extra pep into Podhoretz’s trot is the beaming knowledge that his success transcends that of mere mortal scribblers and red pencillers. To borrow from a popular song of the period, the 1967 edition Podhoretz is ‘in with the in-crowd’ (Jackie Kennedy, Lillian Hellman, George Plimpton); he goes where the in-crowd goes, knows what the in-crowd knows. Podhoretz was even invited to Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball of 1966, the party of the century. There could have been no greater confirmation of his having ‘arrived’.
In daydream moments in between the usual author agonising, Podhoretz may have anticipated the publication of Making It
as a climactic solo bringing down the curtain on act one of his career and a springboard for his next move. The book was certainly stagecrafted that way. If so, he misjudged the composition of the audience and the sales appeal of his candour. Numerous interventionists attempted to save him from himself. His agent didn’t want to handle the book. His original publisher rejected the manuscript. His friend and fellow editor Jason Epstein advised him to throw it in the river. Even Lionel Trilling, seldom stirred to intervene in the affairs of mortals, urged him not to publish the book, and Gandalf is never wrong. But Podhoretz persevered, stuck his chin out, and boy did he get creamed. He was pelted with reviews that were not only scathing but mocking, jeering (‘a career expressed as a matchless 360 page ejaculation’ – New Leader
); like Carrie at her prom, Podhoretz found himself in the swirling fly-eye of ridicule.