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Masscult and Midcult: Essays against the American Grainby John Summers
Synopses & Reviews
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 goodfor 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 commonstupidity but neither happy nor free.
This new selection of Macdonald's finest essays, assembled by John Summers, the editor of "The Baffler, " reintroduces a remarkableAmerican critic and writer. In the era of smart, sexy, and everything indie, Macdonald remains as pertinent and challenging as ever.
About the Author
Dwight Macdonald (1906–1982) was born in New York City and educated at Exeter and Yale. On graduating from college, he enrolled in Macy’s executive training program, but soon left to
work for Henry Luce at Time and Fortune, quitting in 1936 because of cuts that had been made to an article he had written criticizing U.S. Steel. From 1937 to 1943, Macdonald was an editor
of Partisan Review and in 1944, he started a journal of his own, Politics, whose contributors included Albert Camus, Victor Serge, Simone Weil, Bruno Bettelheim, James Agee, John Berryman, Meyer Schapiro, and Mary McCarthy. In later years, Macdonald reviewed books for The New Yorker, movies for Esquire, and wrote frequently for The New York Review of Books.
John Summers is the editor of The Baffler.
Louis Menand is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of Discovering Modernism, The Metaphysical Club, American Studies, and The Marketplace of Ideas.
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