W. T. Lhamon 's Deliberate Speed is a cultural history of the 1950s in the United States that directly confronts the typical view of this decade as an arid wasteland. By surveying the artistic terrain of the period--examining works by figures as varied as Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Robert Frank, Allen Ginsberg, Little Richard, Charlie Parker, Jackson Pollock, Thomas Pynchon, and Ludwig Wittgenstein--Lhamon demonstrates how many of the distinctive elements that so many attribute to the revolutionary period of the 1960s had their roots in the fertile soil of the 1950s.Taking his title from Chief Justice Earl Warren's desegregation decree of 1955, Lhamon shows how this phrase, "deliberate speed," resonates throughout the culture of the entire decade. The 1950s was a period of transition--a time when the United States began its shift from an industrial society to a postindustrial society, and the era when the first barriers between African-American culture and white culture began to come down.Deliberate Speed is the story of a nation and a culture making the rapid transition to the increasingly complex world that we inhabit today.
As its title implies, this book reflects in varying ways the experiences and attitudes of one who came of age in the first half of that now mythical decade, the 1960s. In an unusual combination of history, criticism, and autobiography, one of our best literary and cultural critics explores life and death in the late twentieth century and some of the older worlds that made American culture what it is today.
Sixties survivors, as Christopher Clausen points out, do not necessarily hold more beliefs or tastes in common than any other group. Nevertheless they may be more likely than most people born earlier or later to consider the relations between public and private life—the political and the personal—a problem, sometimes even an unresolvable problem. While this is not primarily a book about the 1960s, most of it occupies the noisy crossroads where public worlds intersect the private, mysterious lives of individuals and families, where ordinary people pursue their own destinies and desires while submitting consciously or unconsciously to the pressures of the public sphere—a set of demands or aspirations common to people in a particular time and place.
In modern America, where most of these essays are set, any individual is likely to live in several worlds at any given moment, as well as to pass through several more over a lifetime. Because of rapid transitions in public life and culture while they were still at an impressionable age, members of the “Kennedy generation” became almost morbidly conscious of the persistence of the past in the present. The often unpredictable effect on individual lives of historical forces is the main subject of Clausen's fascinating account.
Today The New Yorker is one of a number of general-interest magazines published for a sophisticated audience, but in the post-World War II era the magazine occupied a truly significant niche of cultural authority. A self-selected community of 250,000 readers, who wanted to know how to look and sound cosmopolitan, found in its pages information about night spots and polo teams. They became conversant with English movies, Italian Communism, French wine, the bombing of the Bikini Atoll, prêt-à-porter, and Caribbean vacations. A well-known critic lamented that "certain groups have come to communicate almost exclusively in references to the [magazine's] sacred writings." The World through a Monocle is a study of these "sacred writings."Mary Corey mines the magazine's editorial voice, journalism, fiction, advertisements, cartoons, and poetry to unearth the preoccupations, values, and conflicts of its readers, editors, and contributors. She delineates the effort to fuse liberal ideals with aspirations to high social status, finds the magazine's blind spots with regard to women and racial and ethnic stereotyping, and explores its abiding concern with elite consumption coupled with a contempt for mass production and popular advertising. Balancing the consumption of goods with a social conscience which prized goodness, the magazine managed to provide readers with what seemed like a coherent and comprehensive value system in an incoherent world.Viewing the world through a monocle, those who created The New Yorker and those who believed in it cultivated a uniquely powerful cultural institution serving an influential segment of the population. Corey's work illuminates this extraordinary enterprise in our social history.
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