America Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the by David Cochran

By David Cochran

B-movies, crime novels, technological know-how fiction- all of those types of mass media got here into their very own within the Fifties. disregarded via critics as dehumanizing to either writer and viewers, those genres unflinchingly uncovered the depths of yank lifestyles at a time while it was once no longer politically right to take action. David Cochran info how, on the peak of the chilly warfare, ten writers and filmmakers challenged such social pieties because the superiority of American democracy, the benevolence of loose firm, and the sanctity of the suburban kin. Rod Serling's The Twilight quarter comparable tales of sufferers of gigantic, faceless bureaucratic powers. Jim Thompson's The Grifters portrayed the ravages of capitalism on these on the backside of the social ladder. Patricia Highsmith's The gifted Mr. Ripley featured an amoral con guy who infiltrated the privileged category and wreaked havoc as soon as there. All of those artists helped to set the degree for the Nineteen Sixties counterculture's problem to the status quo. In doing so, they blurred the strains among "high" and "low" artwork.

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Additional info for America Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the Postwar Era

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The question plagued left-liberal intellectuals facing the problem of mass culture. 49 Others, like Greenberg and Macdonald, declared intellectual war on masscult and midcult in defense of traditional cultural standards. Still others, most of whom did not have the same disparaging attitude toward middlebrow culture as did Macdonald and Greenberg, sought to marshal the power of the state to eliminate some of the most disturbing forms of popular culture. Frederick Wertham serves as an example of this latter tendency.

Set in the context of a robust frontier capitalism that is utterly merciless toward its victims, Thompson depicted a universe marked by a strong sense of irony. His characters keep hidden their psychopathic natures, nursing private grudges that threaten to burst forth in a frenzy of homicidal rage. And yet this universe is also marked by a mordant humor, and the one potential saving grace is the recognition of that humor. Repeatedly in Thompson's fiction, characters face the grim and brutal reality of life's absurdity, which they find so terrible that the only possible response is hysterical laughter.

And at a time when the overblown midcult bestsellers of authors like Herman Wouk, James Michener, and James Gould Cozzens appealed, in Paul Fussell's words, to an audience "untrained in irony,"63 the underground culture thrived on irony, ambivalence, paradox, and complexity. Artists working in the underground culture accepted the vision proposed by liberal intellectuals like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that freedom was premised on anxiety and alienation. They rejected, however, the liberals' reform program as woefully inadequate.

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