Bearing the bad news: contemporary American literature and by Sanford Pinsker

By Sanford Pinsker

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Eliot called an objective correlative. His demonstration that the modern world is a "waste land" was a brilliant stroke; and while I would admit that our age has not been blessed, or cursed, with a similarly insightful tag, I am not yet willing to turn the problem over to Tom Wolfe (who coined the phrase "Me Decade'') or to those pundits who raised the ante with what they called the "Brie" Generation. My hope, of course, is that the essays I've selected will sharpen debate without generating still finer gradations of bad news, although I am aware that "producing" is yet another of the puns that collects around my title.

He is a self-made writer in the same way that Henry Ford was a self-made millionaire. On the one hand he is a crass materialist, a greedy consumer of experience, and on the other a sentimentalist, a half-baked mystic, listening to inward voices and watching for signs and portents. A year laterthis time in the pages of Partisan ReviewRahv waxed more explicit about American literature's missing ingredient: The intellectual is the only character missing in the American novel. He may appear in it in his professional capacityas artist, teacher, or scientistbut very rarely as a person who thinks with his entire being, that is to say, as a person who transforms ideas into actual dramatic motives instead of merely using them as ideological conventions or as theories so externally applied that they can be dispensed with at will.

After all, many of them celebrate that sense of humor which, as other essays point out, we probably need more now than ever before. Page 1 LITERARY CULTURE, THE WAY IT WAS The fiftieth anniversary of Philip Rahv's justly famous, enormously influential article "Paleface and Redskin" struck me as an occasion to reflect on the literary scene as Rahv saw it in 1939 as well as on the ways his schema of deeply divided temperaments might be extended, modified, or overturned in our own time. Looking backboth at the way that a New York intellectual such as Rahv talked about literary culture during the heyday of journals such as the Kenyon or Partisan Review and at the ways that such discussions are conducted currentlyI began to realize that the piece might serve as a general introduction, an overview, if you willto the concerns I hope to raise in this collection.

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