Monday, October 3, 2011

Comic: Snobs at Home

A Critic at Large, Browbeaten, Dwight Macdonald's War on Midcult by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, September 5, 2011 opens with this creepy statement:

" . . . there is often a discrepancy between public values and private tastes, but as long as these things are kept in separate compartments people have no obligation to justify their personal likes on political grounds. They can be democrats out in the time square and snobs at home."

But ends with this more interesting statement, which I have been thinking about even more:

"But it suggests the remorselessness of Macdonald's commitment to exposing the self-promotion, self-satisfaction, and self-delusion that are always wrapped up in the business of making and appreciating art. The exposure is one of the foundational tasks of criticism, and Macdonald is one of its great exemplars."


Lyle Daggett said...

I haven't read anything by Dwight MacDonald as far as I know, though his name is familiar to me. He was an interesting character, in a variety of ways.

Among his other activities, he worked as an associated editor for a little while for the magazine Encounter, which was published during the 1950's (and may have continued after that) by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a notorious C.I.A. front.

I found a useful article about Dwight MacDonald, from 2006, in the website of the New York Observer, here. I know only the most general things about MacDonald and his life and work; the basic tone and content of the Observer article seem to me fairly even-handed, as far as I can tell.

Nin Andrews said...

Good article. The New Yorker article covers him in an interesting way, too. I found myself wondering about the opening and closing . . . which remained in my head and are as much about Menand as MacDonald.