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Masscult and Midcult

Essays Against the American Grain

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A New York Review Books Original

An uncompromising contrarian, a passionate polemicist, a man of quick wit and wide learning, an anarchist, a pacifist, and a virtuoso of the slashing phrase, Dwight Macdonald was an indefatigable and indomitable critic of America’s susceptibility to well-meaning cultural fakery: all those estimable, eminent, prizewinning works of art that are said to be good and good for you and are not. He dubbed this phenomenon “Midcult” and he attacked it not only on aesthetic but on political grounds. Midcult rendered people complacent and compliant, secure in their common stupidity but neither happy nor free.

This new selection of Macdonald’s finest essays, assembled by John Summers, the editor of The Baffler, reintroduces a remarkable American critic and writer. In the era of smart, sexy, and everything indie, Macdonald remains as pertinent and challenging as ever.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 15, 2011 – This collection brings together the most memorable writing by influential cultural and literary critic Macdonald. Written in 1960, the title essay argues that American middlebrow culture "pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them." Macdonald claims that artists like Norman Rockwell and magazines, such as Life and Time, that attempt to make art and culture appealing to a mass audience are "degrading the serious rather than elevating the frivolous." He feels similarly about the 1952 Revised Standard Version of the Bible that altered the poetic language to make the text more accessible. The 1961 third edition of Webster's New International Dictionary is taken to task for its all-inclusive approach to language, including slang and grammatical inaccuracies without qualifiers, such as "colloquial" or "erroneous." In the final essay, Macdonald assails Tom Wolfe's shoddy approach to journalism, calling Wolfe's writing "parajournalism" a mixture of fact and fiction where "entertainment, rather than information is the aim of its producers." Macdonald was a brilliant and influential writer of his time; hopefully this new collection will introduce him to a new generation of readers.
Masscult and Midcult
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Oct 11, 2011
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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