Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain characters Ä 7



10 thoughts on “Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain

  1. says:

    Where have all the curmudgeons gone? Why are modern critics so afraid of telling it as they see it? Maybe because criticism has been bought by midcult postmodernism just like everything else for sale today and it's all for sale In fifty years Macdonald won't even be readable; a few of his essays are there already Parajournalism But that's what happens when a a critic of high cult sensibilities chooses to negatively critiue the offerings of his culturally specific by definition midcult peers His title essay as well as The Triumph of the Fact still ring through with remarkable clarity and there are books to be written to fill in the gaps of the past few decades Louis Menand may be doing it as well as Susan Jacoby But I don't think they're assholes and Macdonald clearly is But he's an asshole because he's angry and that anger is worth listening to We don't like our critics to be assholes; it offends our democratic sensibilities but in exchange we compromise the truth or fear of ever grappling with it at all And what does Macdonald say about compromise? Compromise is the essence of midcult and compromise is fatal to excellence in such matters Norman Cousins's Flat World


  2. says:

    I was concerned Macdonald's stance would be so elitist it would feel very dated But the essay for which he's most famous Masscult and Midcult is actually very readable still and I found myself agreeing with a lot of it The book's title is somewhat misleading the effects of mass culture aren't really the topic here as Macdonald mostly fortunately ignores television and music These are essays about booksAlong with Masscult and Midcult the best essays here are on Mark Twain Ernest Hemingway and a long forgotten novelist James Gould Cozzens and his bestselling 1957 book By Love Possessed Although there seems to be little point in brushing up on one's Cozzens expertise the essay is relevant because Macdonald tries to explain how such a terrible novel absolutely unreadable judging by the excerpts he provides got so many rave reviews even from some fairly respected and learned critics It's actually very easy to see the same thing happening todayThe uality of the essays seemed to fall off toward the end of the book or perhaps they just didn't age well and I skimmed the ones on Amateur Journalism Howtoism about how to books and America's love of factsThis excerpt from the Hemingway essay seems spot on to me and gives an idea of what I consider Macdonald's best writing Hemingway's one talent was aesthetic a feeling for style in his writing and his life that was remarkably sure But the limits of aestheticism unsupported by thought or feeling are severe Hemingway made one big original stylistic discovery with the aid of Gertrude Stein but when he had gotten everything there was to be gotten out of it and a bit he was unableto invent anything elseHemingway's opposites are Stendhal and Tolstoy interesting he should feel especially awed by them who had no style at all no effects Stendhal wrote the way a police sergeant would write if police sergeants had imagination a dry matter of fact style Tolstoy's writing is clear and colorless interposing no barrier between the reader and the narrative the kind of direct prose businesslike and yet Olympian that one imagines the Recording Angel uses for entries in his police blotter There is no need for change or innovation with such styles But the striking and original a style is the greater such necessity Protean innovators like Joyce and Picasso invent exploit and abandon dozens of styles; Hemingway had only one It was not enough


  3. says:

    Dwight Macdonald while he's largely been passed over now was one of the most divisive cultural critics of the postwar era Today people like Evgeny Morozov and Thomas Frank continue his particular brand of grumpy deliberate fly in the ointment criticism and their fans will definitely find something to like hereThese days Macdonald's criticism of Midcult dreck dressed up in vaguely cultural trappings see most Pulitzer winning novels both now and in Macdonald's time or Hollywood's yearly attempt at serious film during Oscar season remains as prescient as ever And his narration of Hemingway's life and literary failures in Hemingwayish prose brainblow included is as stinging as ever But some of the essays have aged terribly Few people remember who James Gould Cozzens or Norman Cousins are although as far as I can tell they are mediocrities on the order of Khaled Hosseini and Thomas Friedman and even fewer would care enough to read a takedown of their work however clever Perhaps most importantly the cultural landscape has changed so much since the '60s that a lot of Macdonald's criticisms need serious revision to be relevant


  4. says:

    I went to a book talk to see Louis Menard the writer of this book's introduction which is largely the same as his New Yorker piece that drew my interest in the first place and John Summers the book's editor and was interested in their shared views on the declining relevance of MacDonald's core critiues in today's world I'm however not so certain we're all that far past concerns about profit over uality or obligation over merit when it comes to the types of art and culture we consume Speaking of that very verb is a problematic and very 21st century term that captures a sliver of these issues Sure we've seemingly merged two worlds high and low brow through among other things postmodernism and the increasing access technology gives most of us to a broader spectrum of arts and true we no longer fear declining cultural literacy as the leading edge of the end of our way of life or worse still the beginning of the slippery slope towards totalitarianism After all the trope of TV as the new novel seems pretty well accepted amongst even what is left of the chattering class Nevertheless there is absolutely a continuing vitality to the need for resistance to and indeed attacks upon the vulgarization and commoditization of culture and art Snobbery which arguably at its best could be better described as strong minded well informed and vocal discernment may have never been less popular but passionate and reasoned dissent from the tidal wave of common sentiment even if sometimes it's cheekily contrarian for its own sake will always have a place on my bookshelf I think reading this book and Adorno in a cycle for a couple of months would make me despair even of the state of culture today and perhaps expose me as hopelessly outmoded but damn if I don't at times long for these sort of well constructed poison penned cultural assessments These writers are not and should never be ultimate cultural arbiters any than the false cultural beacons they skewered but revealing takedowns of hard things made easy a phrase that might be both an oversimplification of midcult and a shorthand description of the internet age are important now today than ever All that said MacDonald is far from perfect as even one who has sought out venom begins after a while to tire of relentless negativity when critiues morph into somewhat overdone rants Moreover there are sticky and potentially uite regressive implications as to issues of privilege and class embedded in some of his big ideas that ought not be as glossed over as I have here For a much complex and complete view of the book and the man the Salon article linked in another review above is highly recommended


  5. says:

    By the final essay in this collection Dwight Macdonald plainly admits what is by this point already clear to the reader as a critic his specialty and delight is the takedown Strangely because his prose carries the clear mark of a pre war Ivy League education this joy in excoriating the terrible makes his voice not out of place in the internet age when one critical gripe will only link you to several In fact by that final essay a ribbing of Norman Cousins' forgotten mid century magazines The Saturday Review and World he meets a bit of opposition in a letter to the editor that to paraphrase in the language of the present went something like Don't be a hater If you don't like the magazine just don't read it And therein is where Macdonald's genius resides as a hater par excellence Macdonald shows the value of thoughtful negative criticism More generally his work makes a case for the value of simply recognizing bad art for what it is rather than attempting to sugar coat or ignore it entirely In developing the idea of midcult or the middle brow Macdonald provided a helpful tool with which to burst the bubble of those who attempt to disguise their bad art low culture in the signs and symbols commonly associated with the venerable and valuable


  6. says:

    I loved this book Despite having an admittedly anti democratic view of culture I couldn't help but agree with Macdonald in pretty much all of his opinions except of course his very negative views on Rock'n'Roll I know his work may be a bit out of date and Louis Menand points out this in his introduction very well but the concept of Midcult struck me as very pertinent today Reading the take down of James Gould Cozzens I couldn't help but think of Jonathan Franzen will anyone remember him in 50 years? That said I do see how his refusal to accept mass marketed art is a problem in the days of 'fandom' and I very often considered myself a fan and I do love genre writingBut still Macdonald is a very fluid writer and is very very funny We live in a very uncritical age I think and it is always good to hear a well written critic oppose the common forces that have built up so much force by mass fawning I heavily recommend this book to anyone interested in literature art and culture And you won't be disappointed it is a very funny book with moments that made me laugh out loud And the introduction with all of the background details of the politicalcritical history of the US in the 30s thru 60s was very useful and interesting I want


  7. says:

    This older collection of Macdonald's essays originally published in 1962 shares half its title with a recent NYRB edition of his work though they are not exactly the same NYRB includes eight of the fifteen essays from this title but adds only two others and an introduction by Louis Menand The lead off essay in both collections is Masscult and Midcult Macdonald's description of the two challenges to High Art and Culture that he saw in the 1950s Masscult in a nutshell is entertainment marketed to the masses and Macdonald is realistic enough to realize that most people are not interested in art or a culture that demands from them Most people he understands want to come home from work and be diverted for a bit before going to bed and getting up to do it all over again Thus Mass Culture has it's place and no one is going to mistake it for what it isn't Midcult though is pernicious a mixture of the low and highbrow The problem is that with Midcult people don't know that they are getting inferior goods it's mistaken for genuine high culture This is because it often takes avant garde techniues and puts them to use in inferior productions Macdonald's fear is that this leveling will eventually become the new ceilingA list of authors that Macdonald would classify as Midcult John Steinbeck J P Maruand Pearl Buck Irwin Shaw Herman Wouk John Hersey as well as the mid 50s version of Harper's Magazine and The Atlantic You pays your money and you takes your choice Four Midcult classics that he singles out for extended criticism The Old Man and the Sea Our Town John Brown's Body and JB The essays that follow are linked to the theme with a section on Twain Joyce James Agee and Hemingway titled HeroesVictims; another on James Gould Cozzens' By Love Possessed Colin Wilson's The Outsider and Raymond Williams' The Long Revolution called Pretenders Betrayals includes The Great Books The Revised Standard Version of The Bible and the Third Edition of Webster's New International Dictionary as well as an essay on the decline and fall of English usage The last section Examinations covers the journalism in England Howtoism and the American obsession with factsIf someone were to draw a Venn diagram of all the people who are currently alive who've read both Cozzens' By Love Possessed and Wilson's The Outsider the intersection would probably be me I have a pretty good idea that the population would be minimal at any rate But my larger point is I can't disagree with anything Macdonald says about them which helps lend credence to some of his other subjects I'm not as familiar with The way that these two particular books relate to the Midcult theme is that at the time they were published they were praised to the heavens by an overwhelming variety of critics Macdonald speculates on why this was so but inevitable it comes down to the fact that when a culture is packaged rather than intrinsic this is the sort of thing that happens Beside the points that Macdonald is trying to make here he is entertaining in his own right Almost every essay here had something that made me chuckle and while he had the reputation of a curmudgeon his spirited and lively writing kept my interest even when his targets were nearly self parodies His essay Howtoism about the American obsession with practical 'how to' guides and self help books is a little like shooting fish in a barrel but it's amusing for all that His prescriptionist grammar tendencies seem uaint today language changes so uickly now that things that were objectionable 50 years ago are standard today but that didn't make his comments any less entertaining A lot of the enjoyment though comes from style and word play if you enjoy witty writing with a snarky edge Macdonald may be the essayist you've been looking for Some of this seems like preaching to the choir though thus the four stars I was reminded a few times while reading Masscult and Midcult of Jacues Barzun's The House of Intellect with it's mournful examination of the state of our culture written around the same time as Against the American Grain Books of this sort can momentarily give me the illusion of being on the inside as if spotting the problems puts me above them Thankfully Macdonald leaves off his general criticisms before it wears out and moves onto his specific subjects I haven't enjoyed a book of essays as much as this one since reading Joe ueenan's One for the Books Maybe I just like curmudgeons


  8. says:

    Too cantankerous for the highbrows too smart for the middlebrows too blasphemous for the orthodox too faithful for the relativists too left for the bougies not left enough for the communard poseurs; Dwight Macdonald had that rare critical nose that can search nominally opposed party platforms and identify the same strains of bullshit All praise to the NYRB Press for putting Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain back into print These are beautiful essays His tone precise erudite merciless doesn't really sell much these days but there are sixty year old rhetorical suplexes on The Atlantic or the cult of Hemingway that disconcertingly still apply today Macdonald's treatment of some mega seller novelist named Cozzens and his awful awful sentences of Middle Americana fetishism is so vicious the victim and his reputation seem to have disappeared from the historical record out of sheer embarrassment And yet most of these accusations can be hurled at several major American novelists pulling the same con they're so sincere on the reading public today no need to name namesStill some essays are readable for their time capsule uality than for addressing any pressing issues today Macdonald's attack on the Harvard Great Books series uaintly recalls a time when Americans read enough books that it was OK to criticize some of those books instead of celebrating the fact that they read at all The zany antics of the New Journalists the pinnacle of creative nonfiction when Macdonald felt compelled to point out that these journalists were literally making shit up are of a joke than an example in creative nonfiction today And what about Masscult and Midcult those bogeyman invoked in the titular essay? Many of the specifics have changed dramatically this stuff tends to have a brief shelf life thank God but Midcult high art modes repackaged for dunces continues to make a strong showing every year in the Oscars the Pulitzers The Atlantic and god knows how many dreadful novels about sad middle class American families that are always topping the NYT bestseller list Masscult though; oh brother Masscult Masscult won Popular art for mass consumption is the new religion and it's hard to see poor Macdonald even having the energy to finish writing if we could jump back to 1962 and warn him about Buzzfeed also Vietnam and Ronald Reagan but mostly Buzzfeed We certainly don't have to share his sneering contempt for pop culture who doesn't like Star Wars? but for his prescience alone that makes it essential reading for American cultural history


  9. says:

    NYRB has reissued Masscult and Midcult along with other MacDonald essays I haven't read Sounds like a pleasant sip of critical nostalgia Plus support for my thoughts about how middle brow taste pretensions are one source of the rot at the core of public library cultureThe Nation Macdonald was writing at a time when the culture industry was selling the idea that “Culture Is Good for You” and much to his horror people were buying it The GI Bill had created a postwar cohort of college educated Americans looking for cultural edification The burgeoning middle class sought not just economic mobility but also social mobility and culture was a form of capital In his introduction to Masscult and Midcult Louis Menand describes how the “major middle class culture of earnest aspiration in the 1950s was the product of a strange alliance of the democratic culture for everyone and the elitist culture can make you better than other people Macdonald understood how this culture was contrived and which buttons of vanity and insecurity it pushed so successfully” It wasn’t the “Masscult” but the “Midcult” that so offended Macdonald Midcult was what he called “the tepid ooze” of middlebrow culture—neither high nor low without any depth to redeem it


  10. says:

    Life is a typical homogenized magazine appearing on the mahogany library tables of the rich the glass cocktail tables of the middle class and the oilcloth kitchen tables of the poor Its contents are as thoroughly homogenized as its circulation The same issue will present a serious exposition of atomic energy followed by a disuisition on Rita Hayworth's love life; photos of starving children picking garbage in Calcutta and of sleek models wearing adhesive brassieres; an editorial hailing Bertrand Russell's eightieth birthday A GREAT MIND IS STILL ANNOYING AND ADORNING OUR AGE across from a full page photo of a matron arguing with a baseball umpire MOM GETS THUMB; nine color pages of Renoir paintings followed by a picture of a roller skating horse Somehow these scramblings together seem to work all one way degrading the serious rather than elevating the frivolous Defenders of our Masscult society society see phenomena like Life as inspiriting attempts at popular education—just think nine pages of Renoirs But that roller skating horse comes along and the final impression was that both Renoir and the horse were talented


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain

review Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain

A New York Review Books OriginalAn uncompromising contrarian a passionate polemicist a man of uick 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 cult. Dwight Macdonald while he's largely been passed over now was one of the most divisive cultural critics of the postwar era Today people like Evgeny Morozov and Thomas Frank continue his particular brand of grumpy deliberate fly in the ointment criticism and their fans will definitely find something to like hereThese days Macdonald's criticism of Midcult dreck dressed up in vaguely cultural trappings see most Pulitzer winning novels both now and in Macdonald's time or Hollywood's yearly attempt at serious film during Oscar season remains as prescient as ever And his narration of Hemingway's life and literary failures in Hemingwayish prose brainblow included is as stinging as ever But some of the essays have aged terribly Few people remember who James Gould Cozzens or Norman Cousins are although as far as I can tell they are mediocrities on the order of Khaled Hosseini and Thomas Friedman and even fewer would care enough to read a takedown of their work however clever Perhaps most importantly the cultural landscape has changed so much since the '60s that a lot of Macdonald's criticisms need serious revision to be relevant Anna Laetitia Barbauld Poems 1792 indefatigable and Hell and Good Company indomitable critic of America’s susceptibility to well meaning cult. Dwight Macdonald while he's largely been passed over now was one of the most divisive cultural critics of the postwar era Today people like Evgeny Morozov and Thomas Frank continue his particular brand of grumpy deliberate fly Classrooms and Courtrooms in the ointment criticism and their fans will definitely find something to like hereThese days Macdonald's criticism of Midcult dreck dressed up Remaking College in vaguely cultural trappings see most Pulitzer winning novels both now and Scandal And Aftereffect in Macdonald's time or Hollywood's yearly attempt at serious film during Oscar season remains as prescient as ever And his narration of Hemingway's life and literary failures Selected Poetry and Prose in Hemingwayish prose brainblow The Pact included Scandal and Aftereffect is as stinging as ever But some of the essays have aged terribly Few people remember who James Gould Cozzens or Norman Cousins are although as far as I can tell they are mediocrities on the order of Khaled Hosseini and Thomas Friedman and even fewer would care enough to read a takedown of their work however clever Perhaps most Landon Carters Uneasy Kingdom importantly the cultural landscape has changed so much since the '60s that a lot of Macdonald's criticisms need serious revision to be relevant

review ´ eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ´ Dwight Macdonald

Ural 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 com. I loved this book Despite having an admittedly anti democratic view of culture I couldn't help but agree with Macdonald in pretty much all of his opinions except of course his very negative views on Rock'n'Roll I know his work may be a bit out of date and Louis Menand points out this in his introduction very well but the concept of Midcult struck me as very pertinent today Reading the take down of James Gould Cozzens I couldn't help but think of Jonathan Franzen will anyone remember him in 50 years That said I do see how his refusal to accept mass marketed art is a problem in the days of 'fandom' and I very often considered myself a fan and I do love genre writingBut still Macdonald is a very fluid writer and is very very funny We live in a very uncritical age I think and it is always good to hear a well written critic oppose the common forces that have built up so much force by mass fawning I heavily recommend this book to anyone interested in literature art and culture And you won't be disappointed it is a very funny book with moments that made me laugh out loud And the introduction with all of the background details of the politicalcritical history of the US in the 30s thru 60s was very useful and interesting I want More Glooscap Stories it not only on aesthetic but on political grounds Midcult rendered people complacent and compliant secure The Captured Horizon in their com. I loved this book Despite having an admittedly anti democratic view of culture I couldn't help but agree with Macdonald The Continuing City in pretty much all of his opinions except of course his very negative views on Rock'n'Roll I know his work may be a bit out of date and Louis Menand points out this Harmony (Dissonance Series in his Alabis World introduction very well but the concept of Midcult struck me as very pertinent today Reading the take down of James Gould Cozzens I couldn't help but think of Jonathan Franzen will anyone remember him Harmony and Dissonance in 50 years That said I do see how his refusal to accept mass marketed art The Translators Turn is a problem Hesselbein on Leadership in the days of 'fandom' and I very often considered myself a fan and I do love genre writingBut still Macdonald Stalin in October is a very fluid writer and Consequences of Theory is very very funny We live The Debate Over Vietnam in a very uncritical age I think and Jean Renoir it Stalin is always good to hear a well written critic oppose the common forces that have built up so much force by mass fawning I heavily recommend this book to anyone Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe interested Martyrs Mirror in literature art and culture And you won't be disappointed The Lazarus Case it Martyrs Mirror is a very funny book with moments that made me laugh out loud And the The DOs introduction with all of the background details of the politicalcritical history of the US Wizards Dont Wear Graduation Gowns in the 30s thru 60s was very useful and Imperialism and Unequal Development interesting I want

Dwight Macdonald ´ 7 download

Mon stupidity but neither happy nor freeThis 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 eve. This older collection of Macdonald's essays originally published in 1962 shares half its title with a recent NYRB edition of his work though they are not exactly the same NYRB includes eight of the fifteen essays from this title but adds only two others and an introduction by Louis Menand The lead off essay in both collections is Masscult and Midcult Macdonald's description of the two challenges to High Art and Culture that he saw in the 1950s Masscult in a nutshell is entertainment marketed to the masses and Macdonald is realistic enough to realize that most people are not interested in art or a culture that demands from them Most people he understands want to come home from work and be diverted for a bit before going to bed and getting up to do it all over again Thus Mass Culture has it's place and no one is going to mistake it for what it isn't Midcult though is pernicious a mixture of the low and highbrow The problem is that with Midcult people don't know that they are getting inferior goods it's mistaken for genuine high culture This is because it often takes avant garde techniues and puts them to use in inferior productions Macdonald's fear is that this leveling will eventually become the new ceilingA list of authors that Macdonald would classify as Midcult John Steinbeck J P Maruand Pearl Buck Irwin Shaw Herman Wouk John Hersey as well as the mid 50s version of Harper's Magazine and The Atlantic You pays your money and you takes your choice Four Midcult classics that he singles out for extended criticism The Old Man and the Sea Our Town John Brown's Body and JB The essays that follow are linked to the theme with a section on Twain Joyce James Agee and Hemingway titled HeroesVictims; another on James Gould Cozzens' By Love Possessed Colin Wilson's The Outsider and Raymond Williams' The Long Revolution called Pretenders Betrayals includes The Great Books The Revised Standard Version of The Bible and the Third Edition of Webster's New International Dictionary as well as an essay on the decline and fall of English usage The last section Examinations covers the journalism in England Howtoism and the American obsession with factsIf someone were to draw a Venn diagram of all the people who are currently alive who've read both Cozzens' By Love Possessed and Wilson's The Outsider the intersection would probably be me I have a pretty good idea that the population would be minimal at any rate But my larger point is I can't disagree with anything Macdonald says about them which helps lend credence to some of his other subjects I'm not as familiar with The way that these two particular books relate to the Midcult theme is that at the time they were published they were praised to the heavens by an overwhelming variety of critics Macdonald speculates on why this was so but inevitable it comes down to the fact that when a culture is packaged rather than intrinsic this is the sort of thing that happens Beside the points that Macdonald is trying to make here he is entertaining in his own right Almost every essay here had something that made me chuckle and while he had the reputation of a curmudgeon his spirited and lively writing kept my interest even when his targets were nearly self parodies His essay Howtoism about the American obsession with practical 'how to' guides and self help books is a little like shooting fish in a barrel but it's amusing for all that His prescriptionist grammar tendencies seem uaint today language changes so uickly now that things that were objectionable 50 years ago are standard today but that didn't make his comments any less entertaining A lot of the enjoyment though comes from style and word play if you enjoy witty writing with a snarky edge Macdonald may be the essayist you've been looking for Some of this seems like preaching to the choir though thus the four stars I was reminded a few times while reading Masscult and Midcult of Jacues Barzun's The Hous