Bearing the Bad News: Contemporary American Literature and Culture
by Sanford Pinsker
University of Iowa Press, 1990
eISBN: 978-1-58729-190-6 | Cloth: 978-0-87745-292-8
Library of Congress Classification PS225.P56 1990
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.9005


For a number of years Sanford Pinsker has been one of our most incisive and spirited observers of contemporary American literature. His books have been widely and enthusiastically reviewed and his essays have appeared regularly in such intellectual quarterlies as the Georgia Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Gettysburg Review.

Now Pinsker focuses on the current American world of letters in this volume of essays to explore what literary culture in America was and what it too often has become, the ways in which cultural politics shapes our sense of contemporary values, and how the resources of American humor and the work of our best writers can help us maintain our equilibrium in “what can only be described as a bad cultural patch.”

The eleven essays in this insightful volume take on such subjects as the decline and fall of "formative reading"; the difficulties of identifying themes that unify American literature; the cultural value of such humorists as Robert Benchley, Lenny Bruce, and Woody Allen; versions of cultural politics—from the rise of the neoconservatives to the steady course held by social critics such as Irving Howe; and the place of the college novel in American literature. Pinsker concludes with some sobering thoughts about the current state of American intellectuals.

Ultimately, Bearing the Bad News reaffirms certain principles that have come under powerful attack during the last few decades—for example, that literature is a human and humanistic enterprise, one which speaks both to individual moral value and to our larger cultural health. It reflects Pinsker's commitment to the clarity and significance of the literary essay and his belief that what we read, and what we say about what we read, matters deeply.

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