Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression

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9780393338768: Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression

A National Book Critics Circle finalist: "The definitive book about Depression culture for our time."―San Francisco Chronicle

Hailed as one of the best books of 2009 by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, this vibrant portrait of 1930s culture masterfully explores the anxiety and hope, the despair and surprising optimism of distressed Americans during the Great Depression. Morris Dickstein, whom Norman Mailer called "one of our best and most distinguished critics of American literature," has brought together a staggering range of material-from epic Dust Bowl migrations to zany screwball comedies, elegant dance musicals, wildly popular swing bands, and streamlined Deco designs. Exploding the myth that Depression culture was merely escapist, Dickstein concentrates on the dynamic energy of the arts, and the resulting lift they gave to the nation's morale. A fresh and exhilarating analysis of one of America's most remarkable artistic periods, with Dancing in the Dark Dickstein delivers a monumental critique. A New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Favorite Book, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2009, and Huffington Post Best Book. 24 black-and-white illustrations

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About the Author:

Morris Dickstein is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center and the author of Dancing in the Dark, an award-winning cultural history of the Great Depression, and Why Not Say What Happened, a memoir. He lives in New York City

From AudioFile:

The title refers to a Depression-era song that captured the zeitgeist of the New Deal society and culture. Focusing on the milieu of the 1930s, an art critic dwells on the enormous effect poverty and hopelessness made on American arts: films, novels, theater, and music. Dickstein provides examples from hundreds of sources, making peripatetic leaps through time as he pontificates. Narrator Malcolm Hillgartner inflects the narrative by nearly yelling at times and then dropping to a level that is barely audible. He does a Yiddish accent and reads complete lines of the language. After warming to Hillgartner's turgid style, listeners may come to agree that he aptly reproduces the aesthetic changes Dickstein discusses in his gloomy Steinbeck-like portrayals of life and penury. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine

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